Race Recap: The San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Run—My First DNF

It’s been more than three weeks since my first DNF at mile 64 of the San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Run.  In that time I’ve replayed the race a hundred times in my head, analyzed the highs and lows, and have come to the following conclusion: I needed that. But I’ll explain what I mean by that later. Here’s the recap:

C and I picked up my buddy Mark—who was also running—and headed out to the pre-race meeting at Lake Cuyamaca. Once we got out there I saw several other people whom I had trained with and had the chance to chat and check in with them all. Race Director Scott Mills gave a great pre-race briefing, and then it was off to our hotel for the night in Julian.

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The pre-race briefing

I slept surprisingly well and was up by 3:45 a.m. getting ready and at the start line by 5. The next hour was the worst. I just wanted to start running!

SD100 At 6 am sharp, I got my wish and 222 runners took off from the start.

Lake Cuyamaca – Paso Picacho 1 (0 – 6.8)

The first section had about 1,300’ of gain so I took it easy, settled in and climbed. My strategy for the day would be simple: walk the ups, jog the flats, and run the downs.

Paso Picacho 1 – Chambers 1 (6.8 – 12.5)

After a brief pitstop, it was time to head up and over Stonewall Peak. By now, runners had spread out a bit more, which was nice. Before I knew it, I was up and over Stonewall and running through the fields nearby, still feeling great.

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View from the stop of Stonewall Peak

Chambers 1 – Pedro Fages (12.5 – 18.5)

I checked in and out of Chambers in less than 5 minutes and continued on my way. Not a lot to report on this section other than some beautiful singletrack.

SD100

Heading into Anza Borrego

Pedro Fages – Sunrise 1 (18.5 – 23.2)

I got into Pedro Fages and was ahead of the cutoffs by and hour. I was feeling good and was managing my nutrition and hydration pretty well, too. The next stretch left the runners pretty exposed, and as the day wore on, it quickly became apparent that the “heat” was wearing runners down.

I say “heat” because, while it didn’t necessarily feel hot out there, there was nothing protecting the runners from that sun! Staying on top of electrolytes and hydration became paramount. Before I knew it I was rolling into the Sunrise 1 and was incredibly excited to see Christina there (Sunrise was the first spot for crew access).

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Coming into Sunrise 1

Sunrise 1 – Pioneer Mail 1 (23.2 – 30.4)

After talking with C and Jessica (my buddy Mark’s girlfriend), I was out of there and back on my way. Oh, and the views got better, too.

SD100

Great view from the Laguna Mountains

Pioneer Mail 1—Penny Pines 1 (30.4 – 34.4)

Felt great here and actually started getting some time in the bank, which felt great.

Penny Pines 1 – Todd’s Cabin (34.4 – 39.6)

Nothing much to report here.

Todd’s Cabin – Red Tail Roost (39.6 – 44.7)

I had run this area on several training runs (as well as during the PCT 50), so knowing what was just ahead was helpful. I’d caught up to several other runners I’d trained with in the months prior and we ran it in towards Red Tail Roost.

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The last photo before my phone died

Red Tail Roost – Meadows (44.7 – 51.1)

As I came into Red Tail Roost, I was still feeling good – but was hungry. I knew I’d been on the move all day (in and out of aid stations in less than 5-7 minutes) and hadn’t rested much at all, due to skirting some of the cutoffs. I decided to sit, and have some real food before heading out and picking up my pacer at Meadows.

Boy, things did NOT work out like that.

I left Red Tail Roost feeling good, but didn’t get more than a half-mile out when I got an unbelievably intense sharp pain in the bottom of my forefoot. Sharp enough to stop me in my tracks. Now, I’ve had blisters, and “sore” feet, but this was unlike anything I’d ever felt.

I stopped and started walking, noticing that if I kept my weight off my forefoot I could at least keep moving. So, move along I did … all the way into Meadows, but my running had been replaced with a slow walk.

Meadows – Penny Pines 2 (51.1 – 56.3)

It was dark by now, and the last section had cost me dearly in regards to time. I was back to less than an hour to hit the cutoffs. Not a place I wanted to be with a bum foot.

I picked up my pacer, Paul, who was gracious enough to offer to pace me on my first 100. At this point I felt like I owed it to him to keep going. He had been out there for a few hours and I wanted to desperately believe that this pain would subside and I’d be able to keep going. I modified my stride and incorporated a walk/run and somehow managed to get to Penny Pines 2.

Penny Pines 2 – Pine Creek (56.3 – 64)

We got to Penny Pines 2, and Paul could tell that I was hurting pretty bad. I’d dropped pretty far behind him and couldn’t shuffle along for much more than 20-30 yards without having to stop.

To say I was thinking clearly at this point is probably inaccurate, but aside from the physical pain, I was mentally and nutritionally still very much in this race and wanted to believe that I could keep going. I left Penny Pines with Paul and was still somehow managing to make forward progress, even though we were predominately walking by this point.

Then, it happened. My foot literally “gave out” and I couldn’t put any more pressure on it. Zero. And I knew right there … I’d be getting my first DNF in the San Diego 100.

After a brief mini blow up of emotions—frustration, anger, sadness, etc.—I pulled myself together and slowly (read: very, very, VERY slowly & with the help of Paul) made it to the next aid station, where I turned in my bib (I’d missed the cut off by 20 minutes).

My first attempt at 100-miler would end at Mile 64, Pine Creek, after 19 ½ hours on my feet.

-3 Weeks Later-

If my recap seems a bit blurry compared to ones in the past it’s because it is. The past three weeks have been full of me replaying the race in my head, asking myself tons of questions about what I could have done differently, and self-diagnosing myself through research. At first I was determined to find out what went wrong.

  • Was I undertrained?
  • Had I not tapered properly?
  • Was running in minimalist-style shoes a bad idea for me?
  • Did running the PCT 50 just four weeks prior set me up for an overuse injury?

The questions went on and on, which is one of the reasons it took so long for me to write this post.

After three weeks, and a lot of questions, I believe I have the answer and–regardless of what happened out there—my reasoning for not finishing was much simpler than I wanted to believe.

It just simply wasn’t my day.

Once I was able to accept that, I was able to move on and begin again. Which is exactly what I did yesterday, as I went out on my first run since the race. Time to start looking forward and stop dwelling on the past. That’s what it’s all about, right? Relentless Forward Progress.

Man, I needed that.

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19 thoughts on “Race Recap: The San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Run—My First DNF

  1. Pingback: Daily News, Wed, July 2

  2. This was a very heartfelt and honest recap – I appreciate your sharing this with us. I am so very sorry about your 100 Miler – BELIEVE me when I say that I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL!! As you know from my blog, I also had a DNF at my 100 miler back in April this year. I have a complete understanding of how important this race was to you. My heart breaks because I can identify with that sadness, anger, and frustration that you mentioned in your recap. Who knows the “whys”??? I have come to realize that the only thing I can do is be faithful to my training, learn all that I can, change what needs to be changed, and accept whatever “Race Day” gives me. You are correct when you say “sometimes, it just isn’t our day”. But, that’s OK, because of that little thing called “the next time”!! And, if I know you – albeit only from your blog – there will DEFINITELY be a “next time”!!! Congratulations on finishing 64 miles!! Dear you have more guts than 90% of the World!! It took a LOT of “grit”, “determination”, and a “choke-hold grasp of your inner strength” to keep on going – through pain…. through everything! That was the “Winner” coming out in you! I’m VERY proud of you!!! I’m not sure if you know it or not – but, in the Ultra World, “DNF” means “Did Nothing Foolish”. Voluntarily stopping is , many times, the smartest move to make at the time. This is especially true when the health of your body is at stake. My Sweet Friend, “flush that toilet” and get that mind good and clean!! And start training for your “next time” like the Champion that I know you are!! :-) You remain a #Rockstar!! :-) :-) :-)

    • Thanks for the kind words, my friend!! I truly appreciate it I remember when I read your recap of the Indiana 100 I felt like I was right there with you – and understood all the feelings/emotions that you were describing. I can also say, now, that after my first DNF I feel like I understand them on an entirely new level! It’s pretty inspiring to see how you’ve put your race behind you and continued moving forward tackling new adventures! I love it! Take care – and I look forward to many more updates/training posts from you! I love them all!

  3. I hope your foot feels much better, and I think it’s smart of you to take a DNF rather than push through something that could be painful. Congrats on making it to mile 64! That’s no joke.

      • Thanks very much! I’m feeling great and am going for a sub-5:30!

        I’m most likely passing on QD this year – North Face 50 is the following weekend and as much as it pains me to say, I’m afraid it may be too much. How about you – are you in for QD? I believe registration opens 8/1.

      • Nice! Best of luck! Can’t wait for the recap.

        The QD has definitely interested me for awhile, so I’m considering! Truth be told, I think I’d really just like to get up and run anywhere in San Fran. Those trails looks amazing!

  4. What a great post. I’d say for a first run that was a success and you would have learned so much from taking part. On and up from here. What are your next plans buddy?

    PS those pictures are beautiful. Must have been terrific running those areas on your ups. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks, Scott! On and up is right. I ran the Harding Hustle 50K 2 weeks ago and am keeping my mileage high for the Kodiak 100 in September!

      The scenery was absolutely amazing!

      How about you – what’s next?!

      Take care, Greg.

  5. Sorry to hear about SD100 but really appreciated the post and your honesty in the struggle during and post race. It was also good to hear you got back to running only a few weeks after. Good luck on your next event and now that you’re over a month since SD100, I hope you are thinking about making another crack at the Century!

    • Thanks, Nick! Your blog has been a huge motivator to me! Best of luck on the upcoming ES100 this weekend … can’t wait to hear about how it goes!

      Thanks for the encouragement, I’m giving the century another go-around in about six weeks at the Kodiak 100!’

      Take care,
      Greg

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