Monday, October 1, 2012

DNF- Smacking Me Back Into Balance.

Sunrise from Wintergreen Summit as seen from my condo.
I don't have a problem pushing myself. I have a problem backing off. This past weekend was the Ultra Race of Champions, (UROC), 100K. The race garnishes international attention and holds a $20,000 prize purse. It was a large focus of the year for me, and 8 miles into the 63 mile race, I DNF'd. It was however, a success.

The decision to quit a race doesn't come lightly. The choice to drop out of a race is especially difficult when the race was the focus of an entire year. The ability to see constant improvement as an athlete doesn't come easy. Making tough decisions based on seeing the whole picture is necessary. One must have the discipline and faith to put in easy days, and not always push hard in training.When you feel like crap, you need to back off. Training harder doesn't yield the biggest gains, its about training smarter. It's about balance. Its a tight-rope walk, and a juggling act.

Pre Race Elite Panel
Pre Race Elite Panel
Four weeks prior to UROC I ran the race of my life at the Iron Mountain 50 Miler. In learning from past mistakes I backed off my mileage the week after the race to recover. This season was nearly a repeat of last season and I figured I should have had time to recover for UROC. In the weeks leading up to UROC though I felt like I was in a daze. Outside of running I had little joy and excitement and normal stressors in life which usually wouldn't bother me became harder to deal with. I found the long hours of my job as an Urgent Care nurse harder to deal with. I'm always cognisant of overtraining as it has been a problem in the past. I cut my mileage back as I began to feel less motivation in life, and I became apathetic. If I wasn't running, I wanted to rest or sleep. I felt like my brain wasn't working right, and there were connections that just weren't being made in my head.

Ian Sharman answers questions by AJW 
When I have a goal like UROC I can cut out most extraneous details out of my life and focus on the main goal. I have a somewhat demonic discipline/drive and although a great asset at times, it can be the cause of my downfall. In the weeks prior to UROC, my fatigue levels began to increase and so I began to cut out the parts of my life which weren't directly related to the end-goal of a stellar performance at UROC. I was still tired. I cut down my mileage, but I was still tired. In the past my running was negatively affected when I was worn out but this time my running was fine. A week prior to UROC I had my Lactate Threshold tested at the University of Louisville sports science lab, and my LT was 95% of maximum heart rate. I was running better than ever but my head was fried.

In the past when I began to overreach in training, I became stressed out but this time was different. I just cut out whatever details could cause stress, so I was at ease. Maybe I have become too good at dealing with stress? Ha ha ha... This time I was just unhappy, plain and simple. Running was the only thing that mattered. To my detriment, I failed to recognize overtraining because I was not stressed out.

Anyone who aspires to be the best at something has to learn from their mistakes.

The general lackluster enthusiasm I felt in my life outside of running was due to overtraining, plain and simple. This wasn't my first foray into overreaching and I knew the symptoms by race day. This wasn't my first rodeo!

Shortly before the start, I told my crew, Stephanie that I would need extra motivation this race. I just didn't have it in me.

I was tired.

When the gun went off I charged ahead with the fastest runners in the sport. My stomach was in knots. It had felt like that for several days, and the pace at which we ran exacerbated my GI issues. Maybe it was the curse of the Ghost peppers from several days back! Maybe it was the mucous from the sinus infection I'd been battling. The nausea I had been experiencing over the last several days grew exponentially with each mile. I thought about DNF'ing by the end first mile.

But quitting is failure right???

The same brain that pushes me to train hard and push to the limit of my capacity is directly opposed to dropping out. In many races I have experienced success by crushing the voice which screams to quit because of pain and agony, but this time was different. With experience comes the ability to differentiate.

I analyzed the variables.

I could push hard in UROC. Since I felt horrific I could maybe squelch out a top 10 finish in the best scenario but in no way was I racing at the top of my game. I felt confident I could not reach the top 5 podium spot which held the prize money. Just to hit a top 10 spot if it was possible I would be emotionally and physically destroyed for the next several weeks.  In only 10 days my first child was due to be born. In 5 weeks I was slated to race in the Pinhoti 100 which would determine my racing future for the following year. I need to podium at Pinhoti as the top several spots are given entry to the Western States 100. Western States is the focus of my following year. Would I be fit for Pinohti with all the upcoming month held?

Pushing hard at UROC would have yielded uninspired results which failed to meet potential. I would be fatigued as a result during the birth of my daughter. Seriously, where are my priorities?

Over the course of the past few weeks I had finally began to recover from my busy summer racing schedule while tapering for UROC. Pushing at UROC would put me right back at square one, so I decided to call it a day. I was shot.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but that day was hard. I knew I had done the right thing. I had a stellar year of racing and raced frequently. I didn't have it in me that day, so I had to be smart and throw in the towel.

Already I feel great and mentally I feel like I am back to my good ole self. On race day it was brutal to watch the best in the sport make the final climb. I let my pride go though, and I took the punch and moved on. UROC was a pride issue. Pinhoti however affects the rest of my year. I also just flat out didn't have it that day. Maybe it was the sinus infection, maybe it was my stomach, maybe I was shot from so much racing. It was a blessing in disguise. Regardless, I learned a little bit more about racing, training and life.

Whenever I let other spokes in my wheel of life balance out the running spoke, I become a better runner. It's all about balance. I thrive when running isn't the only focus. Don't get me wrong, I am driven to continue to excel at my sport and continue to gain speed, but I know for certain, whenever it occupies to large of a slice of the pie that is my life, my performance suffers. I need balance.

October brings energy and life. I'll welcome my daughter into the world. With my choice to DNF UROC, she will get the energy and attention she deserves. Driving my choice to DNF was the ambition that I'll have more energy to devote to her wholly as a new focus in my life along with my other passions.

It's all a learning process, and this is one more lesson I won't forget.
UROC 2013 to be held in Vail!


  1. awesome write up, troy. It's funny how similar the end of our seasons were this year. I'm excited for you and Kara as you become parents in the very near future. If there is anything I can do for you guys, don't hesitate to ask!

    1. Thanks Mike. We'll be eachothers balance buddies...keeping one another accountable! lol

  2. DNF's are always tough. Interestingly, I've felt pretty crappy since IM50, too, just like you describe. Wonder if something was in the water...

    Good luck with your baby and Pinhoti!

    1. Yeah. The day of the race day it was hard but I knew it was right. Driving home however, and working yesterday felt pretty great to be feeling normal for the first time in a few weeks! Looking forward to our next race.

  3. Sorry to hear about your DNF, Troy. As a father of a 7 month old daughter, I will say that finding the right balance is key. You'll find it. And when you do, you'll thrive just like you said because you'll have a sweet baby girl that will look into your eyes and make you realize what's really important. I was lucky enough to have her at UROC cheering me on at aid stations and it was such motivation. Soon enough, your little girl will be cheering you on at your races.

    Good luck at Pinhoti. I hope you get that podium spot for entry to WS100 next year.

  4. Love the transparency! Good job man, and way to be honest with yourself. Great read!