Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dealing with Failure: My First DNF





I’m not good at dealing with failure. I’m not sure if I have always been this way, but certainly since Army Basic Combat Training, I have been. If nothing else, the Army instilled in me an unwillingness to quit. Before I was in the Army, a C or a B was fine. After basic training the thought of a B made me sick to my stomach because my objective was an A. When I attended the Professional Leadership and Development Course in 2004, I failed the push-up portion of my Army Physical Fitness Test (they were failing almost everyone based on form). I had to take another a week later, and if I failed, I would be kicked out. Several people before me that morning failed their push-ups again and I had such bad stomach issues I threw up in the bathroom before smoking my PT test.

Everything I have do, from getting in to the graduate school of my choice to running ultra marathons comes from a drive within me to not fail. I am even bothered by the one job interviewer who never called back even though I in no way want that job or would take it if offered. To some this can seem an obsessive fault, and sometimes it might be, but it has helped me to achieve a level of success in my somewhat young career and in other aspects in life that I’m thankful for. Still, when I do fail, this makes it crushing. And on Monday, December 31, 2012, I failed. And again, on January 1, 2013, I failed. On those two days I was to run the New Years Double in Allen, Texas. I was to run a marathon (26.2 miles) each day. On Monday, after just over 22.6 miles, I gave in to pain and quit. On Tuesday, I did not even show up to the starting line. Complete, utter failure.

Some of the following may look like excuses for failure, but that is not the intention. I failed because I was not properly ready for the task at hand. It was not that I was not in shape enough for the event, but that I had not taken care of an injury in a way that allowed me to succeed. To me, both are not being physically ready, and both are failure.

Back in June is when I originally injured my ankle, at The Ranch 30K. Since then, I have dealt with the ankle in numerous posts. It was originally diagnosed at Seton Hospital in Kyle as an ankle sprain and confirmed by my doctor. After going back because of the amount of pain it caused at El Scorcho 50K in July, I was sent to Airossti Rehab centers, who had pretty much cured and taught me how to deal with a previous injury (ITBS). After two $150 treatments, I felt mostly better. On December 1st, I even got in a 20 miler at a 9:25 pace and it felt easy. After that though, my training went downhill a bit. I started getting tendonitis in my right calf and shin splints in that leg because I had been overcompensating for a weak ankle. When I adjusted again, my next runs were torture. A couple weeks before the race, though, I got in a 10 miler with my running buddy, Andrew at an 8 minute pace with no soreness. I did have to stop to stretch out the calfs a few time and during the run there was some slight ankle pain. The week of the race I did a four miler on the hills around my parents house at under an 8 minute per mile pace and felt some slight pain, but thought KT taping and a huge amount of rolling and stretching would help. It did not.

Race day was cold and rainy and in the 30s and 40s. I was slightly worried about the miserable conditions, but once I got going, it was not an issue. The course is 4, 6.55 mile loops on concrete sidewalk (which may be the worst possible surface on such an injury, but I can’t imagine it would have a huge impact). It was an out and back course, and I actually really enjoyed the course. The first couple of miles are through a pretty cool park, then through a short tunnel, down a long straightway, turn in a circle, and turn back. I was placed in Corral D because the only time I ran a marathon it was as a long run for my 50 miler. In my first year of racing, I just tried to complete races as a beginner and now am trying to get better times (or run more challenging courses). My goal was to run the first day in 3:45 and the first 13 miles really had that in sight. I was running a pace fluctuating from 7:50-8:10 per mile and feeling great as far as my muscles went. By mile 2 or 3, though, the ankle was sore. But as the miles went on, the pain went away so I continued to run. Loop 1 was a breeze. I felt great by the end of it! Loop 2 was almost as good, though I did feel some stomach issues. Okay, here is where I take a quick detour. I did have one other issue during loop 2. I had a bit of GI issues for my first time in a race. I actually thought I may need to take my first pit stop due to this. I think I know the reason. Usually I drink a couple beers and possibly even eat Mexican food the night before the race. This leads to a kind of “mini-cleanse” in the hours before the race… but by race time my stomach is usually empty and super receptive to race day nutrition. Since I wanted a good time for this race, I had no beers, and I had no “mini-cleanse.” So all my food was still in my stomach. This did not slow me down, and was actually subsiding when I quit, but it is interesting to note. Now, I finished my first ½ marathon around 1:47. I accidently ran over the ½ marathon finish actually, and I think it read 1:50 from gun time, which being in corral D would make that right.  I also saw my wife and dad, standing in the rain, cheering me on after that loop! I was so happy to see them, and to ditch my long sleeved shirt! I was actually too warm!

And then things went down. After I stopped to hand off my shirt, and then start again, the pain was much, much worse. Just after accidently going through the half marathon finisher area and getting back on course (they tried to hand me a medal and now I wish I had taken it!!!), I stopped to walk for my first time. It was brief, but the return to running was bad. Loop 3 was terrible. I guess one of the volunteers at the aid station half way through the loop thought I was making a joke when I hobbled up for water with a painful look on my face because she laughed and laughed. I’m sure she thought it was typical marathon soreness… which I had none of! I was wearing my new compression tights and I really think they helped. I had almost 0 muscle soreness during of after the race. As loop 3 went on I alternated running and walking and listened as mapmyrun updated me every ½ mile in my headphones… “average pace 8:15… average pace 8:25… average pace 8:55… average pace 9:20…” the slow down continued and became worse and worse as I walked more and more. I hobbled through and saw my wife and dad again after lap 3. I told them how terrible I felt, was a bit cranky with them, tried running without shoes at all for a moment, put them back on and decided to leave for the final loop. But the stopping this time made it even worse. For a while I was running 50 yards and walking 50. Then 25 and 50. Then 10 steps running, a lot of walking. 5 steps running, a lot of walking. 3 steps running, and even walking was painful to the ankle. I thought about how I could finish and possibly not run the next day, or just do a 5k. Then I decided just to finish the 1 marathon and not run the next day. Then I realized it would be a long time before I finished and I could almost tell I was starting to do damage. Instead of just pain the ankle, it was severely weak and not able to support my weight well. At this point, I quit. Shortly after the decision was made, as I hobbled up to where my dad’s car was, I saw @Racingitoff and instead of being the “short, bald, smiley guy” on a course, I was the “short, bald, grimacing guy.”

The days since the race have been hard on me, mentally. I don’t deal well with failure and I don’t want to fail again. I also don’t want to quit. But I am going to take an entire month off of running and ANY impact on my ankles. When I previously took about 6 weeks off, I did Insanity, which requires a lot of jumping. This time I am going to take 4 weeks off of running. For the first two weeks I will do MODIFIED Insanity – just the recover workout which has no jumping or impact (it is mostly yoga), maybe the core workout minus jumping, and I am going to begin my push-up/sit-up challenge again. I have tried several times to get up to 1000 push-ups and 1000 sit-ups in a day and I want to do that this year. I’ll start at 200 and move up weekly from there. I really believe the core strength gained from this is a benefit in ultras. I will also watch my diet much more closely. I would like to start running again in 4 weeks without much loss to fitness. Now during those four weeks for the first two weeks I will wear my stability brace I am currently wearing, which is the only way I walk without pain, and the second two I will begin my ankle strengthening exercises that my Airossti doctor taught me, along with rolling and stretching the entire time. If I am not able to resume running at that time, I plan on going back to the doctor and asking for an MRI to explore more options.

In dealing with this, I did find a handy website:
I plan on following them:

1. Find out the reason for failure: 
I believe it was the lack of rest and failure to face myself in regards to the ankle. This time I am taking 4 weeks off of any impact and will seek more medical care if it is not better after that time.

2. Give it another shot, learn from your mistakes, try harder than ever: 
Damn skippy, already there. Hells Hills, here I come.

3. Don’t care what others think: 
I really don’t think a lot of people think less of me for not finishing, but if anyone does, I will ignore it. Though it did suck when my boss asked me how my race went this morning.

4. Make a plan.
Already did, and even have my tentative training plan:

12/31/2012
22
0
0
PU/SU
Mod i
PU/SU
PU/SU
22
0%
200
1/7/2013
0
PU/SU
Mod i
PU/SU
Mod i
PU/SU
PU/SU
0
0%
200
1/14/2013
0
PU/SU
Mod i
PU/SU
Mod i
PU/SU
PU/SU
0
0%
300
1/21/2013
0
PU/SU
Mod i
PU/SU
Mod i
PU/SU
PU/SU
0
0%
300
1/28/2013
PU/SU
4
4
4
Mod i
10
10
32
100.00%
400
2/4/2013
PU/SU
4
4
4
Mod i
15
10
37
15.63%
450
2/11/2013
PU/SU
4
4
4
Mod i
18
10
40
8.11%
500
2/18/2013
PU/SU
5
5
5
i
10
10
35
-12.50%
550
2/25/2013
PU/SU
5
5
5
i
20
10
45
28.57%
600
3/4/2013
PU/SU
5
5
5
i
22
10
47
4.44%
650
3/11/2013
PU/SU
5
5
5
i
20
10
45
-4.26%
700
3/18/2013
PU/SU
5
4
3
Mod i
10
5
27
-40.00%
750
3/25/2013
0
3
3
3
0
2
2
13
-51.85%
4/1/2013
0
3
2
1
Mod i
0
50
56
330.77%
Weeks start on Mondays, PU/SU can be done throughout the day, and can be alternating types, Mod I is modified insanity, I is insanity. Based on an expectation of maintaining current base fitness. Mileage is very tentative.

5. Motivate yourself: 
I am motivated to succeed. Possibly over-motivated.

6. Listen to your gut feeling:
Before this race, I did not do this. I deep down knew my ankle was not ready. I knew I needed to rest. My brother even advised me to not do insanity while resting

So there it is. My race report. I had hoped it would be all about me goofing off with the frunners from DFW I know from races (and subsequently twitter) that my Austin runner friends probably don’t believe are real (who my DFW friends probably don’t think are real since they refuse to get on twitter). Instead it was pretty much just about dealing with failure.

This is the last remotely negative thing you will hear me say about this. On the flip side, the race, which was run by the Active Joe was well done and everyone was friendly and awesome (other than the lady laughing at me J…) A volunteer did try to give me a banana and say “have some protein,” which made me suspicious, but kidding aside, I think the lady behind Active Joe races does a great job and these races have a small business feel, which is much better than the typical corporate marathons and race. I believe she even has a new race coming up that you should check out.


2 comments:

  1. Don't let it get you down too much man, life goes on! There will be more races and more successes. Maybe even a few more failures. It's part of life! Just learn from it and move on.

    I was having some issues with my calves a few months ago, due to work I was forced to take some time off of running (about 3 months of 0~12 miles a month...) and now that I've started back I've had no problems so far! Sometimes you do need to take some time off to let yourself heal up. It sucks, and its no fun at all, but it makes running so much sweeter when you do get to run again!

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  2. Just think about it failure can sometimes be the best because it helps you to learn and to get you to try again.

    ReplyDelete