The Patriot's Run was yesterday (Thursday, Sept 11th) at Two Trails Park in Olathe, Kansas. There's several options to the run. You can run a certified marathon or you can just show up and run for however long you want. My plan was to show up at noon, for the race start, and run until 9:11 at night, the end of the race.
I set myself up for disaster on this one. School has been taking up a ton of my time, keeping up with classes (or not keeping up), getting ready for my bi-weekly classes, and trying to get my research in line has put me under a ton of stress lately. If I have a fault (yes, I'm sure I have many) it's that I take on too much stuff at one time and won't admit, until it's generally too late, that I've taken on too much. Maybe this run was trying to tell me that.
I got to the park around 11:30, got my packet and got my stuff in order. The race is run on a .75 mile loop, all asphalt. It's fairly flat, well, flat until you've ran the same loop 20 times, then it's hilly as hell. I didn't know how I'd react to the asphalt (hint: I didn't like it). I looked around and didn't like it.
I was also very nervous headed into this race. I'm not sure exactly why. I think part of it was that I'd be running around people the entire time. With most ultras I've been around people for only very short amounts of time, usually headed off into the woods, countryside, or darkness by myself. Here I'd be with people the entire time. It didn't sit well with me for some reason.
It was also raining, not hard, but consistently all day. Running in the rain is generally one of my favorite things to do (behind snow and the beach). But I wasn't feeling it today. Maybe for a two hour run it'd be cool, but eight hours of it...hmm, it wasn't sitting well.
Back to the race. There were about forty people in total running. I think it was divided equally between marathon runners and run-however-long runners. We all kind of huddled under a shelter, milling around. I stretched, tried to not think about what it would feel like to run for nine hours. Talked to some folks, etc.
Around noon we were herded to the start, facing south, meaning we'd be running counterclockwise. We were on our way. I started easy. Focusing on keeping my pace at a steady 10 min/mile.
I did fine for the first hour. I held my pace. It was hard to zone out though. There were so many people around and we were passing the start so often I couldn't get into just running. I was busy thinking about other things, which made the running harder. I was already questioning if I could mentally handle the entire run. Oh well, I kept pushing it.
My parents showed up not long after, the first race they've been to. My mom immediately tagged me as looking like crap. I told her thanks for pointing out the obvious since I'd been running for an hour in the rain in a circle. She said it was more than that, I just looked beat.
She was right. I was tired. My legs burned way more than they should have on the very easy uphills the course offered up. I started walking about 1/10th of each lap - the part that was the steepest grade. This wasn't going well.
I stopped to take an ibuprofen and some salt tablets. Maybe that would help. I ate. Maybe that would help. Nope. Nothing. No energy, legs burned, mind wasn't in it. God, was I not going to finish? Was I going to have to quit?
I set off on another lap. I ran but immediately found I had nothing to keep me going. WTF? I walked for a while. See if that would help. Nope. Nothing.
I stopped wondering if I'd quit and started looking for reasons to quit. Was my foot hurting? Well, yeah, a little, but not horribly. I'd ran on it in worse shape. Maybe if I kept running it would start hurting more. I wanted it to hurt. What was wrong with me? Why would I want that?
The foot would just be a good excuse to stop. Everyone told me to stop if it started hurting. If it did hurt then I could justify stopping. That was my excuse, everyone would accept it and tell me I was smart for stopping. Then I wouldn't have to tell them that I just couldn't get my head in it. I couldn't get my legs into it, they didn't even show up. They were still at home, in bed.
I kept doing the laps, walking a lot, putting off the inevitable until the next lap. Finally I decided that was it. I was done. 3 hours and 30-ish minutes, 18 and some odd miles. That was my limit. I turned in my number and headed home. Tail between my legs.
I'm not too sore today. My foot does really hurt a little, but not a lot. I avoided talking about the race with folks at school who knew I was running. "How was the race?" "Aww, it was ok, not great, just ok." New topic.
I didn't really DNF, as it's an open-ended run, at least not on paper. Yet, in my mind I quit and it really sucks. I've approached my running to this point with the attitude that there's nothing my mind can't deal with. That's pretty arrogant, I know, but it's how I've seen it. Maybe now I know my mind has limits. I don't want it to. I want to think my mind can deal with anything. Limits show weakness. At least to me. I can rationalize anything, I can say 10 miles into a 50-miler that I'm 1/5th of the way done, not that I've got 40 miles left. Not yesterday.
One thing I'm sure of, it wasn't my muscles or bones or body that failed me yesterday, it was my mind.