18663 Ventura Blvd, Suite 202, Tarzana CA 91356

Sunday, February 01, 2009


DNF stands for "Did Not Finish". Today is my first DNF, at the Surf City Marathon. Marathoners like Paula Radcliffe and Deena Kastor, and triathletes Chris "Macca"McCormack and Norman Stadtler have DNF'ed at big races. So I suppose that middle-of-the-pack athlete me can have a bad day too.

I've done marathons and half-ironman distance races. I trained harder for this marathon than for any other marathon that I've done. I did a 22-miler with solid 10-minute splits. I ran an 18-miler in negative splits just three weeks ago. And, two weeks ago, I finished a half marathon in 2:03. I was hoping to not only do well, but to have a personal record by several minutes. So what happened today? I'm not sure.

Dinner last night was at a Mexican restaurant, with pinto beans, rice, and some veggies and fried bananas. It wasn't anything too unusual, other than that I probably ate more than I usually do. But my stomach was fine in the morning. My pre-race fuel was my usual raisin bran with soy milk, yogurt, and a piece of fruit. I felt strong at the start. My strategy was 9:45/mile splits. I was hitting those consistently, maybe a little faster on a couple miles with a downhill. I was fueling with Gu, and with the Sharkies on the course which I specifically tried out on my own last weekend because I knew they'd be at the race and wanted to make sure I'd digest them okay. And I felt great -- that is, until about mile 13, when I slowed down a bit. I had a little bit of stomach cramping. Maybe I was dehydrated, I thought, so at the mile 14 water station, I walked through, drinking a cup of electrolyte drink plus two cups of water. I felt better for a little bit.

Then came worse stomach cramping and the urgent need to stop at a port-o-potty. And again, I felt a little better after that. I passed another water stop, but took nothing because I just felt I couldn't keep it down. At the next water stop I grabbed a Larabar, which I knew from past experience that I could digest while working out. But again the Larabar sat in my stomach like a rock. I had to walk a lot because running would induce cramping. Then I became lightheaded. I walked through several water stops without taking any drink or food because I couldn't keep them down. I passed the first aid tent at mile 18, thinking about stopping, but still, I wanted to see if I could feel better. I knew my goal time of 4:15 was in the toilet, but maybe 4:30? 4:40?

No such luck. I just felt worse and worse. A lot of people that I knew passed me, asked if I was okay. I appreciated their enthusiasm, but I was so embarrassed. Here I am, having trained so hard for this race, and I'm walking the last half of a marathon.

By mile 19, I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be finishing. Running just wasn't a possibility at this point, because I was even more lightheaded. I hadn't had any fluid since mile 14, which was well over an hour ago and I had no way of keeping any fluid or nutrition down. I had yet another emergent port-o-potty stop at mile 20. I couldn't feel my radial pulse, which is an indication of hypotension or low blood pressure. And finally I saw the first aid tent at mile 21.

I stumbled over and as tears streamed down my face, I stammered out.... "lightheaded.... cramps...." Next thing I knew I was lying down in the first aid tent, in tears, covered in blankets. I'm not one to cry at the drop of a hat, but I felt sick, but worse yet I was ashamed of myself having worked so hard for months for this marathon to land on a cot in a first aid tent. There, I was able to sip a bit of water, about an ounce, but not more than that. After resting for what felt like an eternity, shivering under countless blankets, I could sit up and not feel like I was going to fall over. I rode back to the start in the "sag wagon". I could have stopped at the first aid tent to get some IV fluids, but I didn't want to be in the happy race environment any more, so again stopping at a port-o-potty twice on the way, I stumbled to my car and drove home.

On the way home, I was able to keep a fruit smoothie down, though that wasn't pleasant. I weighed myself at home and found that I'm six pounds less than when I started this morning -- clearly dehydrated. And even now, hours later, I'm not feeling that great, though I'm sitting here sipping orange juice and oatmeal.

I'm mad, but it happens. Now, I need to move on. I want to prove I can run a marathon in 4:15-4:20. Based on my previous times I can do it. I'm going to find a marathon in the next couple of months and I will do it.

1 comment:

Victoria said...

I used to get those symptoms on long runs all the time. I was told it was hyponutremia. Along with the diarrhea, I would be so weak I couldn't walk.