Lets back up a day.
Friday. I drove the whole way down (8ish hour drive) in one day. I weighed the pros and cons and decided that sleeping in my own bed two nights before the race and saving the cost of a hotel room outweighed the con of driving for so long... next time, I might rethink this. I think sitting in a car would be OK, but not being the driver. I'm not sure if this actually affected anything or not, but it's something to think about for future trips. We did stop for a while for a bit of a walk and then lunch, which was good, but it was still a lot of driving for one day when racing the next.
Pre-race was not the greatest... got into the car slightly later than planned, but still should have had plenty of time to get to the race.... but I didn't know it would be SOOOOO DARK! We missed a couple of turns, so it took slightly longer to get there than it would have if we could actually see. Then parking was fun.... but got a spot, didn't care how far it was.... got to the school, checked my bag, hit the washroom, and then headed to the start.
Walking to the start, suddenly there were people running past us. I was a little confused by this, but then Andrea checked the time and it was 2 minutes to start time! So, we started running as well. Got to the start while the anthem was being sung. Phew, didn't miss the start.... got into the start area.. further back than I realized we were... and then the race started, which was less than ideal, being in a spot that was not where we should have been, but after we got in front of some others, it was open road and all was well. (for now)
The first section (road with some climbing) was decent, as it should be... it's road and it's early.
When we hit the AT, I was super happy to start running in the trails and felt great, although once the rocky sections started, I soon discovered that my shoe choice was not a great one. I could feel everything through them. I ended up being a little cautious in there, which was frustrating because I normally love running trail. I got back into a relatively OK groove of some sort when I managed to clip my toe and suddenly I was down... directly on another rock. Bruised palm of my left hand, banged up, cut, and bruised knee. I walked a bit and then tried to run again, and it wasn't too bad, but I no longer trusted myself on the rocks and ended up mostly walking any of the very rocky sections and only running when it was more dirt or sparse rocks. I fell around mile 12, so I only had a few miles until I was off the AT and was about to start the C&O Canal towpath.
The knee was quite sore with any real bending, but I figured I would see how it felt on the flat section of the course. The towpath started out not too bad, but I knew I was going slower than I wanted to... I tried to pick it up a little.. just to make it a slightly more respectable pace and I was moving fine... until around mile 21 when my hip started to hurt. I guess I had altered my gait without realizing it and now I was paying the price. I took a bit of a walk break and then tried to make sure I was running normally, continuing to move forward, deciding I would get to 25 and reassess at that point. Once I was around 25, I decided to get to 30. When I went through the aid station right around 30 miles, I was informed that the next one was the Christmas aid station, so I decided that's where my day would end. I could hang out there and eat Christmas cookies while I waited to be picked up. I started running and maybe a half mile down the path, my hip was preventing me from running. I walked for a bit, then tried to run again and couldn't even run for a minute before walking again... so, I figured I'd be walking the next 4 miles or so... but then a runner who I had talked to briefly earlier caught up to me and struck up a conversation. I let him know that I was going to stop at the next aid station, but I started running again at that point, and ran with him until we got there. The distraction of conversation was enough to get me there without having to stop again until the aid station. I thanked him and wished him luck in the remainder of his first 50 and I walked over to an official to let him know that I was dropping.
This was my first ever DNF. I'm disappointed, of course, but when I realized that at the pace I was going, that it would end being at least another 3 hours before I would finish, I knew stopping was the right decision. Running that much further would not have helped anything and I would likely have a nasty injury right now. Instead, I just had a bruised knee, hand, hip and pride. There will be many more races to run... and as I like to say.... future running is more important than running today.
Total mileage for the day... 34.4 miles. 6:22:12.
There were a few positives from JFK.
- It was a beautiful day while I was running and the weather didn't turn nasty until after I stopped.
- I got to watch Andrea finish in 8th place female.
- I have learned some lessons from running over half the course and I know a few things I would do differently next time. And there will be a next time.
- I had a fun weekend away with a running buddy.