Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Death Valley 2, Lisa 0

On Saturday, I ran the Death Valley Trail Marathon...and did not finish.I wasn't hurt. I didn't fall. My left calf that was bothering me leading up to it was fine. My foot was fine. I didn't have problems with heat. I was just too slow.

I had no doubts about finishing this when I went into it. Maybe I was being ignorant but it didn't have as much elevation gain as the Flying Monkey (which I finished in 5:16) or the Big Sur Trail Marathon (which I finished in 5:40) and it had a fabulous downhill at the half way point so I THOUGHT I would finish between 4:45 and 5 and easily beat the 6 hour time limit.

This was actually going to be my second attempt to run this race since it was cancelled last year because of high winds. I ended up running 26.2 miles on my own then since I needed to get the miles in but it wasn't thru Titus Canyon (you can read that blog post here). It was one of the most expensive races I never ran, not only because of the price of the marathon ($110) but also because there's pretty much only 2 hotels in the area and your choices are $$$ or $$$$. Oh, and I got a speeding ticket. Yeah, last year sucked.

But when they said they would give us a credit to use for this year, I signed up again.I had to. I had unfinished business and I wanted to run thru Titus Canyon. They had given me a medal and shirt last year but I didn't "earn" it. I needed to earn them.I wanted that race listed as official in my Race History page. I did a LOT more hill running this past year and I was ready for it!

Except I guess I wasn't.

In my San Dimas Turkey Trot Recap, I talked about how disappointed I was with my time there. I think I'd run myself into a black hole during the ARR Thanksgiving Classic 10 Mile I ran on Thanksgiving. That and the fall combined to really zap my energy. I never really recovered after that and started feeling really tired and cranky that week and by Tues/Wed was toast. I almost cried at work and that's when I knew I was in trouble. I felt stressed, tired, and depressed. So I decided to shorten my run to a 5K and skip the bike commute on Thursday and then on Friday I ran 5K but skipped my regular strength routine and drove to work again. I tried to get a lot of sleep too. I felt better by Saturday morning - less emotional and less tired but it probably was not enough.

Because of my job, it's hard for me to take time off on the last and 1st days of the month but it can happen. The only problem is that I had already done that a couple of times this year so I had to work the November close. Luckily we close at 4 so once I do that, I can leave. And that was the plan. Part of the plan anyway.

The whole plan was that I would carbo load at lunch since I would be driving 4-4.5 hours to Death Valley and would arrive too late to eat. Well, too late for me since I like to eat the night before the race at least 12-13 hours before the start. I didn't get a chance to go out to lunch though so ended up eating 2 little frozen burritos and picking up some Uncrustables to eat as I drove. Turns out those 2 meals are probably not the best carbo loading meals I could have eaten but you do what you gotta do, right.

There wasn't too much traffic so I arrived  in Death Valley about 8:15 and then checked in and got my room. I walked over to the little store for orange juice for breakfast and then went back and got my race stuff ready for the morning and then watched tv for a while. I set my alarm for 5 the next morning and went to bed some time after 11.

On Saturday, I woke up up at 4 and couldn't go back to sleep. I eventually got up, ate, showered, and got ready. Then I loaded up my car and went to the race check-in to pick up my bib and pay the park fee. (Oh yeah, more money you have to spend for this race). I saw RIF #24 Emily (@trailjunke) and Josh (@bayou) picking up their bibs and then we all met up again to wait for the bus that would take us to Titus Canyon. It was a beautiful morning in Death Valley!

The bus ride over took a while and we joked around the whole ride. Josh asked me about what I thought I would do and I told him I would be very happy to finish around the same time as Malibu. I should have told him I would be happy to finish but I think I was lying to myself still at that point. I wasn't nervous at all but I wasn't excited either. When we got there, I hit the porta pottie and then we took a couple of pics and then it was time to race.

The race started just after 8:30. There was no start line, no gun, just when the brake lights went off on the RDs car, we should start running. We were near the back so all of sudden we saw runners heading out and we took off too.

I felt okay at the beginning. I wasn't pushing it and was just running relaxed. I think the first couple of miles were around an 11:30 pace and there were a few stops to take pictures.

I wasn't really looking at my watch. I just knew I wanted to make it to the top by 3 hrs. I figured with the downhill after, I would have plenty of time. But I started getting slower not much but enough that I was starting to worry a little. I had some good speed on the small downhill before the peak at Red Pass so still felt like I would make it. The views thru here were amazing. This is looking back on the climb back up to the peak after the downhill.

I hit mile 12 at 3:05, I think and then the top at 3:20. I figured all I had to do was do 12 minute miles on the downhill and I would still be good. Piece of cake, right? I mean, it's downhill! I figured it would be more like 10:00 min miles. So I took a few minutes to take in the view and get a couple of photos. Luckily, there was a group of geology students at the peak so I asked one of them to take my picture.

And then I headed down the hill to the finish. And that first mile was 11:48. And the next one was 12 something and then 13 something and I was so flipping frustrated! I had NOT pushed to hard on the uphills. I SHOULD have had plenty left for the downhill but my legs refused to go any faster. What the hell! It never got better. It just got worse. My energy was totally zapped and I felt a little shaky at times so started walking. I should have stopped at the aids stations to take more food in (they only had food in the second half) but I didn't want to waste time. And with no porta potties out there or few and far between, I didn't want to risk stomach issues. I had GuBrew in my bottle and that's usually enough for a marathon.

And some point, I think around mile 16/17, I realized I was not going to make the strict (or so I thought) cut off of 6 hours.

I gave up.

Part of me hoped the sweeper van would come along and pick me up so I could just get it over with! I was done. Cooked. Road kill.

I waffled back and forth for a while. I'd cry and start running. Then give up. I'd cuss myself out and start running again. Then give up. It was not pretty. I did not want to be the Lisa who gives up when the going gets tough. I am not that Lisa anymore. But I was just so tired I just didn't care anymore.

Maybe if would have helped if I knew there was a cool, shiny medal waiting at the finish line for me but they'd given me one last year and it wasn't that great so no motivation there.

You know those geology students I mentioned? They were in 4 cars and when I heard them coming, I cringed because I thought for sure they were the sweeper car. I knew then that all hope was not gone so I just kept running and walking. The scenery was still pretty cool but it was lonely. At the last aid station I passed, a couple of the girls there asked if they could run with me for a little bit and they brightened my mood a lot. But it was too late.

Just before mile 22, a truck went by with one of the race people and he told me "the van is coming" and I deflated. But then the next car that went by was a van and it didn't stop and I thought "ooh, maybe I'm far enough along that they'll let me finish". At Big Sur, they'd had a cutoff of 6 hours too but recorded runners thru 6:34 so I thought maybe I still had a chance to finish on my own.

But I was wrong. The next car I heard slowed to a stop beside me and the RD said "sorry, but you have to get in". So my day was over. We picked up 3 more runners in Titus Canyon but there were a few still a couple of miles from the finish that he let continue even though they wouldn't make the cutoff either. He said then that the cutoff was the published time but that he let people finish until about 6:20 if they were out of the canyon.


I was SO pissed at myself when I heard that. If only I hadn't given up. If only I'd kept running instead of giving in to the pity party.


When I got back to the finish, I jumped on the bus for the drive back to the hotel. Once I got there, I was just going to get in my car and drive home but then decided I needed a little company so I wouldn't drive upset. I found Josh at the pool and then Emily showed up too. After a while, we went to eat at the restaurant. It was a good dinner, more so because of the company than the food, and it really helped. Thank you Josh and Emily for cheering me up! I drove home after that and got home about 10:15. It was a LONG day and I was glad it was over.

So...I haven't really been running since then. I've done 1 mile streak savers the past 3 days. I was sore, especially my lower back (which is partly from missing the last step while going down the stairs on Sunday) and I'm not sure when I'll get back to real running. I haven't been bike commuting either. I don't feel like doing anything. I have 3 races this weekend - a 10K/5K double and then a Half on Sunday and I don't know if I'm going to race them yet.

I know it's just a race and a DNF is not the end of the world. But I don't WANT to be THAT girl who gives up. I am tired of being slow. I'm tired of having to worry about cut offs. I'm just flipping tired.

And I don't know what to do because I don't feel like running or reading about running or talking about running. I'm sick of it all right now!

But at the same time, I love to run. I love the adventure and the amazing places I've been and the crazy beautiful landscapes I've seen and all the wonderful people I've met. I love that I've traveled to places I've never been and done things I'd never though possible.

I just...

I just don't know what I want to do anymore.


  1. Hi Lisa, great blog as always, thank you for sharing your experience so honestly. We all have down days and bad races, but from everything I've seen you say / write before, I know you'll be back, stronger than ever and happier too... And it's that, the happiness, that matters the most - if doing streaksavers for a while is all you want to do, that's fine and if you want to stop the Runstreak, nobody will think any less of you. I know several runners who've stopped their streak, taken a few days or weeks to recover and regroup and come back stronger for it.

    All the best, Mike

  2. Hey Lisa,
    You know (I hope) that I think very highly of you and what you have accomplished. That being said, here are my thoughts:
    Take the month of December off from running. Eat, drink, be merry.
    Get your fuel situation dialed in. Especially before, and during. I've read ur posts b4 where u did not properly fuel during a race.
    Run streaks are for egos and bragging rights. F that. If ur body needs to adjust, it needs to adjust.
    There is no such thing as over-training, just under-recovery. Period.

    You truly are on a wonderful mission. One that ends not each calendar year, but.....

    Even though these comments may not seem like it, I am cheering you on.


    1. Thank you Lee. I do know. :) And I will think about what you said.

  3. Thank you. I am so slow that I always have to check cut off times before I register, and it is nice to hear someone else say some of these things.

    I think you are amazing.

  4. You have accomplished so many things and have changed your life around. You are going through a stretch where you are testing your limits and you have done a ton of running and pushing yourself. We all need breaks. It does not mean you are weak or are unable to do something, it just means you need to recharge to come back stronger. There is no weakness in knowing when you need to take care of yourself.

    1. Thank you, Heidi. I have pushed myself this year and need to remember that.

  5. Was just reading this blog on IronMan burn-out and thought of you. One of the reasons I dodged that bullet this year, and was able to accomplish 5 other events post-IronMan this year was because I knew when to back off, and I embraced it. If I can ever help with ur fueling approach or anything else, please ask. Notice I said "approach" Here is that blog: http://ironstruck.com/ironman-burnout Cheers:)

  6. I so hear you, Lisa! It completely sucks in the Black Hole. Sadly, for me, just resting makes it worse - I get more depressed. I've found that if I just go out walking for a few weeks, I rebound and get my attitude back. As my husband will attest, I've "quit" running more times than he can count.

    You've had a very busy, full, and successful running year :)

    1. I've taken this whole week off and I'm starting to feel better. Sluggish, but better. Thanks Carilyn!

  7. Awww, Lisa! It does sucks that you didn't know you could have had time...definitely in one of the big races in a box you wouldn't have had wiggle room, but I guess in smaller races know that the allow some leeway? Good lesson for us too! Sorry we are learning that through you. You have done SO much lately in terms of racing. Maybe you do need a bit of a break? There's absolutely nothing wrong with that! We all need them every now and again just listen to your body! No matter what you know that you are a rockstar in our eyes and you have accomplished SO much this year! Maybe it's time to reflect on everything that you have done and accomplished? We heart you, Lisa!

    1. A break was definitely in order. I am starting to feel better. :) Thank you so much for your support! Both of you are awesome!