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Bull Run Run: DNF

Sara, Katie and me. My girls both demolished their PRs!


On a beautiful Saturday morning in April, I toed the line for my seventh Bull Run Run 50 Miler. 

I shared the early miles with my two steadfast training buddies, Katie and Sara. They were running so strong, I had to let them go. I knew they were going to own this race.

I spent the rest of my miles mostly alone, but not lonely. There are always friends passing, sharing a mile or two. I enjoyed my day on trail, just being out in the woods. Bull Run Run is a favorite in part because I get to see so many friends on the out and back section. I loved taking in the sights and sounds - birdsong, various wildflowers, the nascent leaves on the trees. "Gifts from the trail" Gary Knipling calls them, and rightly so.

I started having anterior tibialis soreness and cramping about halfway through the race.

The same issue had plagued me in the latter miles last year. It turned into an injury a couple of weeks later, eventually forcing me to withdraw from my goal race in June.

I was surprised and dismayed to experience it again as I believed it was a caused by insufficient training volume and hill work. Unlike last year, I felt my training leading up to the race was adequate.

2012 mileage leading up to the race vs. 2013

Other than my lower legs, I felt really good.
My energy was steady all day but for a brief, mild low point between Miles 21 - 26 (very typical for me). I had zero stomach issues, discomfort or sloshing. I felt strong. Though my lower legs were really tender,
I had been able to keep the cramping at bay by walking when they started to quiver.

As I arrived at Fountainhead (mile 38) my spirits were high. No matter my training, I am a strong closer in the final miles of an ultra. My friends were just minutes ahead and I expected to catch up and run the remaining miles in their company.

t never happened. Things began to deteriorate just two miles later, and culminated in severe pain and cramping in my anterior tibialis and ankles. At one point, it was up to my lower back and I had to lie down on a log, it hurt so badly.

The Garmin shows my meltdown. (Mileage is always short on trails).

Hubz appeared on the trail and I was so glad to see him. After what seemed like hours, we hobbled into Bull Run Marina, a mere 5.5 miles from the finish line. I sat, I waited, I ate some calories, I hydrated. I could walk the entire distance in the 3 hours before the time limit, if I could walk without cramping. But I couldn't. My race was over.

It was a humbling end to a day that had held so much promise.

But I am alright with my DNF. I did what I could that day. I simply had nothing left.

This was also my first ultra fueling on the Whole 30 program (Day 28), but I'll analyze that in another post. I cannot say definitively whether it was a factor in my tibialis cramping. Given that I had the same issue a year ago, it could be but one piece of the puzzle. 

Other factors that probably played a hand in my race:
  • my last ultra race in warm weather was a whole year ago 
  • dehydration 
  • under-fueling
  • having my period
  • a surprisingly stressful week serving on a jury

I'm looking at this DNF as a valuable learning experience and a solid 10 hour training run for my A race in June: The Laurel Highlands 70 Miler.