Yesterday was my 11th attempt at 100 miles. I was 5 for my first 10. The worst I'd done in the past was 48 miles at Massanutten in 2007, while undertrained and fighting a cold. I took out that record easily yesterday, timing out at mile 23.8.
The race weather was incredibly hot, but I never made it far enough to run in the heat of the day, so the heat wasn't really a huge factor for me. I described my DNF in an e-mail as a "death of a 1000 cuts". There was no single cause for the DNF, but rather a number of contributing factors.
My hamstring was not 100%. It was sore the past couple days at the top attachment point. This led to my stride being off from the start. I could feel that my left knee and right heel were going to cause me problems eventually.
I climbed well to the top of Emigrant Pass, making it in 72 minutes and feeling good. And then, everyone started passing me. I just felt like I couldn't make decent time on the downhill sections.
I passed on re-filling my hydration pack at the 10.5 mile aid station. Shortly after that aid station, the Nathan bladder sprung a leak and I was without water for a long time into the Red Star aid station at mile 16. I drank six total cups of water and sports drink at that aid station, refilled the bladder, and took a backup bottle from my drop bag. I just felt like I couldn't catch up on hydration as the day started to heat up. The stretch from Red Star to Duncan Canyon is fairly exposed to the sun, so the heat was a small factor here.
But, my mental state was a factor as well. My stride was off. The day was going to be miserably hot. It's possible that the dehydration messed with my mental status. But, in some ways, I started to mentally give up on the way to Duncan. This trail is fairly technical and I just couldn't muster the effort to run rather than walk, even on downhill sections.
I missed the cut-off by ten minutes at Duncan Canyon, and just like that, my day was over.
Many people think the Duncan Canyon cut-off is perhaps unfair, by 15-30 minutes. I was just under a 16:30 pace at this point, and I was hoping to go after the race with a slow but steady effort. This cut-off does force you to hustle a bit to make the cut-off. But, I knew the cut-off well in advance and I missed it.
Plus, there's no doubt that I would have missed a later cut-off. I think I would have made Robinson Flat, and then probably the downhill sections. I probably would have been hit hard by the heat in the canyons, and missed the cut-off at Devil'S Thumb. I simply wasn't fully mentally and physically prepared to go 100 miles in tough conditions yesterday.
Of the 399 starters, 238 finished and many very good athletes failed to finish. This was one of the slower finishing percentages in race history.
So, now I have to decide "what's next?" To be perfectly honest, I've been focused on WS for almost 20 months, since my name was pulled in the lottery in December of 2007. I was really ready last year, but never got the chance to run. That left me with the same focus for another 12 months. And, I didn't respond well to the challenge.
I got to the point where I trained only because I had to train, not because I wanted to train. That's not a fun place to be. I think I've simply lost some of my passion for ultras over the last 20 months. So, right now, I'm going to take a break of some sort. I'm going to work out regularly, but I'm only going to run when I feel like it for the rest of the year. I'm going to ride my road bike. I'm going to lift. My son wants to learn to play racquetball. My wife wants to do some rock climbing. I want to let my hamstring heal completely.
But, for right now, I need to walk away from ultras for a little while. I'm scheduled to pace at the Vermont 100, and I'll gladly do that. But, I won't be doing any long races for a while.
I finished a 50K in April, so my long streak of completing at least one race of a marathon or longer in every calendar year is still intact. I've done this since 1986. Maybe the streak will get broken next year?