Onward and Upward: Details of a DNF

May 31, 2011

Before this weekend, I always wondered what race officials do when a runner decides they can't finish the race. Welp, I now consider myself an insider on the whole process, which involves a lot of walkie-talkieing...and a bus.

It's true. It happened. I DNF'd the Vermont City Marathon this year. Fifth marathon, first DNF, but honestly, I've accepted it and I'm completely fine.

If you're one of my Daily Mile* friends, you know that I whined, complained, and wretched about my stomach for the entire week before the race. Basically, I came down with a stomach bug last Sunday and it held strong through the whole week--I even had to leave work early on Thursday because after my nineteenth trip to the bathroom, I started to feel a little embarrassed.

On Friday morning, when we were getting ready to leave for Vermont, I knew I wouldn't be able to brave the car ride in my natural state, so I swallowed a cocktail of stomach meds and it seemed to do the trick. I had no appetite, but I had no accidents either, so I considered it a win.

When I woke up on Saturday, I still felt 'off.' My stomach was churning, and I just didn't want to eat. When I got to the expo to pick up my number, a happy Ben & Jerry's employee tried to hand me a free sample of their newest flavor. Usually, I'd put on a variety of disguises--you know, whatever trash bags, scarves, and childrens' hats I could find on the floor of my car--and hit up the sample guy as many times as I possibly could. But this time, when I wanted to tell the Ben & Jerry's guy to _____ off, I knew I had a problem.

When I stepped up to the line on Sunday morning, I knew in my heart that the race would be a crap shoot. I could have the race of my life, or I could make it three miles, but either way, I wanted to try.

It poured at the starting line, so before the gun even went off, I was soaked and feeling a lot like Maggie:

My pacer went out a little bit fast , so I hung with him until mile five, and then decided to back off and stay closer to my pace. I ran happy until mile ten, and then, all of the sudden, I just kind of started to wilt. By the time I got to the half-marathon mark, I was slogging along. At that point, I decided I'd give myself three more miles to try and bounce back. If I couldn't, I'd run to the medical tent and call it a day.

Well, I never bounced back.

I got slower, and slower, and slower until finally, I was being passed by people dressed up like Christmas trees and tubs of Stoneyfield Yogurt--and to be perfectly honest, it felt like they were zooming right by.

I spotted the medical tent just after mile twenty, and felt a huge sense of relief as I veered in.

I borrowed the medic's cell phone and called my Dad. I said something like, "Hey Dad. I'm at mile twenty. I need the world's best pep talk, or else I'm getting a ride back to the start." He opted to forgo the pep talk and wait for me near the aquarium downtown.

After I hung up the phone, I told the medic that I was done for the day. Then I asked, "So...what happens now?" Since I wasn't any kind of emergency case, I didn't know what they'd do.

He walkie-talkied to someone, told me to wait across the street, and that a bus would come and pick me up.
I sat down on the curb, and one by one, people started lining up next to me. There was the guy from Maine who just felt like crap, there was the guy from Massachusetts with the bum knee, and there was some lady from somewhere who kept screaming, "I'M NOT A QUITTER! I'M NOT A QUITTER!"

I turned to the two guys and said, "Um, if she's not a quitter, then she should probably get off of this quitter bus." They whole heartedly agreed.

The quitter bus pulled up to the curb, and much to our surprise, this wasn't a van, or an SUV, or even a short bus--this was a full sized school bus. And let me just say that I've never been so happy to see a full sized school bus in my entire life.

We rode around Burlington, picking up relay runners here and there. One relay runner hopped on, sat down behind me and was beaming with pride. He'd run a five mile leg, and never in his life had he run farther than four. He told me that he could have kept on going and going and going. He had white hair, glasses, and must have been close to Medicare age. This guy completely made my day. Those are the kind of races that all runners live for.

The bus dropped us near the start, and I walked with the guy from Massachusetts until we found our families. I walked up to mine, we hugged and laughed. Then I looked at James, shrugged and said, "Well, I made it twenty miles!"

"Yeah, but you didn't make it the whole way. Here's your sign, Mom."

Okay, that stung. And that six year old comment was probably 89% of the reason I cried for a minute in the car. But James doesn't know any better--he still doesn't understand why I'm not winning these things.

So there, that's my DNF story. It wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. I'm proud of myself for making it twenty miles with a stomach bug, and I'm proud of myself for knowing my limits. One of these days I know my stars will line right up on race morning.

But in the mean time, I made myself this sticker:

Onward and upward!

*If you're not, you should be! Just tell me that you're a blog friend so I don't delete you in one of my semi-annual deleting sprees.


Kandi said...

20 miles is still super impressive - with or without a stomach bug.

Grandma said...

I was like "Amy, free Ben and Jerry's!!" and when you said no thanks I knew you still didn't feel good!!! You did an AMY-zing job anyhow!!! James is just so literal. We walked by the guy with the 4th place finisher medal and I thought for sure he's say..."you only got 4th?!"We had alot of fun with you guys...despite worrying about you sleeping in your 3-sided structure in thunder and lightning while we were in the van!! Proud of you and Jared for helping those people who were in the motorcycle accident on the way there,too!!!!xoxo

chirunner said...

Hey, just starting the race with a stomach bug took a lot of guts much less getting through 20 miles. Good for you.

Evolving Through Running said...

Sounds like shutting it down was the right thing to do. Most people wouldn't have even given it a try with your stomach issues. Live to fight another day. I like the sticker.

Tammy said...

Girl, I'm proud to say that you even started it with being sick and all. Love to you. Hope you're feeling better.

Laura said...

OMG Amy!!! I DNFed too - passed out at mile 18, walked another tenth of a mile or so to get to volunteers, and even though I was fine by then, they sent an AMBULANCE for me. I was so embarrassed. I wish I had known that if I just walked 2 miles up the road I could have gotten on the quitter bus with you. Also, if it makes you feel any better, my mom spent the rest of the day pointing out people dressed in running clothes who didn't have medals - there were a LOT of them.

It was still great to meet you on Saturday - hopefully we'll meet at another race in the future.

mainely triathlon said...

Sorry about the DNF but I think you are handling it well and love the sticker!

Jo@Mylestones said...

I'm with Kandi. I have no idea how you made it 20 miles with the stomach bug. I had to sit out on my first half marathon this past March--the one I had traveled 5 hours to DC to do--because my lovely 6 year old decided to be generous with germs. I spent the morning of the race in the fetal position trying not to hurl and/or cry. It totally sucked.
So...will you wait for the fall to try another marathon? Or are you gonna brave the heat?
p.s. I just "friended" you on the daily mile. Never heard of that before, but it looks purty cewl.

paige said...

o goodness... twenty miles with a stomach bug??!! You're crazy...
i can't *wait* to read the blog entry on the day when you have the perfect conditions - you are due for a break!!

X-Country2 said...

Phew, I'm glad you're okay. I stalked you, and I got a little worried when you didn't have a final 10k time. You definitely made the right choice. Go get 'em next time!

achug05 said...

This is why I'm following your posts - they make me smile and, believe it or not, are very motivating to me.
I feel this way when I go out to run 2 miles. Heck, I just got back from the gym and made it all of 11 minutes on the treadmill before the puke fairy came to visit!
Keep on going, and I'm glad you're okay.
Love the sticker. I'll make my own by just moving the decimal point one space to the left.

MissyRayn said...

I always wondered what happened with a DNF but am sad it happened to you.

20 miles on a crap stomach is impressive! You deserve a sticker for the Stomach Bug 20 miler.

Deb said...

This is the most honest, straight forward account of a DNF that I have ever read. Usually it's all, "It was the hottest, muggiest day on record - 126 degress in the shade! All the water evaporated out of the cups at each and every water stop and all I had to drink was my own sweat! And my left leg developed crippling paralysis...also leprosy! And through no fault of my own I discovered at Mile 2 that I was wearing two left shoes! It's not my fault, it's not my fault, it'snotmyfault!!!"
I'm sorry about the DNF. It absolutely can happen to ANYONE, but most of us would do a whole lot more excuse-making and whining about it. Hang in there, and be proud of your accomplishment.

Blaine said...

Amy..wow. I got to say that 20 miles with the flu is amazing. I will never ever ever complain about what I feel like at mile 18 again :). And you helped some people out who were in a motorcycle accident? We didn't hear that story.

Alex said...

My God, Amy, how did I not know you blogged! Sorry about the DNF but, seriously, you're a brilliant woman for making it 20 miles. Nicely done, mama, and even though james doesn't get it yet, one day he'll realise what a cool mum he has. x

Lady Hermione said...

Proud of ya! Knowing limits is great and accepting them is wonderful! Yes those stars will line up someday... I am waiting for mine, too!!!!!

Emilie said...

Amy... a stomach bug AND those humid conditions? Yikes. You are a real trooper. I love the way you wrote this report... very honest and funny. Here's to the next one!

Tara said...

I'm still working on getting to 10 miles (maybe this weekend?).

You kick butt regardless of how many miles you run:D

Adam said...

I kind of feel like consoling a DNF'er is sort of like talking to someone who has had a death in the family.....there really isn't a lot to say.

You don't want to hear the "well, you got to 20 miles" (they had a good life) or "you'll get them next time" (ummm....maybe that whole reincarnation thing is real!). At least I don't. Did you at least get ham sandwiches??

Seriously though, that sucks. You made the right decision. If the body was not willing, going forward would have done some sort of damage that you shouldn't put your body through. Hang tough.

Karen said...

I'm not a runner, so I can't feel your pain, but I know life's disappointments and I know this was a big one for you. Good for you that you're pulling yourself up and I know you'll have the intestinal fortitude (pun intended) to try again.

Anonymous said...

20 miles is amazing! I've been running for 8 weeks now and am up to 2 miles (on a good day, LOL!).