Race Report: 2012 TNF50 DNF

2012 has been a year of firsts for me.  I ran my first ultra-marathon.  I ran my first 50 miler.  I dealt with my first running injury.  I fell head over heals in love with trail running. 

And now, I have my first big DNF.

This is not the race report I want to be writing at all, but it’s the one that happened.  Sometimes (most of the time?) things don’t go exactly according to plan.  You have to adapt, you have to weigh your options and you really have to figure out what is important to you.  Like my good friend Page’s dad always says, “It’s not what happens, it’s how you handle it” and I hope I continue to look back on this day being happy and proud with how I handled my circumstances.

After dealing with an IT Band injury in April and May after my first 50 miler, I came back with a vengeance and had an incredible training cycle for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler.  I never had a problem with my IT Band through the entire training cycle and was religious about rolling, stretching, ART and icing.  I was determined to keep that injury away.

The weather forecast leading up to race weekend was getting worse by the day, with flood warnings and a ton of rain and wind in the Bay Area.  I knew what I was getting in to, but was relaxed and ready to deal what the day decided to bring.  Thursday night the race directors announced that the course was going to be changed.  The new route was posted early Friday afternoon, the day before the race.

The original course tnf course

The revised coursetnf50 revised course

As you can see, the whole north section of the course (which is California State Park land) was cut off because the park service decided the weather was going to be too severe.  The North Face staff turned around and created a new course overnight, using the still accessible Golden Gate National Recreation Area trails that I ran on a ton during training.  It was going to be a loopy course (2 “loops” of a 23.4 mile semi-figure eight loop, totaling a shorter than 50, 46.8 miles) that covered the same trails a few times.  But the important part was the race was still on!  

I was pretty bummed out because I had really been looking forward to the original course.  I was looking forward to not retracing steps, to the ridiculous climbs and to the beautiful sections I had yet to run on.  Although I was really bummed, I made sure to keep a positive attitude and was happy the race was still happening.  I just wanted to run and this is just part of the adventure of ultra-running right!?

After getting to bed pretty early and having a solid night of 6 hours of sleep, the alarm went off at 3am and Page and I got up to get ready and head to the very early 5am race start.  We got to the start area, parked and took a shuttle up to the actual start line. It was raining a little bit and windy, but I was hopeful the forecast would be right and the rain wouldn’t be bad as the morning progressed.

Keeping warm in gear check trucks093092

Page and I huddled in the gear check trucks with the other runners to keep warm and soon enough it was time to head to the start. I ran into some old friends and made some new ones standing there waiting, it was so fun!  There were 3 waves and we watched each one go off until it was my turn.  I gave Page a quick hug and told her I would see her in 9 miles!  And I headed off into the dark wet morning.

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Since the race started at 5am, headlamps were required on the dark trails.  I felt good the moment I started running.  I was really happy with what I had decided to wear and looking forward to the day ahead.  We hit the first hill pretty quick and I was really happy to be on such familiar trails since it was so dark. I was running well, but made sure to take an occasional walk break as I climbed the hills so I was sure to save some hill climbing energy for later in the race.

We hadn’t been running for long at all when the rain started coming down harder and the wind picked up. Once I got to the top of the first up Bobcat, it was really coming down, making it really hard to see even with a headlamp.  It was foggy, spitting rain and super windy.  Not even three miles in to a 47 mile day and I was already soaked.  I found my way through the extremely dark Alta trail and onto Rodeo Valley which would be the first of 4 planned trips down.  This isn’t my favorite trail to run on in the daylight when it’s dry, so it was a little difficult for me in the wet and dark, but I made it unscathed. 

The 5.9 mile aid station was soon after and I couldn’t believe it was already 6 miles!  I had turned off the lap notifications on my Garmin like I did at AR50 and was always pleasantly surprised when I checked where I was.  I had been eating Shot Bloks since the start and took my first salt cap here, but I decided to wait until the next aid station to take any other food.

I wound up Miwok, still in the dark, making sure to take conserving walk breaks here as well.  Then I made my way down the very wet Old Springs trail heading into Tennessee Valley Aid Station where Page would be!  I was very excited to see her for the first time and really happy the sun was about to come up.  I was in really good spirits here, feeling great about the day and really strong in my running. I took some potatoes for the first time, told Page I was feeling great (and very wet!) and headed on my way.

8.9 miles/1:38:32

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As I ran down the road to the Coastal Fire Trail, I realized it was light enough now to turn off my headlamp which made me happy.  We climbed up the steep trail and the wind and rain were pounding pretty hard now.  Once at the top, we headed down Pirate’s Cove trail.  This is probably the most technical trail of the race and it was made more difficult with the slippery mud and puddles.  After a couple miles you get spit out onto the Coastal Fire Road that is an out and back to Muir Beach this day.  I have done this hill a number of times and it’s never easy, but it’s extremely difficult in the mud.  I made my way down successfully without too much slipping and sliding into the Muir Beach aid station.  I took some more potatoes, grabbed a cup of Pepsi and continued on my way.  We ran a short loop and then started the climb out of Muir Beach which is an extremely difficult task in the mud. It wasn’t impossible (yet) and I made my way up and out with really high spirits.  I was having a lot of fun!

I was really excited running back to Tennessee Valley Aid station again.  The miles were ticking by and I was so excited to see Page.  The one good thing about the course change was Page got to stay in the same spot the whole race and see me 4 times!  I filled up my pack here with water, grabbed some more fuel, used the bathroom and talked with Page for a minute.  I was wet, muddy, getting a little tired, but mostly happy knowing I would get to have Jojo running with me soon.  My energy level felt great, I was fueling perfectly, and my legs felt strong.  I was starting to get some really tight hip flexors from all the rain and mud, and my feet and right leg were starting to talk to me a little bit.  I recognized what I was feeling at that moment, but hoped it would pass or at least not get worse.

17.7 miles/3:37:51

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I ran strong up Marincello, a long hill I practiced so often in training.  As excited as I was to get to Jojo, I made sure to pace myself, imagining what it would be like running up it at mile 44 later in the day. I wanted to feel strong at that point and kept reminding myself of that.

I made it to the top and had to go down Rodeo Valley for the second time. It was already getting really sloppy (the 50kers had also gone through it at this point) and I was having a hard time running down it.  My tight hip feeling started moving its way down my right leg and into my knee/IT Band. It wasn’t "painful" yet but it was tight and I was definitely paying attention.

I made a friend running into the start/finish area completing my first lap and had fun talking with him for a bit.  I also saw my friend Laurie volunteering and tackled her with a hug on the way in.  I was just so happy at this moment.  I ran into the aid station and saw Jojo right there giving her a big wet hug.  I grabbed some more potatoes and Pepsi and we were on our way!

23.4 miles/4:43:57

I told her about my day so far.  I told her about the weather and everything I had eaten. I was so proud of my fueling and happy with how things were going and I was talking a ton.  We made our way up Bobcat for my second time, keeping it pretty conservative.  I noticed my right leg getting tighter at this point, but I just kept pushing forward.  We headed down Rodeo Valley for my 3rd time and the weather got really bad in this section. It was horribly windy and the rain was just spitting everywhere.  The trail was getting so sloppy from all the runners multiple trips down.  I was trying to keep myself together, but I was in a low point and just listened to Jojo’s amazing story telling.  I started to pay more attention to my leg and it was beginning to make me nervous.  I still had 20 miles to go and it was only getting worse.

I made it through that low point and laughed it off, then we climbed up Miwok. I was slowing down a bit but still wanted to run and would pick spots I was going to run to.  We made it up and then had to head down Old Springs for my second time and this is where I started to fall apart.  I told Jojo that if I was being honest my IT band was not feeling that great.  It was tight and started to be painful and these slippery muddy downhill sections were not making it feel any better.  I was getting frustrated and nervous that all my hard work was going to go to waste and I definitely had a breakdown.  She talked me through it as we wound down to see Page at the aid station. 

32.2 miles/6:34:41

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Running into the aid station each time was the best.  Page is seriously THE BEST, she would be standing there screaming her heart out, holding her umbrella, shivering, completely soaked, holding all my stuff, while trying not to put added stress on her injured ankle.  I cannot ever thank her enough for all that she did this day. 

I told her what was going on, let out a few tears and then regrouped.  I put on a new shirt, gloves and arm warmers, and also changed shoes hoping dry, more cushiony shoes would help.  I left with hopeful spirit as we headed out to the really tough parts.

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We took our time getting up Coastal and then really took it easy down Pirate’s Cove. It was so messy at this point and I felt like every step was risking a big aggravation from my right leg.

The one picture I took of the day that really doesn’t even come close to doing the mud justice.
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When we made it through the tough parts, I pushed it a bit to run where I could.  I wanted nothing more to be running at this point.  I was able to get a bit of running in and then we were back to the slip and slide down to Muir Beach, but now it was now a million times worse than before.  It was so slippery from all the runners and it was purely a muddy survival fest getting up and down that hill.  I did slip and got covered in mud on my whole side and all over my hands.  I was definitely laughing about it, but was also getting a tiny bit frustrated.  We finally made it down to the aid station and my leg was getting tighter by the minute.  I took more fuel, washed off my hands from all the mud and headed back up.

There were many times that I slipped and had my hands in the mud to keep me from face planting.  It was like quicksand!  It was very slow, but we did finally make it out. Once at the top I kept wanting to run and every time I would try my leg was just so tight. It just wasn’t worth it to me at all to run and risk making my IT band worse.  I was thinking a lot about those 2 months I had to take off of running this year, how I promised myself I would never knowingly put myself in that position again, and I really, really struggled with what to do.

Jojo was amazing throughout all of this.  As I pouted and cried and vented to her, she made me laugh, danced, sang me songs and kept me moving forward.  Going down Miwok, my spirit just got so defeated and it wasn’t fun anymore.  I wasn’t going to run and risk injury, and I didn’t want to keep going in this mess.  I was so sad that it was coming to this, but when faced with a finish line or an injury, it was a no brainer for me.  I had nothing to prove out there, this was supposed to be a celebration of the last 18 weeks.  I thought about Christmas and my birthday and how I would feel if I couldn’t run on those days that I love to run.  I thought about why I do this in the first place and I thought about one line of my most favorite running quote.

“Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running." – Julie Isphording

We made it back to Page and I stood there for a few minutes and talked it out with them. I talked about what I had left, where we had to go and what I was risking. I knew in my heart I shouldn’t keep going and so that’s when I decided. 

After 41 miles, that was it, my race was over. 

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I said bye to Jojo and thanked her for everything.  I got some warm clothes on and hopped in the car.  I just wanted to get out of there.  We made our way back to my car, met up with Jessica (who had an amazing first 50k in those conditions!) and the three of us went back to my house for a slumber party.  I was so grateful to have them with me so we could rehash everything that happened that day.  We talked, ate, drank and laughed, and got ourselves ready for another rainy morning, this time cheering on our friends at CIM.

So it wasn’t my day.  I could sit here and question if I made the right choice.  I could wonder what would have happened if it would have been different conditions.  I could wonder what would have happened if I would have kept going.  But that’s not what happened, I made a choice and I am sticking by it, no regrets. 

It’s really hard and humbling when things like this happen. I trained so hard, I never had any IT band pain and then it shows up like this on the big day. I don’t think there is anything I could have done differently and I know I wouldn’t have changed this training cycle at all, it was my favorite 18 weeks of running yet. 

If I have learned anything this year, I have learned that I truly run for one simple reason… because I love it.  I train hard because I love to run, and I run races because I love to train hard.  Thinking about not running just wasn’t worth the risk of the finish line for me.  Not this day, and not ever.  My long term health in running, will always be more important than any finish line or medal.

I cannot thank the volunteers or race staff enough for making this weekend’s race a successful one despite the awful conditions.  The volunteers were amazing and the race staff was incredible getting everything figured out and communicated in such short notice.  This was a top notch event that I will definitely be coming back to.

If you want some proof of the muddy mess, check out the pictures in these links:
Weather.com
Matt Trappe Photography
Drymax Socks Facebook album (Muir Beach!)

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66 Responses to Race Report: 2012 TNF50 DNF

  1. Steph December 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Wow. I’m sorry you didn’t finish the race, but clearly you made the right choice. Everything was really well said and im glad you were able to stay smart and remember what running really means to you! Tough day, tough conditions, but you definitely still deserve a congratulations!!!! Rest up, there is another race waiting for you soon :)

  2. Nathan Maxwell December 3, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    Great race report. Even though it was a DNF it was still good effort! I hope to run a 50miler myself someday soon. When I ran my first Ultra last weekend I had many similar thoughts running through my head. I was so concerned that my hip would begin hurting during the race. My hip took me out for 6-8 weeks in 2010. The one thing we don’t want to happen is to be injured where we can’t run at all. I look forward to reading more race recaps from you in 2013. Thanks for sharing.

  3. greengirlrunning December 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Wow! That’s an amazing story. I’ve been looking forward to reading this recap and I’m so sorry to learn how it ended for you, even though you clearly made the best choice for your body. It sounds like the miles you were able to run were really tough but also so much fun! I love how your love of running shines through your writing. You are such an inspiration! And the truest tough mudder ;) I read Page’s post about her being there for you and how you gals were there to cheer at CIM, and like I said in a comment to her, all of you being out there really got me through some rough patches. CIM felt crazy yesterday, but after reading this post it seems more like a walk in the park! Congratulations on getting as far as you did in those brutal conditions! You are an amazing runner!

  4. Lindsey December 3, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    What a bummer, dude! I was so excited for you to run this race, and I’m just a random internet stranger, so I can only imagine how hard that decision must’ve been for you. I hope you feel better and get back to tearing up the trails in no time!

  5. Roserunner December 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    Totally share your philosophy. I love running, moreso than racing, and so will always choose the former. You rock, page and jojo rock, and 41 miles climbing in quicksand is tough enough to anger any IT band. Be proud of those miles and the fun that you had, no regrets!

  6. Margot December 3, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Aron! As someone who spent 26 miles in the rain on the ROADS the day after, I cannot imagine how tough you were to get through 41 miles in tough muddy terrain. I mean seriously..damn girl…

    I am sure that you made the right choice and the choice that was best. But don’t let that get in the way of how amazing what you did is.

    Also, thank you so much for coming out and cheering on Sunday.

  7. lauren @ Sassy Molassy December 3, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    You definitely ran a strong race. That mud slide pic looks just awful. I can’t imagine running several miles like that! Rest up!

  8. Audrey December 3, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Forget technicalities- this is not a DNF by any stretch of the imagination. You made it through 41 miles in horrendous conditions and made the best choice for you and your health. You deserve mad props for that. you are so lucky to have such supportive friends!

  9. Alyssa December 3, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    No need for “proof” of the muddy event — your recap is more than enough. I was having a hard time concentrating to social media on Saturday because I was so busy myself, but when I asked a lot how Aron did to our small group, someone said you had to drop. My mouth fell to the floor and I literally screamed “WHAT!!??” in disbelief. And just then, I knew how bad it was. You are THE most dedicated and strong runner I know. I saw how you iced and rolled and took extreme care of your past injury. I know how you enjoyed your long training cycle and back-to-back long runs. I know that all your effort was there to dominate this race. Because of how much effort you gave into your journey, that the destination wasn’t exactly as planned, I know in my heart & I know in yours that this was the best choice. I admire your dedication & will, in good times and in trying times, and your drive to take care of yourself (I should take a page or two from your book, huh?) You did fantastic & I am so, so proud of you.

    (Ps I LOVE that quote, and also, you are such a BAMF BARF for coming to cheer on Sunday, what what!!?)

  10. XLMIC December 3, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    “When we made it through the tough parts…”

    Woman, you ran 41 miles of “tough parts”! I love your JOY. And I love how when it wasn’t fun, you followed your heart. Way to go, tough trail runner!

  11. Jeff December 4, 2012 at 1:29 am #

    I’m so sorry to hear it. I have had IT band problems in the past, and I have done three things that have kept the problem entirely at bay — so far (fingers crossed!). First, I strengthened my hips. I followed the routine here, which I highly recommend: http://strengthrunning.com/2011/02/the-itb-rehab-routine-video-demonstration/ From what I can tell from reading your posts, you rolled religiously, which I do too, but from what I understand, IT problems likely aren’t caused by tightness. They probably stem from weakness in the hip abductors. Second, I had a gait analysis done and changed my stride. I increased my cadence to 180-188 and moved to a mid foot strike. Third, I did this stretch (just in case it WAS tightness that was causing the problem!): http://physicaltherapists.servingyorkville.com/2012/08/11/watch-worlds-best-it-band-stretch-by-dr-geoffrey-alan-gray/ It hurt like a mofo the first few times I did it, but it got better over time. It’s the only stretch I’ve done that seems to stretch exactly the part of my knee that gave me problems.

    I’m not sure which of these three did the trick (which is why I still do them all), but I haven’t had an IT problem for a couple years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had other problems! But not this one.

    Good luck and get well!

  12. Courtney December 4, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    Aron, you are AMAZING and so inspiring! Just reading this report was exhausting and you were out there for forty one freaking miles. I have no doubt you made the right decision, and I’m so proud of you. Get some rest! xoxo

  13. Kristen December 4, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    As someone who has always hated the “finish line or die” attitude, I love your attitude. One thing I love about reading your blog is the joy you write with – because clearly you run with a lot of joy. Losing that joy seems like it would be like losing part of you. Sounds like you made the right call. No second guessing allowed :)

  14. shelly December 4, 2012 at 5:08 am #

    Sound like you had an amazing experience! maybe not the distance youd planned but I’d say the journey was a full one. you are a wise runner!

  15. Eric December 4, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    I had a DNF in my 50k this Novembver in very similar conditions.. I understand where you are, and I get how it feels. I love the quote about not outrunning the joy of running… Way to go 41 miles in that gunk is good for 50 in my book!!!

  16. Kait - @runkaitrun December 4, 2012 at 5:30 am #

    i have mad respect for you and your attitude about that race. sometimes with running in find that stopping can be harder than stopping sometimes, and i can’t imagine your disapointment when you leg started acting up. Way to rock it regardless. IT bands suck, I’m right there with you.

  17. Marlene December 4, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    My heart broke a little for you when I first read the news because I knew how hard of a decision it must have been, and that you would be disappointed even if it was the only right decision that day.

    Congratulations on the grueling 41 miles that you ran that day. Honestly I have never seen or heard anything like that! Even a 5K would be tough in those condtitions.

    Proud of you and inspired by you ALWAYS!

    How is your IT feeling now?

    • Aron December 4, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      Pretty good actually! Went to ART last night and should be good to go after some (already planned) rest :) *fingers crossed*

      • Marlene December 4, 2012 at 11:04 am #

        So glad to hear that!

  18. abbi December 4, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    41 miles in those conditions is amazing! I’ve done 2 ultras that were in mud (but not 50 milers) and it makes it so hard and gets miserable. I also think looped courses like that are more difficult. I understand the frustration with your leg but sounds like it was a wise decision for the long term. Your mind didn’t give out which is important in these types of events, I think that is the only time I get frustrated or regret my decisions.

  19. Cathryn December 4, 2012 at 6:04 am #

    I’m so sorry you didn’t get to finish, but 41 miles? 41 miles is a good bike ride, let alone a run and let alone a run in those conditions . You should be so proud of yourself and of the decision you made. Congratulations on a great run!

  20. Shut Up and Run December 4, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    I can’t even imagine what you went through that day. And the fact that you were able to keep it in perspective and not get caught in HAVING to do something that would be ultimately bad for your body is amazing. You show all of us the true spirit and POINT of running, so thank you. Great job out there. This is truly an example of the journey being the thing that counts the most.

  21. Lisa December 4, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    I started following you around the time I committed to my first 50 miler. I remember noticing how positive you were and how “together” you seemed with your approach to your training. That’s what drew me to your blog and has kept me engaged through my own ultra training. You inspired me and provided proof that all of this is doable.

    Reading about your DNF made me sad – because I know the work that goes into the attempt and I was certainly rooting for you from the East Coast! But it also proves me right that I’m following the right blog. You made the right decision for you. I respect that and hope that I would have the strength to do the same.

    Again, you looked to the positive: they didn’t cancel the race, you didn’t get seriously injured, the volunteers showed up (god love’em!) and hopefully you still love running :) Everything you displayed – your gutsiness, your will, your discipline, and your acknowledgement that this wasn’t the day…..THAT’S the equivalent of the shiniest finisher’s medal I can think of.

    Well done on all fronts! Wishing you a strong recovery.

  22. Jeanne December 4, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    My heart goes out to you- I can imagine your disappointment- but I think you totally did the right thing!

  23. Nicole December 4, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    I want to start by saying I think you are amazing! I think you definitely did the right thing. I am hoping you’re starting to heal up.

    I understand disappointment (my only DNF was my first Boston, as a charity runner and I felt AWFUL). You are a total bada$$ for running 41 MILES in the mud.

  24. Alisa December 4, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    41 miles in those conditions is kinda like what they say about mountain biking versus road biking…the distance you cover on trails is worth like a 3x multiplier. I say screw 41 miles it was more like 100+ =). You did have an amazing training cycle and you’ve become such a smart runner. I see many many amazing trail races in your future.

    You should try the Miwok 100k…Justin did it, I spectated, it was an amazing course from the few miles I “paced” justin. Sounds like this course did some of the same trails so you’d already know the course.

  25. Marci December 4, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    What an amazing report, you are seriously AMAZING to have run 41 miles in those conditions!!! I know you have probably had so many people say this already, but I will echo their sentiments, you made the right choice, this will get you back to running sooner without an injury, which is what really matters.
    I don’t know if its me being restless (a mile is a big deal to me these days), but I am so inspired by your passion for ultra trail running that I may have to train for one post baby, maybe.. ..
    You really are an inspiration Aron thanks for sharing what must have been a disappointing turn of events. Kup on how your IT band is healing!

  26. Nicole December 4, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    Awww I can’t imagine how hard it was to pull out of this race. You put so much work into it and I know you were hoping for a great day. Your attitude about it all sounds great and I think you were smart to pull out to avoid further injury.

    Regardless, congrats on 41 awesome miles in some gnarly conditions. That is a huge accomplishment in itself!

    p.s. I love that running quote!

  27. Jeff December 4, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Great write up of your challenging day. I’m sorry you had issues that caused you to DNF. I ran the marathon on Saturday and I could not believe the mud on the Muir Beach trail. I fell twice and was covered in mud when I got to the aid station at the bottom. Let alone having to slog it back up there like you mentioned – that was tough.

    I hope you heal quickly and can get back on the trails. Congratulations on 41 miles out there. I don’t think anyone was planning on those conditions when they were training :)

    Cheers!

  28. PavementRunner December 4, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Conditions were no joke and you were flying through by looking at your pace. Listen to the body, but you already know that.

    Look out 2013!

  29. deepsouthrunner December 4, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    You are amazing!! That was such a tough course and you did 41 miles!?!?! I had a rough race on Saturday too, humidity and heat causing me to have a bad marathon. Sometimes things and conditions are just out of your control and you do the best you can, but you have to make the best choice for you and your body and that’s what’s most important!! Still much to be proud of!!

  30. Amanda @RunToTheFinish December 4, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    First up Page, yes amazing woman. Jojo sounds like a phenomenal friend too.

    Now I”m not sure I would even consider this a DNF…I’d consider it a I’m too smart to ruin my next 6 months of running by busting my butt on some trails that are getting worse by the second. :)

  31. Susan SRMS December 4, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Aron, when I read your race report it dawned on me that you, Page and Alyssa have each had difficult race decisions to make this month. I applaud your strength in making a very tough decision.

  32. Karen @ Runner Girl Eats December 4, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Wow, 41 miles in those conditions?! That is amazing. I know DNF are tough but it seems like you made the right decision.

  33. runner26 December 4, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    so sorry! but you still told a beautiful story and did an amazing job in tough conditions. and it sounds like you made the right decision. it’s a hard one, but sometimes an athlete has to make that tough call. congrats on the training –hope youre able to rest and recover quickly.

  34. Krista December 4, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Hey girl. I’ve randomly come across your blog a few times, and have loosely followed your training (which was AMAZING, by the way). So sorry to hear your day didn’t go as planned, but it reminds me so much of MY first DNF this year. Also a 50-miler on trails here in Wisconsin. I dropped at mile 40 — not from injury, more from just plain DONE. I’d also run my first 50-miler last year (TNF!) and had the most amazing experience, so I was so pumped heading into round two. But when all was said and done, it was incredibly humbling. I got a new perspective. And I LOVE that quote — it’s absolutely true. You’ll come back swinging. You made a smart decision and learned about yourself. And I wish you the best of luck! :)

  35. Sima December 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    I echo a lot of the comments on this blog post – you are one FIERCE competitor. In all the time I’ve known you, you have never been the one to cut a run short, bow out because of heavy rain or say “I can’t.” So, before even reading about the treacherous conditions I knew how bad it mustve been out there for you to drop out after 41 miles.

    You are a rockstar and I admire your ability to say enough is enough -thats one of the hardest things to do in a race, but you played it smart and will see another 50-miler start line before you know it!!

  36. katie December 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    girl, you are such a badass. I haven’t read the comments but I’m sure everyone is telling you that. you fought through 41 ridiculous miles and decided not to put yourself in an injury hole. smart. you is smart.

    lots of hugs to you, and congratulations!

  37. Carolina John December 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    41 miles is still a long freaking way! badass status intact.

  38. Angela @ SF Road Warrior December 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    You can definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY still be proud of what you accomplished under horrid conditions–so many people wouldn’t even have shown up, or quit after one loop. And sometimes the smart choice is the sucky one.

    Funny, I had such a similar experience at CIM — I haven’t had IT Band / knee problems in years, but at mile 12ish they started tightening up & getting really, really painful. I was barely able to run through it & finish and if there had been mud and serious hills to contend with, there is no way I would’ve been able to keep going.

    Glad you had such a great training cycle, though — you will get ‘em next time!!

  39. Laura December 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Aron, I am with everyone else on this one – WAY TO GO for making the right choice. I absolutely love that Julie Isphording line you quoted (and have saved it for myself to hopefully learn from – I have DEFINITELY messed that up in the past.)

    Lately, I’ve been having a lot of races not go right even when I knew they had the potential to be great. A “flat and fast” course that I got one of my best times on a few years ago (when I wasn’t as trained) – 30 minutes slower this time around. Doing a 60K on a hilly course and then doing a 32 mile race SLOWER than the 60K even though it was flatter and easier and shorter? Go figure. The one thing it has taught me is that your training doesn’t always show in your race results, and sometimes a bad day is just that. It’s a total bummer that your IT band is acting up, but I hope you will be back in the swing of things very soon, and I KNOW that you will get lucky and have the race you deserve :)

  40. Kelly December 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    Aron, this was such a great read! Huge congrats on such a tough race/course and for making a smart decision. You probably saved yourself from a larger injury, and to me you still had quite an accomplishment! Hope you’re recovering well :)

  41. Monica C. December 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    You ran FORTY-ONE miles in THAT?!! That was not a DNF, that was an IRFMITM (I Ran Forty-One Miles In This Mess). Seriously, those conditions were crazy and you should be proud for making it as far as you did! I know it had to be heartbreaking at the time, but you definitely did the right thing! My guess is that you’ll be looking for some runner’s redemption pretty soon! :)

  42. Nelly December 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Wow, the whole thing sounded crazy. If your race would have been on Sunday, my guess is that they would have called off the whole thing – that storm on Sunday was one of the worst I can remember for the bay area. So I would try to look at it that you were fortunate to do 41 miles, it could have been 0. If the weather and conditions were better, you definitely would have finished for sure. So I wouldn’t look at it as a DNF. In those conditions I may have just said forget it and not even started the race. So you are a trooper.

    • Aron December 4, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

      They did cancel all the races that were supposed to be on Sunday (half marathon, 10k, 5k, etc).

  43. Cate December 4, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    You are still by far the most hardcore runner I know. Katie and I were talking on Saturday about how it takes MORE guts to quit when you know when your body needs it than to stubbornly push through and hurt yourself. This whole thing makes CIM look like a nice sunny jog through a field of daisies, and you’re a total badass.

  44. Laura December 5, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    I am so sorry that the race turned out like this….
    BUT…
    I am truly happy to see you make the right decision and not just ‘gut it out’ for the sake of finishing. Being smart is something us runners don’t always do.
    As always, your attitude and love of running/life shine through with this post.
    and that is awesome.

  45. Lizzy December 5, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Oh my goodness you are my hero for getting through that many miles in those conditions!!!
    a DNF stinks, no matter how many miles your run…but you are still stronger, tougher, and wiser because of this race!!!
    I’m so sad I didn’t see you guys out on the CIM course, I think I was running with my head down.
    I hope you are healing and recovering and absorbing all the hardwork you put in this year. 2012 brought you many lessons, I know 2013 is going to bring you a lot of great races!! I think you should come back to CIM! :)
    xoxo!

  46. Abby December 5, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    I applaud your efforts! I work at a local running store and all weekend we had race participants coming in, weary about the weather. I’ve had a DNF before too (in a marathon, not quite the same as an ultra!) so I know the feeling of disappointment. Take some time to heal, get some much needed massages (yay!) and take pride in what you did accomplish. I think the last sentence of this post sums it up nicely too…you definitely have a positive attitude after what was a disappointing experience!

  47. Kristina December 5, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    (First time commenting…Hello!) Whoa whoa whoa…you did a fantastic job with the weather and the terrain. Holy crap. Mud is no joke and gets incredibly frustrating because the whole world seems like its going in reverse slow motion (well maybe just you…while the world around you laughs). It’s especially intense up hills. Don’t know how you even made it 42 miles. Actually, I do. You are a strong trail runner (physically and mentally) and put in some damn good training. Too bad the weather forced the change in the course, but I love how you see the positive in everything and were just thankful you got to see Page more :) In a shorter run, I can see how the mud would have been fun, but 50 (or almost) on a double loop is kiiiinda pushing it…and by kinda, I mean definitely. I did CIM Sunday and was stoked for the weather (being a trail runner, it made a road run seem more fun) – though it did make deciding what to wear a challenge. Wish you all the best, Aron, and I really enjoy reading about all your trail adventures!

  48. Ed December 5, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Awesome recap.. made all the more poignant because this race also handed me my first DNF last year. I don’t know how you did 41 miles in that muck and mud. I swore last year that I would “get this back” and hung the bib in my closet to remind me every day. Funny how as the year went by, it became less and less important to race it again, and more to learn from it and move on. I had signed up but bowed out in favor of resting my body after a hard year of two other 50 milers. Love your attitude and thanks again for the great report.

  49. Pete December 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    As a first time (trail) Marathon, I’m truly amazed how you do it. I hope some day I can get to your level! As far as dropping, you made the right choice. That was not an enviornment to take a chance and try to push through that kind of injury. I had a blister on my toe and I was crying like a little girl!… The IT issue is rough and real pain.
    Good luck on your future runs and I’ll keep following your blog. Great writing!

    My experience out there was awesome with unexpected results and random human experiences.

  50. Naomi December 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    I thought about you all day on Saturday. The weather was so treacherous that the fact that you even started, let alone ran 41 miles on trails in Marin is no small feat. I am so in awe and have so much respect for you; as always you continually inspire me!

  51. Page December 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    All of the comments have said it, but I’ll say it again. Reading this blog is a reminder of what running is really about. It’s so easy to see that you truly love this sport for the LOVE of it. I know this not only because of this post, but because of the way I see you talk about running and how you made a brave and smart decision…a decision that most people would not make if they were running for other reasons.

    As I saw you out there and through each aid station stop, your smile was infectious. It was raining, cold, and just downright awful conditions…and you just smiled and said you were doing great. Thank you for being such a good friend, an inspirational athlete, and a reminder to find the real reason why we do this after all.

    And congrats on 41 insane miles. You’re a stud.

  52. Kristen December 6, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    I was thinking of you all day on Saturday. I know it was disappointing but like others said, it is harder to make the decision you did than to push through and risk further injury. 41 miles in those conditions is incredible! You had an amazing training cycle and accomplished a lot along the way. I have so much respect and admiration for everything you have accomplished this year. I hope the IT band is feeling better soon!

  53. Jeannie December 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    You did an amazing job considering the conditions and your effort to pull through. I starting getting some ITB issues on my last couple long training runs for 50K when I ran really technical trails. I think my left glutes & hamstrings are weaker & were having trouble stabilizing as I fatigued. I too started getting ITB in the last couple loops of the trail 50K. Downhills were the worst and I was so thankful for the uphills even though my quads were tired just to release the tension on the ITB. We had similar conditions too. Extreme pouring rain and wind so the trails were getting very muddy & slippery towards the end. Sorry about the DNF but sounds like it was the right choice for you

  54. Al December 7, 2012 at 4:20 am #

    That was a great race report! I am sorry to hear about your I.T. band. I think it is incredible that you could go on for that long with an injury brewing in your leg. I have always wondered how you can do an ultra on such a small amount of sleep. Sleep up the previous week?

  55. Susan - Nurse on the Run December 7, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    You’re always such a smart runner, even in the face of “only nine more miles to go.” They say the joy is in the journey and not necessarily the destination, but it’s hard to work so hard and then not meet your goal. Definitely a smart decision to avoid injury in those crazy conditions!

  56. Layla December 11, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    I’m late on this, but I’ve had your race report starred in my reader to come back and comment on. My DNF at what was to be my first ultra was also due to my IT band, but I didn’t back it even a fraction as far as you did. I also was not contending with insane mud and wind and rain. Those race conditions were just insane.

    I think what I admire most is that, after 41 miles, you still had your head on your shoulders and knew what mattered most — that you love running. You knew the difference between “this is hard” and “this could do damage.” You made a smart decision for the bigger picture. Congratulations on 41 hard miles and one equally hard decision.

  57. cisforcourtney December 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    wow, you have had some amazing “firsts” in 2012. cheers to you for making it 41 miles in that crazy weather. i can’t even IMAGINE what sliding, slipping, rolling around in mud like that will do to an IT band.

    you’re such an inspiration && the way you handle everything with such poise takes that to a level all it’s own.

    “Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.” – Julie Isphording <— absolutely love that!

  58. Tina@GottaRunNow December 13, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    You ran a long way – inspiring! When faced with a finish line or an injury, I’d do the same thing. Hope you’re out there running again soon!

  59. Jill December 20, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    I’m so sorry, Aron – I know that was heartbreaking. I salute your toughness out there on such miserable conditions. There’ll be many disappointments in our running careers, but how you handle them is key and it was smart to not let the leg get worse. You are one super tough cookie! Well done, girl!

  60. Lauren @ Powered by Oatmeal December 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    Hi! I’m Lauren, this is my first time visiting your blog and let me say – you are amazing! Knowing when to give it a rest, even if it is heartbreaking, is something that so many of us have yet to master. Your attitude is incredible, and the sheer love for the sport that shines through in your writing is something we all need to be reminded of every now and then. So glad I’m reading! Now fix that IT band!

  61. Shawna March 16, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    I just had my first dnf today. I had no idea how awful it would feel, and as I am sitting here wallowing and drinking my wine, I googled inspiration. I found your website, and thank you thank you thank you!!! My race was nothing compared to yours. I too had ITB issues, and it was only a 50k. It was a training run/race for doing the r3 grand canyon, which makes it all the worse cause I needed this run and it was only a 50k! I made it 17 miles before my knee said “stop, no more” and I knew it would be just plain dumb to keep going, but had I known I would feel like this afterwards I might have! (I couldn’t have- running was not possible and there was an 8 hour time limit- but part of me wishes I had tried!) So thank you again, I know others have dnf’s, it’s always to see I’m not alone!

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