Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Zumbro DNF FAQ*

*Did not finish; frequently asked questions (in my mind)

First of all, there are some incredible race reports and race photos out there from this weekend. You should probably check them out. If I missed one, post it in the comments and I'll add it here:
Kevin Langton's 100 mile race report
Matt Wilson's 50 mile race report
Julie Berg's 50 mile race report
Jon Howard's 50 mile race report (with rain video)
Tim Smith's 50 mile race report
John Heemstra's 50 mile race report
Sarah D-Potter's 17 mile race report
Jake Haugen's finish line photos
Zach Pierce's course photos
Todd Rowe's course photos
Janet Gray's uber-muddy course photos from the 17 mile
Scott Mark's course photos
Kelcey Knott's finish line photos

I'm mulling over my weekend at Zumbro. Trying to figure out what I should learn from it, what I should change next, what I should let go. Here's some of the questions I've been turning over.

1. Should I have carried more clothing on my second loop?
Yes. I set out on my second loop with a tech T shirt, shorts, wool armwarmers, calf sleeves, and a cotton running hat. I was dressed for the current temperature, and for light to moderate rain. I'd run comfortably in similar clothing in rain many times before, but it was not adequate for heavy rain or a significant temperature drop. 17 miles for me was going to take at least 4.5 hours, and weather can change during that time. It would have been no big deal to carry a light long-sleeved wool shirt and a warmer hat.
Underdressed. Credit: Jake Haugen
2. Would those have been enough to keep me warm, under the circumstances?
Probably not. Everything I was wearing was saturated, and even though wool is warm when wet, it's not warm enough when it's soaked in cold water, in the wind. I think I would have needed a decent rain shell in addition to those extra layers to have a chance. Even that was not a guarantee -- a number of runners were coming in, soaked through their raincoats. But it would have improved my comfort -- and odds of finishing -- significantly. I've never run with a rain shell; as noted above, I'm fine in wool if there's not a prolonged downpour; but I think for longer trail races this would be a good thing to have in the pack. Though I might need a bigger pack...

3. Should I have waited out the storm at AS 2/3?
Tough call. It wasn't a great option. It was pretty crowded under the tents there, with lots of crew and runners who were dropping. It would have been cold and uncomfortable, and a long, uncertain wait -- it rained hard for about an hour. I would have been unhappy in a different way.

4. Could I have warmed up, changed clothes, eaten, foam rolled my IT band, and gone back out for a third loop and finished the race?
I think it would have been asking for trouble to try this. Even if I got my body temp back up to normal, I expended way more energy than I expected to on my fast run across the ridge, and on shivering through the last leg of the second loop. I think even with diligent eating, I would have been in a significant nutritional hole and could have had a bad bonk, or injury, or another bout of hypothermia. Especially since the trail was now slippery, rocky mud (where it wasn't just underwater). As much as DNF'ing was disappointing, it would been so much worse to be 100% out of gas, miles out in the woods.
A little bit damp out there. Credit: Janet Gray
5. What the %$# was up with my knee?
Not sure. The pain felt like IT band distribution, but I'm not positive, and today it feels better -- hopefully a sign I stopped before doing anything too bad. I wonder whether my strategy of walking up hills and running flats and downhills was putting strain on my legs that I hadn't trained for.

6. Did I train right for this race?
Sort of. It would have been good to do more hill training, and a longer long run. The hill training was tough, heading into an April race: very cold winter weather and heavy snow prevented me from getting to big trail hills in places like Afton. But I could have spent more time on road hill repeats, or even the smaller hills at Theodore Wirth or Lebanon Hills. Hill climbing, and running downhill, would have helped me, I think. But I don't think my training is what determined the outcome of the race.
Lots of snowy training runs this winter.
7. Was volunteering the day before a Bad Idea?
An early morning start and 10 hours on my feet wasn't the optimal way to spend the day before the race, but I think it was okay. I was well rested heading into Friday and didn't totally exhaust myself working the aid station. The experience, to me, was worth it.

8. What else do I need to figure out before trying a 50 mile race again?
Food, water, electrolytes. I didn't do a good job of following my nutrition plan (200 kcal/hour, eat something every 15 minutes) because I was distracted by talking to other runners, and by OMG! I'M RUNNING 50 MILES! thoughts. I could tell I didn't get enough calories by the end, because once I got into warm clothes, I was ravenous. I did follow my plan of two S-Caps per hour and water every 10 minutes, but the swelling in my hands (and peeing regularly, though not excessively) suggests maybe I was overhydrating for the conditions.

9. Anything else?
Pacing. Was I going too slow on the first loop and first half of loop 2? I don't think so. I was concerned that going at 50K pace would lead to Bad Things in the final lap, but maybe it wouldn't be any worse.

10. So what did I get right?
- Aid stations. I did pretty good getting in and out, and usually had an idea of what I wanted so I could get through efficiently. Next time, maybe I should not even bother with aid station food unless (until) I'm getting tired of what I'm carrying.
- Feet. Despite the sand on loop 1 and repeated soaking on loop 2, they stayed pretty much intact. I have a sore big toenail that might turn black, but I think that was from stubbing that toe in the dark on big sticks hidden beneath last year's leaves.
- Chafing. Even though I was wet, out for a long time, and carrying a hydration pack, I had absolutely none. Big cred here to my INKnBURN kit and Nathan pack, which performed perfectly, at least in that regard.
- Recovery. I'm focusing this week on eating enough (a lot!), sleeping enough (also a lot!), and getting my stiff muscles, especially quads, moving again. I hit a yoga class Monday, foam rolled very carefully, and went out for my first short, 2 mile run yesterday, and nothing felt injured. I'll hit my favorite spin class this morning to try and loosen things up some more. So far, so good!
- I didn't break anything. Last year, I fell on ice around mile 2 and fractured my elbow. This year, I did some slipping and sliding, but nothing's broken. Epic win!
Last year's Zumbro, coming into AS1 with a broken elbow.
Yeah, broken.
11. What's next?
In a week and a half I'll do the Twin Lights Half Marathon in Gloucester, MA with my mother. Should be fun, although I'm kind of expecting she'll clean my clock -- she got hold of a Hanson's method book and is now a mileage monster, clocking 30-35 miles/week and running 5 days/week. Yikes!

Then, in month, I'll head up to the North Shore for the Spring Superior 50K. I loved this race last year and feel like I'll be well prepared for it this year. It was my first 50K. It was hard, and beautiful, and exhilarating. I'm looking forward to bringing my family up too -- they'll go rock hunting while I run the race.

What's next after that? I'm going to wait till after Spring Superior to decide. There are great options at every distance over the summer, and some great longer races happening in the fall. I'm in no hurry to set my schedule -- no matter what I do, I'm pretty sure it's going to be great.
Nothing but good times ahead.
Superior 50K, last year. Photo: John Storkamp


  1. You're so thoughtful. Think you've got the 'lessons learned' right and a good plan for going forward. Fortunately, there are lots of races out there. The trick is to be smart and stay healthy so you can do them. You've got this nailed!

  2. Thanks for posting this. I think I did something similar to you, and ran a lap (my 3rd) way too cold. I only had a tech shirt and shorts on, and the night was closing in. It was my fastest lap by far, but that was only because I was moving *fast* to keep from freezing. I probably should have rested a bit and eaten a *lot* to get some energy back before starting my fourth loop (which did me in).

  3. Not too exciting, but here's mine:

  4. Robyn,
    Great writing! Thanks for sharing -- lots of good thoughts in there. I was a volunteer at Aid Station Five through the night and until about noon Saturday. I stood with you by the fire for quite awhile -- I should have introduced myself, or maybe I did -- hard to remember. In any case, I am inspired by your story and your blog and am happy to say I stood by the fire with you. I am new to trail running (Moose Mountain Marathon was my first trail run last September) and I want to work my way into a 50K and eventually a 50 mile.
    Great job out there! Good luck in Gloucester. I lived in Newton, Mass. for a few years.
    Julie Moran

  5. Numbers 1-4 keep rolling through my head too, Robyn, even though I have valid explanations for each. It's nice to hear someone else ask them. And your volunteering was much appreciated!

    It's amazing how much we can learn from these things. Best of luck with those upcoming runs.

  6. Robyn - I just a comment on fueling / drinking. I have decided that 200,000 years of evolution have left me with the tools I need to drink and eat. I drink when I am thirsty and eat when I am hungry or feel tired. Oddly enough, it seems to work. I felt fantastic at my last 50 miler. Go figure. Todd

  7. Nice summation.

    I find that it takes a LOT of energy to keep warm/recover from being chilled. Because of that I have invested over the years is some good gear to insulate myself/attempt to stay dry.