09 December 2013

TNF 50 San Francisco

One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak. 
- G.K. Chesterton 
What's worse than a DNF at 100 mile race? A DNF at a 50 mile. 

I had high hopes of a good day for the first 20 miles or so. I felt great, was running the initial climbs and enjoying the views and some conversation with the other runners. Met several guys that were running their first 50 miler, including Joe Jackson, who works for Outside Magazine. He as well as Samantha got it done -- congrats to both!
Samantha and I warming up at the start
As I began the climb up to the turnaround at McKinnon Gulch (23 miles), I began to worry that my pace may not be enough to skirt the cutoffs. Samantha was returning when I saw her about a mile from the AS. By the time I got to McKinnon, I was only about 45 min ahead of the cutoff. 
Redwood Trees
I was hoping to get into Stinson Beach (mile 28) between 11-12 and I arrived at 12:15. Parts of the descent from McKinnon to Stinson were not runnable for me because of the technicality/erosion of the course, but I ran as much as I could. Jill was waiting for me and after grabbing a little something from the aid table, we took off. 
Picking up Jill at Stinson
My stomach had been a little off during the climb up to Cardiac as well as McKinnon, but the climb out of Stinson up the Dipsea trail pretty much did it in. I kept trying to reset it using the old finger-down-the-throat method, but got nothing but dry heaves. So, I ran the flats & descents and slogged up the climbs, bringing down my pace even more. By the time we got to Old Inn, I missed the 2nd hard cutoff by a few minutes. Blerg.
Had my stomach recovered, I would have been fine continuing the course and finishing unofficially. But knowing that there was plenty more climbing ahead, I didn't think that was wise. I felt bad for Jill, having only a slow 8 miler with me, but she decided to run back to her car at Tennessee Valley and taking the scenic route, managed to get 23 miles in after all. 

I realized afterwards that I was very dehydrated. It's not unusual for me not to pee during a race, since my pee isn't dark when I do. This time, not only did I not pee in 10+ hours, but it didn't become clear until this morning. While the beer Sat night and coffee Sunday morning didn't help, I did drink a lot of water in addition to those tasty beverages. I'm thinking that my nausea may have been induced by the dehydration. Lesson learned: drink at least a full handheld between aid stations, even when it's cold. 

I think the other thing that bit me was just being tired and not able to get adequate training in this time around. I've spent much of the past three months tapering or recovering from several hard efforts and the 5 weeks I devoted to preparing for this race was wrought with difficulties. Kids being sick a lot, lack of childcare and being unmotivated to train at odd hours all contributed to it being a sucky training block. I simply wasn't prepared for all the climbing and still keep a descent pace. I pushed myself more than I had at other ultras, but it wasn't enough. Was my failure due to over racing or over training? Possibly. I won't have this long of a season ever again. 6-8 months of racing is about it for me.

So it was a tough end to a really great first season of ultrarunning. Since I had more climbing at Quad Rock and cleared those cutoffs, I wasn't as concerned with this race. Having done this distance several times before it feels even worse to time out. Finishing within the cutoffs feels like such a low bar already.   

As I've reflected on this race, I wonder if my enjoyment of running 50+ miles will diminish if I am not able to increase my speed to the point of clearing cutoffs. As much as I enjoy the trails, I hate the stress of feeling like I'm going to get pulled. The joy of the day drains when I do get pulled. I certainly don't want to spend money entering and traveling to races that I can't complete because I'm too slow. 

I'm still trying to figure some of this stuff out, but what I do know is that I need a break. I want to remember the season with all of it's joys and not dwell too much on this particular race and it's disappointment. When I start running again sometime in January, I hope to be in a better frame of mind. I'm going to be concentrating on increasing my speed with the hope of having a season of no DNFs.

I was happy to see that Jill got in to Hardrock next year. I hope to help her in some way while I'm there, if I can.

For now, I'm going to sign off of the blog and enjoy some quality time with the family and celebrate the Advent Season. Unless some unexpected inspiration hits, I'll be back to writing sometime early in the next year. 

I love Sufjan Steven's Songs for Christmas and this hymn cover just slays me. Worshiping God is a great way to pull myself out of my navel gazing. I hope you enjoy it too. 

"Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else, because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you." - Tim Keller

"The Christ child in the manger is forever an indication of the great lengths God will go to reconcile his creation" - Ravi Zacharias

Merry Christmas and Happy Trails,



  1. Sorry you didn't get your happy end of the year race, but it seemed you knew this was a possibility due to your hip injury. Leave it behind and take this time of the year to rest...Salida will be here before you know it and that is a fun, simple race!
    Thanks for the song, it was very nice :-)

    1. Yes, Salida or bust! I look forward to seeing you & Deb in the new year.

  2. Hi Shelby,

    Thanks for letting me join you for part of the race. It was fun, and I enjoyed my time out there. I sympathize with the nausea. My stomach turned at mile 11 of the Bryce 100 and I never got it back. Honestly, it was miserable, and by mile 66 or so I basically couldn't run at all without feeling dizzy and pukey. 100s generally give you enough time to walk it out even if nausea and altitude sickness set in. 50s are less forgiving in that regard.

    I think 50 miles is a deceptively difficult distance. I've run a lot of 50Ks and feel like 50-milers demand the same effort level at nearly double the distance. I've only run one, the Quicksilver 50 here in San Jose last May.

    Enjoy your off season!

    1. Jill, I didn't mention the fuzzy head I had going up the climbs--part of the reason I was stopping was to get my wits back.

      I hope to be able to nail the 50 miler in the future. I do so love that distance more than the 50k. I have two in the spring so after some good rest and quality training, I'm hopeful of a better outcome.

      Thanks again and I hope your training for WM goes well.

  3. Shelby, I'm sorry the race didn't go your way. Thank you for your entertaining trail stories and beautiful pics. Enjoy some well-deserved time away from 'training' but don't stay away too long. Trails are good for the soul. I will look for you out there!

    1. Thanks, Lori. You will be seeing me sometime in January... I look forward to stomping around the Rampart Range with you ladies in the new year.

  4. "What's worse than a DNF at 100 mile race? A DNF at a 50 mile."

    No whats even worse Shelby is not even trying. Congratulations on giving it hell and learning from the experience. Merry Christmas and hope to see you on the trails next year.

    1. Thanks Matt... It wasn't a great way to end the season, but I have learned from it. Already signed up for 4 shorter races in the early season as I start working on speed. Merry Christmas to you and your family and I look forward to sharing trails with you again in the new year!