D.N.F.

D.N.F.
My account of The Buffalo Stampede Ultra and my first DNF.

 

I’m climbing up The Big Walk, more than half way in and every single step feels like a Thousand steps. My mind is against me, there is no drive, no desire, no want to push out of this funk.  I have told myself multiple times that I am pulling out at the top of this climb, I am content, I am happy with that decision.  Although I am upset with my inability to get my head in the game, I think about it over and over again as I trudge on up stopping every 100 or so meters, tears well in my eyes as I reflect on the situation and my current state. I breathe, I relax, I continue.. stepping aside every time one of the front runners bomb down the hill on the out and back course.  After what seems like an eternity I reach the check point and my support crew at the top of the climb.

 

So many emotions and thoughts whizzing through my head.  I sit straight on the ground, defeated, refusing the offer of a chair, I felt I hadn’t earned the right to sit comfortably.  34kms into a 75km Mountain Race and in my head I am done.  As I begin to relay this to my crew the tears come back, I can’t control them… I look away. The silence from the crew can be felt. Suddenly they go into “upbeat” mode – “you can do this Jimbob”,  “you’ve been through this sort of thing before”, “you’re just in a dark place right now”…  No I hadn’t, THIS WAS DIFFERENT!

The Ups and Downs experienced during an Ultra Marathon are much like the brutal elevation profiles of the courses

The Ups and Downs experienced during an Ultra Marathon are much like the brutal elevation profiles of the courses

 After much convincing I head off for the 7km return loop back to the same CP, what else had I to lose, if I didn’t improve in that 7kms I was pulling out.  My good friend Matty accompanied me for the loop, which to my surprise helped my mind set, just enough to continue on to tackle the 10km descent down the mountain, after all it was 10kms downhill.  And it was a good 10kms, I started to feel the energy of the run in my legs and I had a new outlook on the run.  I felt more capable/confident and able to finish, despite not looking forward to the next set of climbs and descents, I felt like it was doable.

 

The first climb, Keatings Ridge, was probably the easiest, approx 4kms of hiking up a mixture of bitumen and fire trail. Followed by a nice winding downhill in the Mt Buffalo National Park and some flatter sections which took us through to the next Check Point and only 15kms to go.  Now the “nice winding downhill” is where the gut started to play up for the first time during the run and not long after it had me in the bushes “lightening the load”.  Unfortunately this didn’t alleviate the gut soreness right away and I was left with a dull throb with every step.  This eventually went away but the gut started to feel sloshy from this point onwards.  Eating my cliff bars took a lot of effort feeling like a mix of sawdust and cement in my mouth, couple this with the tailwind tasting sickly sweet.

Forward Progress is the aim even during the dark times.

Forward Progress is the aim even during the dark times.

After the flat road through Buckland Valley Warners Wall hits with a mighty blow.  Steep, loose underfoot and getting dark.  After numerous breaks to muster energy and take a breather I’m finally standing at the top of the Warners Wall Climb, time to don the head torch and start the grind up to Clear Spot. Approx 2.5kms of an upward trend that gets steeper the further you go, I remember this last year as being a lot tougher than expected, I was ready for a tough few kms.  But like last year it knocked me about, stopping every 20-50m for a breather so I could advance forward, onward, upward. Other runners passing me in their droves, not really phased about place, time or position I continue on…  it was me against the climb and that was all I cared about (that and the pizza and beer waiting at the finish line).  I finally reached the summit of Clear Spot in what seemed to take the whole day. I touch the rock Cairn that signifies the top  for a sense of accomplishment.

 

 

Now time to tackle the 2km descent. Steadily but carefully making my way down, not at a pace to write home about but steadily chipping away at the quad and knee smashing descent. After the first few hundred meters I notice a group of lights/headlamps just up ahead, not sure what it could be I wonder if it’s a photographer with some back lighting. As I near the lights I realise it’s a couple of runners, one is my friend Daniele who was staying us with another runner, Garth, who was cramping badly and generally not in good shape. After a quick brief of what was going on and a few phone calls to the Emergency contact numbers it’s decided that we will help Garth back up to the Clear Spot Summit (500m back up the from where we just came down) where he will be picked up by a first aid vehicle.

 

Now at this stage I am thinking, I am no longer moving forward (the opposite direction in fact), I am getting cold and see this as a sign that my race is done. Daniele and I talk about what we are going to do at the top, he has the same idea as me. We get Garth to the top via Daniele towing him up using a large stick and me behind making sure he doesn’t go backwards. Once at the top Garth starts feeling much better but not in any shape to continue, the first aid vehicle arrives not long after we get back to the top. We all climb into the vehicle and that’s all of our races over…. D.N.F. !!!

 
I never lose

Life is a never ending lesson if you are willing to be taught.

It was my choice in the end to pull out of this race, I could have continued after Garth was safely in the First Aid vehicle. It is something that played on my mind for a while, did I take the easy option, should I have kept going? After all is said and done it was my choice and I am content. It was a learning experience. I was managed to keep going after I thought I was done much earlier in the race. I pushed my limits, I tested my boundaries, I did not fail, I chose to fight another day… This time I walked away prior to the finish instead of from the finish. Something I was yet to experience, a bitter sweet experience, but something I feel I had to face to grow and learn as an Ultra Runner. It is in these tough times that we learn the most about ourselves…

D.N.F. – DID NOT FAIL!!!