Pocatello 50 – DNF

The Pocatello 50 mile race was truly one of the most challenging, difficult and beautiful races I’ve ever ran. It was tougher than me yesterday. With temperatures topping around 86 and the extreme climbs, I battled nausea for most of the day which kept me at a really slow hike/walk after the first 17 miles. I made it (according to my Garmins) – about 48+ miles into the race and was pulled there, so the final 5 miles are still a mystery.

The race was divided into 3 legs. The toughest part of the course was leg 1!!! Climbing straight UP the side of this huge mountain (cross country!) Mile 12 had 1377 of climb!! THAT was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done! It wiped me out for the rest of the race I’d say. Mile 23 had 1,022 of climb as well and was also fairly hard in leg 2 which was steep enough, I was clawing at the dirt with my hands and grabbing bushes on each side to keep from sliding backwards down the hill. The rest of that section was honestly gorgeous, wooden footbridges, lots of lush trees and a stream running alongside. I should have ran well through here as it was the nicest section of trail, but I was so beat up and nauseous from the first leg, I just couldn’t get it done. Leg 3 was supposed to be the hardest, but I found it the easiest section and since I was the last 50 miler to make the cut off at 33 miles, I had the company of 3 “sweeper” guys who stayed with me until the end. They were great guys and made that part of the journey much better since it was nice to have some good conversation for the duration. Mile 45 had 1,041 feet of gain, but was on a road that gradually switchbacked up (which I handle so much better than straight UP!) So pretty! Climbed Scout Mountain (reaching nearly 9,000 in elevation) for a spectacular view. Got to watch the sunset with the 3 guys “sweeping” the race and got a laugh out of some goofy guy who’d driven his big pickup way up there and high-centered it in a big snowbank! Oops! SO impressed with those who can run so well in races like this!!! I’m in awe of my pals who are strong and fast enough no matter what the conditions and terrain!!!! I seem to struggle when there is heat or difficult climbs.

According to my Garmin stats the elevation gain I got was 10,913. Maybe there was still some good climbing those last 5 miles I missed out on?

I also found out after talking to my friends at the finish line later that the last section of the course had an angry mountain lion who had stared down a runner, which would have been waiting for ME had they allowed me to continue. I’m glad I didn’t have to experience that!!

I’m proud of myself. I didn’t give up. I didn’t quit. I’m SUPER thrilled I made the first two cut offs (the first one by over an hour, the second one by 6 minutes.) There were not supposed to be any cut offs after that time, and I had to wait at an aid station at around mile 38 for more than fifteen minutes while they radioed the race directors to see if I’d be allowed to go on from that point (with 15 miles to go.) They said, “If you choose to keep going, and have the night equipment to keep you safe (headlamp and a coat – I had both thanks to two nice volunteers who shared with me since mine were located at the next aid station) there are no cut offs. If you want to go on, you can.”

It broke my heart nine miles later, when I’d plugged on towards my goal slow but steadily, with the three male sweeper fellas keeping a good eye on me when the race director showed up on the trail at mile 48 (after I’d been racing for about 17 hours) and told me, “We need to have a talk. How are you doing?” I said, “Awesome!” and gave him a thumbs up.” He said, “I’m sorry to tell you this but, you’re done.” I thought I was hearing him wrong. It made no sense since I was almost done with just 5 miles to go and had zero doubts in my ability to finish.  Nausea was my only problem and I was at an aid station where I could refuel and finish strong since eating always helps with that for me.

I said, “But, I can finish and you told me there are no cut offs!” He said, “Not this time. It’s over.” That was a really tough part emotionally. I’d finally let myself believe I was really going to accomplish this and then I was not allowed to do so. I really wish they’d said that earlier or given me a specific time just so I was aware. The race directors had their reasons (he’d already taken down the finish line and sent the timing guys home, though from looking at past race results from their race, does seem like it was a move done earlier this year than in the past and not something that was ever mentioned when they said I could finish just a few hours earlier.)

In fact, in the pre-race meeting the night before someone had asked, “Is there really no time cut off after the 3:30 pm one?” He said, “Nope! I expect to be up until midnight waiting on the last runner.” If that were the case, then I should have been allowed to run another hour and try to make that deadline, but I was firmly told, “No.”  Their decision is what it is, but it was disheartening, kind of like having the rug pulled out from under you. My three sweeper guys had just been collectively telling me they couldn’t wait to see me finish and they were certain I would so they were as surprised as I was when this happened.

I had already been imagining the finish line moment when my five kids,. husband and friends saw me crossing the line, even after a tough day. I was really looking forward to it but instead, out of the blue, my race ended. I climbed into the car and it was such a surreal feeling to go from one instant where you are about to hit the final leg of your long journey, where you realize that you really are going to make it after a grueling battle with the trails on that day and then suddenly I was in the family car, riding towards the finish line where I would not get a finisher medal and had to explain to all my friends who had so patiently waited there for me to finish that I did not quit – I was pulled in a race without even a warning.

My friends immediately surrounded me with hugs and words of encouragement as I cried and I felt so embraced by their kindness and love for me when I told them what had happened. That part of the night was truly a precious gift and meant more to me than the medal would have. They seemed most relieved to know that I was safe and sound. Just seeing my five beautiful children, my husband and my friends Dennis, Kirstin, Lynette, Michelle, Ryan, Sam and Paul boosted my spirits immensely and it was very clear what really matters to me most in life.  A race is just a run, really. At the end of the day, having people you love who care about you weather you came in first, last or DNF’d means way more than anything else. I am very grateful for the wonderful support I have!

Definitely needing to process this. Need to decide if I’m going to Big Horn 50 in two weeks or not now. I’ve paid, but not sure I could handle another bad outcome on the off chance it goes that way so soon after this one.


11 thoughts on “Pocatello 50 – DNF

  1. Sounds so difficult, in more than one way. It does seem cruel to tell you to be done when you were so close, especially considering all the previous information. However, I, too am glad you didn’t have to deal with a mountain lion. Maybe God was just moving the race director’s heart to keep you safe? You put in a great effort!

  2. My heart hurts for you. You are taking this in stride though I imagine it hurts more than you’re letting on. We’re all proud of you whether you PR or DNF. *big hugs*

    • I’m ok, Nike. Thank you, though. Honestly, I was just talking to my five kids about how things went. I still think the race directors really should have given me an exact time the race would be considered “over” so that I was aware. I don’t think they handled that very well and as a race director myself I cannot imagine imposing something like that on my last runner when they had been specifically told “You can finish. There are no cut offs.” That would never happen in one of my events unless there were some real threat to health or safety. A year ago, I would have taken this more to heart and been super bummed for months thinking about it. I think I’ve grown up a little bit since last year. I know I did my best on that day in those circumstances and in no way do I feel like a failure. I would have finished the race. Everyone who saw me out there could see that I was still peppy and happy and moving steadily along – though at a slower pace than normal. I always pick up the pace in the final stretch when I “smell the barn.” I think another hour and a half and I would have been crossing the finish line. OH well. I didn’t quit. It never crossed my mind. I am strong and determined and that won’t change. Thank you for being so sensitive and sweet to ask, though. ((hug))

  3. Congratulations on your run. Even though you didn’t get to go past Big Fur, it was a heck of an accomplishment. I saw you on the course a couple times. I was the guy who stepped aside on the trail early in the race and let you go by. That probably happened a lot so, you might not remember. It was my first ultra and I slogged through the finish only about 20 minutes before they ended your race. I was surprised to hear that they wouldn’t let you finish. The rule is supposed to be that if you make the cutoff at mink, they can only pull you for health reasons. I hope they review that before next year’s race and make it more clear exactly what we can expect on that last 20+ mile loop.

    I ran through that densely-thicketed last 5-mile section all alone, with a headlamp. It was surreal. I wasn’t aware that someone had encountered a lion there, but I live in lion country so I’ve learned not to not to fear them. The sasquatch, though…well THAT would have been scary :).

    I know that you’re feeling pretty bad about not being able to finish, but keep in mind that making it to the point you did was more difficult that finishing almost every 50-mile race in the country. I personally consider you a finisher and I’m certain that everyone else who reads your race report will too.

    Again, congratulations, and thanks for posting the pictures. I recognize a few people in your group. Seems like a nice bunch.

    • Hey Scott!

      I do remember you! A huge congratulations on finishing not only your first ultra – but THIS ultra – a major butt-kicker!! What a fantastic accomplishment! 😀 If you can do this one and live to tell the tale, you can pretty much do ANYTHING!

      I was so shocked that they pulled me honestly. Though I was nauseous, I was otherwise in fine health physically and mentally. I also have a tendency to “smell the barn” as they say when I know I’m on a final stretch and just come back to life and run better if I’m in a rough patch. I could tell just before I was pulled that it was about to happen again – just get some food in the stomach and I’d have probably finished the race with another hour and a half to go. It certainly wasn’t a pretty race and my times were slower than expected — but, I really did want to finish and it would have been awesome to be allowed to do that. I’m still pretty frustrated that they “changed the rules” on me like that without warning. I’m totally cool with bowing out if I’ve broken a rule or if there is some serious concern like my health is in danger. This was not that case. My three “sweeper” guys kept reassuring me that they were fine with staying with me right to the finish – they had no hurry. They were pulling the flagging as we went, so there were times I was waiting for them to gather things and put them in their packs. I didn’t mind. They kept reassuring me “there was no cut off” too, so they got their jobs done and we stayed together as a pack. If someone would have told me that I had a deadline, I would have asked one of the sweepers to stick with me and we’d have tried to push harder to get further down the trail in time. In general when I have a very specific goal like that I can push myself harder and achieve it. Sucks I wasn’t even given the opportunity.

      I really did fear running into Sasquatch out there! hahaha!! 😀 Every time I heard something in the bushes, I thought, “Is THAT him?” ha!

      My pals and I got several pictures from the race. If you’d like to see more you can friend me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/luvmy5babies

      Congratulations again and thanks for stopping by my blog!!!!! 😀

  4. Good effort out there. That’s a tough race, to be sure.

    Don’t miss out on Bighorn, though. I’m positive that you’ll regret it. Once you hit Dry Fork it’s more or less all downhill to the finish. Lots of friendly faces will be up there and I’ll certainly cheer when you blow past me on Saturday morning.

    Stay the course. Show up at Bighorn. You’ll be glad you did.

    • Thanks, Mike. I did Big Horn last year. It was my first 50 mile attempt. I was pulled a few minutes after the cut off at Dry Fork. That was my first DNF and it stung so bad I went back home and one week later I ran my first 50 miles in the Boise foothills in 13:57 just to prove I could in fact run that far and come in under a cut off of 15 hours with similar elevation gain. I have looked forward to coming back and finishing what I started. Still needing to get my head right first, though. Will you be doing the 100, Mike?! I’m sure you’ll tear it up out there if you are!!!!

      • I’ll be out there doing the 100 — red plaid shirt and all. I fully expect a high-five and a cheer as you blast down the Dry Fork drainage while I’m climbing back up. ;]

        The best part of that course (by far) is after Dry Fork which it sounds like you didn’t get a chance to see last year. That descent is easily some of the best trail running in the United States. Come get some. :]

        • Yay! The red plaid shirt again! I noticed that right away at Antelope Island! I told my husband, “Hey, that guy looks like Anton!” 😀 I didn’t realize that I knew you and felt so bummed I didn’t say hi the several times I saw you that day! I will totally high-five you as we pass!!! I’m coming! Can’t let one bad day ruin my fun for long! Go have a kick-ass race at Big Horn and I will do my best to SURVIVE the cut offs and CROSS that finish line!!!!

  5. How fast do you think you were moving when they pulled you? Also, I assume you were the last runner? It seems odd that with only 5 miles they would do that.

    You did a great job! I am debating if I want to tackle a 50 miler this year or not.

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