You already know that this ended early for me, at the Finland Aid station, after about 51 miles.
I would like to tell you that I had to drop because the heat got to me, but that would be disingenuous. Some people did legitimately drop due to the heat, and for sure the heat took its toll on me, but the truth is I handled the heat pretty well. I went out slow and drank A LOT, so I stayed pretty well hydrated, all things considered.
I would like to tell you that I dropped because my shin got so bad I couldn't move, but that wouldn't be true either. To be sure, this also took its toll, and I was visibly limping by the time I got to Finland. Maybe I should have dropped because of my shin; even today it is noticeably swollen relative to my other leg, and is quite sore to the touch. In fact, I am starting to think that I should see my physician to rule out compartment syndrome. If it is compartment syndrome, it is a good thing that I did drop. Still, the truth is, that is not why I ended my race early.
I would like to tell you that I dropped due to stomach issues. This would simply be a lie. My stomach was feeling fine. I was eating and keeping it down. No problems at all here. In fact, I was generally feeling good all over. I was in a good mood, enjoying the night run. My legs were sore, but not more than I expected, and not so sore that I couldn't go on.
The truth is I dropped because I wasn't prepared, physically or mentally, but especially mentally. Credit goes to Matt and Scott for calling me out on this early. Seeing that I registered for the race with kind of a "why not?" mentality, they worried that I wouldn't have the desire to finish. In retrospect, this should have been obvious to me as well. I also wasn't prepared physically, but even this was a result of my poor mental preparation.
Let me explain. In 2011, I haven't done a single training run of longer than 12 miles. I did a number of races, from marathons to 50 miles, and called these training runs. The reason I did my "training runs" as races, however, was that I just didn't have the gumption to get up and go for a long run on my own. I could do it with the support of the race volunteers and the company of my fellow runners, but not on my own. The bottom line is that I just didn't want to run long unless it was part of a race. This did not serve me well.
I ended up getting to Finland at about 12:40 AM on Saturday morning, an hour and 20 minutes before the cutoff. I had been slowly significantly. Between Country Road 6 and Finland I had been passed by at least a dozen runners. Those runners were walking, of course, but were walking much faster than I was. This was the lack of physical preparation. The ruggedness of the Superior Hiking Trail was getting to me, and I was staggering along. In fact, I kept falling off the boardwalks. Between my limp and my stagger, I just didn't have the balance to stay on. Good thing it was dry!
By the time I got to Finland I was convinced that I had to drop. I honestly never even considered it a choice. There was only an hour and 20 minutes until the cutoff, and I was slowing down significantly. Ha. Now that the preliminary results are out, I see that there were at least a dozen runners who got to the aid station after me, and went on to finish. There was a choice, but I couldn't see it at the time.
I stuck around at the finish the next day, at least twice as sore as I've been after any other 50 mile run I had done this year, to watch the 100 milers come in. I found it incredibly inspiring to watch the last runner come in, minutes before the 38 hour cut off, and just barely in front of the sweeps. As impressive as it is to see someone run across the finish in just over 24 hours, it is much more inspiring to see the people who stuck with it, despite being just under the cutoff all along the way. Wow.
I'm glad I switched from the 50 to the 100. Despite the fact that I ended up only running 50, and having to pay an extra $110 for the honor. I got to see the first half of the course, but more importantly, I now at least have an inkling of what it will take to prepare for my second attempt, and first finish, in 2012. I am now inspired and will be doing those long lonely runs throughout the year in preparation.