To DNS or DNF

*To DNS or DNF–that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of a run unstarted
Or run the race and risk a sea of troubles
And by so doing: to die, or at least screw up my leg
And continue my IT band issues: to start, to run until I can
Run no longer; and by DNF, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That flesh is susceptible to? [Hell no!] ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly not to be wished on anyone. To start (or not), to run,
To run, perchance to Dream. Aye, there’s the rub,

For in the grand scheme of life, my IT band problems are self-inflicted and trivial.

Umstead marathon was supposed to be my last big race, but I had to sign up for the Medoc Spring Race, a race styled after Dipsea with a staged start. It’s only 7.5 miles–the perfect distance, plus a fun format to keep me out of a post-season slump.

Then my running buddy decided to drop from the Umstead 100, so I was no longer needed as a pacer. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail 50K is the same weekend, on Sunday. Here was an opportunity to squeeze in an ultra on my home turf. The timing after Umstead was perfect. Steve emailed me and asked, “which distance did you sign up for?” “What kind of idiot do you think I am?” I retorted. It was another two weeks before I actually admitted—um, THAT kind. [He wasn’t surprised.]

When I first went to Mimi, the ITB issue seemed bad, much worse than I thought. I knew my left side was out of balance, but not the extent—weaker, less flexible, limited range of motion. I emailed Bull City. The 12 mile distance is full. It’s 50K or bust.

But, I have made so much progress in two weeks that I have guarded optimism, perhaps too much. Why not start and see how it goes? It’s hard to know how much better I am, though. The only thing that caused pain was running downhill. I’ve done two flat runs with zero pain.

If I consider the distance, my ITBS, and the fact that I would like to be in reasonable shape to run well at Medoc, it seems ridiculous to even start the 50K. Why would I risk the setback on my PT and careful strengthening to do a race that is not my A race, a race that I signed up for out of serendipity?

It’s not just a 50K run, though. The following weekend, I will speak at the memorial service for my lifelong friend Suzie, who was killed last September on her early morning run by a hit-and-run driver in Eureka CA. I had signed up counting on the 50K to help me steady myself for a much tougher event, one that will take everything I have.

I could accomplish this in other ways. But the singular effort of running a long way and the need to focus intently on the trail allow me both time and space for my brain to wander and my heart to find peace. And Suzie loved running trails.

It seems unlikely that I can go the full distance, and I do want to run Medoc with my son Stephen and my friends two weeks later. A friend told me that my brain and body will reach an agreement at some point and I’ll know the right decision.

I’m not afraid of pain, which is temporary. I’m afraid of the setback, of having to start from scratch again and extending the recovery time. If I thought I could run the 15 miles to the dam without causing additional problems, I’d do so happily and call it a very successful DNF. It’s hard to imagine that I’ll be able to run much farther.

My heart and brain will find the right answer. I just can’t see it yet.

*A line from a poem or story gets stuck in my head, and there’s no going back. Acknowledgement and apologies to: Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. “To Be, or Not to Be” [Internet]: Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_be,_or_not_to_be

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9 thoughts on “To DNS or DNF

    • I don’t think so (not sure if cortisone can be used for ITBS, guessing not). I’d be reluctant to mask any clear signals my body sends (“STOP ALREADY, YOU IDIOT!”). I haven’t had the issue that long or severely to start considering those kinds of options. Hoping not to get there!

  1. All that is worth writing has already been written by the bard, so I’ll just cobble together a few apropos quotes.

    “All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;”

    “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;”

    “Our doubts are traitors,
    and make us lose the good we oft might win,
    by fearing to attempt.”

    • Ryan, you seem like such a nice person–but no, I don’t want to be you (maybe I should re-read your Umstead report for de-inspiration)! I *think* I can be a good kid, start the 50K, and if it’s bad, I’ll just run to the start of the 12 mile and cheer on my pals as they start. Or if it’s good, keep going until it isn’t anymore. That’s today’s thought–will probably change 8 hours from now.

  2. Steph,

    I mentioned cortisone because it successfully treated my ITBS a few years ago as I was training for the Chicago Marathon. Cortisone does not mask pain. As a steroid, cortisone actually reduces the inflamation reaponsible for the pain. Ask your doctor.

    Good luck with it!

    • Good to know, Darrel; thanks for the info. Fortunately there has never been visible inflammation (but I know there could be and probably is inside). It seems like the PT and strengthening are helping a lot but I’ll ask about it if I can’t shake it. It was a big step just going to see a PT person to begin with! Hoping to figure out the cause so it doesn’t continue to haunt me.

  3. Pingback: Celebrating my first DNF | Running with Scissors

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