Sitting in my living room I’m looking at Strava posts of some racers who just completed the Wild Outback 50k. I was registered for this race and it was to be my first ultra of the year and second race overall. Unfortunately I did not ever make it to the start line. 

The week prior as race-day approached  my body started feeling out of sorts. While stretching on the floor I noticed a new painful sensation in my right buttock. As I’ve been dealing with piriformis syndrome (A disorder in which the piriformis muscle in the buttocks irritates the sciatic nerve.) the past 18 months I figured it was just another symptom of this frustrating condition. The next day while running I felt pain in my right groin. Dang it!  Pulled a muscle just prior to the race I thought. Then later that evening I started to get body aches like when getting the flu. I brushed it off and thought I was just fighting off the cold my wife had. Then I felt miserable waking up one morning, felt a bit feverish and had a headache, so I called in sick and stayed home. A good day of rest should help me kick whatever was going on I decided. Throughout all this it never dawned on me that these symptoms might all be related and not separate issues. Just a series of coincidental niggles that wouldn’t keep me from my running goals. Not until the following morning when I had a serious problem urinating did my stubborn ultra runner mind finally say something more was happening and I called my doctor. As any ultra marathon runner will attest you have to develop a certain mentality to compete and train for these events. Push pain and discomfort aside, become single minded to the goal you want to achieve. In an ultramarathon there is no way around this for one will at various times and lengths of the race suffer much both physically and mentally. The key for ones own well being is to know where to draw the line.   

As race day drew ever closer my mind had gone into that full focus of preparing to run 50 km on wondrously challenging mountain terrain. 5E10E058-DBD6-49B8-AE9F-30ABDE799A1EThe good news is I finally admitted to myself something was up and what first seemed like might be an internal infection or even worse wound up being a total surprise. I had gotten shingles. I was relieved I had an answer to my mounting issues and glad it was something that’s treatable. I got some medication and briefing on what to expect and went home hopeful I could still race. Seemed if I could tolerate the pain (and I thought I could) and as the worst was probably going to be over before the race that I’d still be able to give it a go. There goes that ultra mentality again!  Well the next two days as I limped around and gently lowered myself into sitting positions at work and at home another issue was not improving. I just couldn’t pee. 4E681E48-A0BB-48A3-81DD-2A13BB9C42DFWell I could but what is an easy bodily function we all do without much thought everyday became a torturous ordeal for me. When the day before the race I had to call in sick to work again I finally admitted to myself that it would not be wise to race in this condition.  Being out on remote trails for six-ish hours where one needs to eat and constantly hydrate and relieve themselves on the go was not something I could do. 

The rest of that day I was angry and depressed. It takes a lot of time, effort and commitment to train for these events and when you can’t even get to the starting line, well its disappointing for sure. I texted a couple friends who were going to race and let them know I couldn’t and wished them success. When race-day came I continued with my struggles with my ailment and my thoughts began to soften. I couldn’t run but I had my family at home with me this Saturday and I could use this time to be with them.



Things we do so often without thinking we take for granted. But when it’s suddenly jerked away and becomes a monumental task it helps one refocus priorities.  Yes I missed the race. I did not get my reward for months of preparation and hard work. Yes this race was to also serve as further training for another upcoming event which will be longer and harder. But despite that I know I’ll soon get better. I have my loved ones close to me and time not spent running is time spent with them. I’ll take that every time if I had to choose one over the other. This ordeal was a good reminder that we all need to know our limits. When to listen to what our body is saying to us and then most importantly adjust accordingly. I hope I’ll soon be back out running. In fact I know I shall and having gone through this I’ll appreciate those running moments all the more. 


Happy Trails

1 thought on “On running and knowing when not to.

  1. hillslug98239

    Oh man — I feel ya! That race is written on my calendar at work. I had no intention of running it, but I put it out there to my local trail running friends, suggesting that I could crew or just drive & hang out if anyone was interested in running it. I’m glad we didn’t make ‘official’ plans, because life threw me a curve ball on Day 3 of a 24-week training plan I’d started. I’m now the linch pin that’s holding the entire world together and damn it that is no fun at all.

    Huzzah on doing the smart thing. Years ago, I volunteered as an athlete catcher for the last shift at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. It was 103F that day. It was so hot they started the swim an hour early. There was something like a 30% attrition rate. An acquaintance who’d completed three prior long-course triathlons dropped midway through the bike course because he’d already drunk 8 bottles of water & he couldn’t keep up. I knew then on that day I’d never attempt a long-course. I fear I wouldn’t do the smart thing and DNS when attempting the race could result in my killing myself.

    I DNF’d my first attempt at an ultra. It was the smart choice for me, for that day. A Facebook friend quipped, “DNF just means Did Nothing Fatal.” Maybe we get smarter as we get older, but I’m slowing figuring that out. Being stubborn is what gets us through this stuff, but you really don’t get bonus points for doing serious, long-term damage. Being smart is what gets you to the start line next year.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s