If you race big distances enough eventually you will be visited by demons that can have you waving the surrender flag and taking the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish).
Most of the time, long haulers can stuff the quit monster back into the dark dank box it crawled out of. Occasionally, the comfort of the SAG wagon or the rest area with “down the mountain shuttle access” beckons a little to loudly.
In my 14 years of racing long, I have had 3 DNFs. I remember every one.
In retrospect, I will say that only 1 of the DNF’s was a legit physical problem (severely pulled hamstring at a marathon 8 weeks before Ironman Louisville 2010).
The other two?
I quit because I was a being a pansy.
Two years in a row at the Cascade Crest Classic 100, I quit (mile 54, mile 62) because I lost mental control and allowed temporary pain to get in my head. I am not sure what my justification was, but I suspect the conversation between my ears went something like…
“My (insert whatever body part) hurts. It hurts real bad. I am cold, wet and hungry. (Waaaaa, Waaaaaaaa, Waaaaaaaaaaaa! ) I quit. I still cleared 54 miles. That’s good enough right?”
Guess what? 100 miles with 35,000 feet of elevation change is supposed to hurt. Running 26.2 miles after cycling 5 hours plus will push you to the bloody edge. Being hungry or thirsty or dehydrated is part of the journey. Your body can take it…your mind is what usually fails you.
Avoiding a DNF is 99% mental/ 1% physical.
At mile 72, when you are feeling horrible and feeling like quitting, it is time to get deep within yourself and keep moving.
Cold and Wet? Keep moving.
Tired, hungry and thirsty? Keep moving.
Cramped, throwing up or worse? Keep moving.
Injured? Keep moving. If you are moving, you are not injured enough. Your body won't lie.
Keep moving. Your mind will quit before your body will.
I once talked to Ironman legend Chris Legh about how he maintained focus and full throttle during periods of pain. He graciously spent 30 minutes on the phone with me giving me his thoughts. Specifically, how to push hard when the chips were down.
This Chris Legh....
This Chris Legh....
His answer? A mantra that he had taped to his bike tube and written on his arm that he stared at as the negative thoughts entered his mind…
TTFU (Toughen The F Up).
Great advice when your mind is about to betray you.
Keep moving…a DNF is mental!