DNF / SOB

Betsy in sun

DNF.

If you have entered races to run, ride, Tri — you are probably cringing (in sympathy) right about now.  You know what those little letters mean…

DNF.

Did Not Finish.

The SOB (Siskiyou Out and Back) was this past weekend. My first attempt at running the 50 mile distance. I made it 41 miles and missed a course time cutoff.  My race was over after 10 hours and 17 minutes.

Not by my choice.

8 miles short of the finish line.

I have been working for this distance since the day I met Josh and Wendie Gum three(ish) years ago and Josh uttered the word that would begin to radically change my ideas of running…

‘Ultrarunning’

Ultrarunning is any running distance over a marathon (26.2 miles).  I’ve done several 50K’s (31 miles) and I’m now working on the 50 mile distance.  I have friends working to crush the 100 mile distance this September. Combinations and distances in ultrarunning are endless. Mind-blowing.

I am utterly enthralled and in love with this sport, the people, the community.


I’m trying to get my mind around what a DNF means.

This is my first.  And it won’t likely be my last.

What did I learn?  How do I apply the lessons to my training and my next race?

I’m also trying to soak in the absurdly obvious fact that I have a handful of patient and loving friends who were giving me space and yet keeping me close all at the same time.  Letting me figure this out on my own.

One of the top lessons came from a conversation with a seasoned ultrarunner who was volunteering at the station where I DNF’d.  He sat with me for quite a while.  He said he knew I wouldn’t understand what he was saying immediately – but it would sink in at some point…

Here’s the essence of what he told me:

You trained hard.

Logged countless miles and hours. Learned and practiced. Fell more in love with the sport and your body’s ability to work hard. Saw new trails.  Met new people. Pushed boundaries. Gained strength.

You showed up and toed the line when others were too scared to sign up or show up.

You ran 41 miles.

NO MATTER how today went no one can take any of that away from you.  It’s yours. You earned it.

Today is just one more day in that process.


Here’s what I have learned so far…

Positives?

  • I finished a solid 41 miles.
  • I’m safe, healthy. Not even a blister or lost toenail.
  • I could see two years of work with trying to fix fueling (calories on the run) and gut issues play out perfectly. FINALLY!
  • Descending (running down hills) and my confidence with descending was much improved over my work at Western States Training Camp in May.
  • My mental strength was solid and my strategies for conquering my scared/negative/self-defeating thoughts WORKED.

41 miles of good stuff.

I don’t think I have to tell anyone that it hurts the heart to miss a goal that you have worked hard for.  I felt pretty crushed. Embarrassed. Frustrated.

However, I was NOT defeatedVERY important distinction.  I never thought about NOT doing this again, all my thinking was scrambling to figure out what I screwed up on, what I needed to get better at and how to fix it.

What have I learned?  What will I work on?

  • Become a faster runner.
  • Run more of each hill.
  • Hike faster/stronger on steep stuff.
  • Don’t be a jackass/rude/dismissive to the volunteers at the aid stations.  I was NOT!  Several of the other DNF’s exhibited poor sportsmanship and crappy attitudes.  Never OK.  Ever.

This is my breakdown of the race. (Here’s the map sob-50-mile-map)

I have several running friends who read this blog and they suggested that my version of a play-by-play would be interesting. Typically race reports are more about strategy, fueling and terrain – things that would help other runners know what to expect and how to prepare to run the course. Uh… Mine aren’t. My ‘race report’ is about what I was feeling and thinking.

I hope that you enjoy my ‘race report’. 🙂

Mile 1-4.  Scared to death. Super upset belly. Breathing wouldn’t settle in. I was gulping air and trying to find a rhythm for my feet and lungs…  I got paired up on the single track with a woman from Gold Beach, OR.  She said she was really struggling with nerves/belly/breathing.  I admitted the same. I thought about it for a bit and then told her that ALL of that could be easily explained away by 1.) too much coffee at the ass crack o’ dawn to make sure we pooped before the race and 2.) the freaking altitude (5,000-7,000) for us sea-level girls.  We laughed and nerves were instantly gone…  For both of us. I ran with my new friend for 22 miles and DNF’d with her as well.

4- 22. I worked on getting comfortable. Welcomed the routine of trying to settle into a long run.  I kept going over the course map and my plan in my head, reviewing the map mentally to see if I could tell what might be coming next terrain/aid station-wise.  Fueling (calories) was perfect to the minute and my gut stayed intact.  I remembered thinking – no matter how the day goes: this segment is a win on a bunch of important levels, training is playing out perfectly and these are things I can keep building on. Looking back – I also have to wonder if this section – where I was feeling the most comfortable – is this where I should have pushed harder? Would more effort here have made the difference?

21 – 22. The women grouped up and running with me at this point started talking about how we were not going to make the time cut-offs. The talk was about races they hadn’t finished.  How HORRIBLE the hill ahead of us at mile 25 really was. How they probably should have trained more. It was negative and soul-draining. I played with positive mantra’s/sayings in my head and tuned those women OUT.

23 – 25. I raced through the aid station forgoing water, purposefully, to leave all the women behind me.  I hiked with what I thought was solid purpose.  Including a fast hike up the rock field to the tippy-top for the ‘token’ to prove I had been at the turn-around point on the course.

25 – 28. Turn around and run back to the aid station. I focused on fast feet.  I ran the entire way.  Every step. If I was going to miss a cutoff, I wanted to at least have done it running downhill in the way I had trained.

28.  Wards Fork aid station volunteers said keep moving and I should make the  cutoff at Jackson Gap. I knew this was the 6-7 mile sustained climb section between aid stations.  Mental anxiety is spiking back up at this point. I kept working to stuff it back down. My strategy ALL along had been to hike this entire segment fast with a little running if I hit flats. More of the trail was runnable than I remembered on the first trip through. If it got flat or I could see a small crest – I ran. I pushed hard.

35.5.  I hit Jackson Gap aid station and they said I was at the cutoff; I had to keep moving.  Those words were just a huge mind f*&k.  I looked at the volunteer who was talking to me and burst into tears.  I just stood there crying and trying to pull my shit back together while they filled my hydration pack with ice, made sure I was physically OK to keep going, handed me some grapes and sent me up the road.  I was already moving at what I thought was going to amount to an all out effort for 50 miles; I wasn’t sure how much more I could push at this point and actually have anything left to finish. Coupled with a mistake rookie-style? I hadn’t written down any of the distances from aid stations. I KNOW BETTER. The volunteer said it was 4 miles; it was over 7.  I was mentally pushing to piece things together as I ran, I felt confused and turned around at what was likely the 4 – 5 mile mark because I knew I should have been at an aid station. I was clueless at this point because my Garmin had died.

Two guys in front of me walking up the hill right out of the Jackson Gap aid station suddenly turned around as I was headed uphill.  They said they were done, they’d done the math and there was no way they could make the cutoff.  “No reason to put in the effort at this point.”  I nodded and kept moving past them.  I remembered thinking ‘F*&^ THAT.  I’m not quitting.  They’ll have to pull me off the course…’ I stopped crying, put my head down and got serious about trying to make the cutoff.

35 – 41. I ran when I could and walked on the steep ups.  I also had to walk on some of the steep downs. I noticed I was getting tired; my toes were dragging and catching everything as soon as I let my attention waiver. This section is partially on a steep North facing slope that I swear was really just a game trail with an immediate and unforgiving drop off. Falling would require search and rescue.  No joke. I was also stuck on the narrow single-track with a PSYCHO running companion. She was hysterical, depressed, loud, opinionated, abrasive.  When I slowed; she slowed. When I ran; she ran. I wanted to push her off the cliff. BUT that’s not nice or allowed.  So I worked HARD on not letting her non-stop chatter get in my head.  I kept thinking about even though I was pushing the cutoffs and my gut was sinking with the idea that this next cutoff might be the last…

  • I was running a race I could be proud of.
  • Spencer (coach) wouldn’t be disappointed in me, my effort or my attitude.
  • I hoped everyone was wrong and that we would beat/slide past the cutoff.

I was trying to stay in the moment with picking-up and purposefully placing my feet, breathing calmly and keeping my mind working by counting groups of foot steps that were taking me closer to the finish line.

41. Siskiyou Gap aid station, done for the day.  Here’s the snapshot in my head:  I crest the hill from some trees, with single-track in front of me.  I see the tent at the aid station in a small clearing.  A woman (not the psycho one, she was finally behind me a bit…) that I had been running behind for several miles is between me and the tent in the open space, sitting on her knees with her head in her hands.  Five volunteer faces look up at me as I come out of the trees and three of them start shaking their heads slightly… You don’t even really need to hear the words…. ‘I’m sorry. Your day is done.’


This is the race that earned me my first DNF.  It really is a SOB. 🙂

It’s also the race where I met new friends, got sage advice and learned that I CAN fuel correctly. By early that evening I was reminded that my family and running friends are pretty damn spectacular.

And at the end of the day(s), with the pity party finally done and my mind settling into accepting the lessons that were handed to me…  This race turned out to be a fantastic training run on stunning trails and one more character building experience in this whole process of embracing and living a healthy lifestyle.

And no one can take any of that away from me.

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Boundaries.

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If only all boundaries were this clear… 🙂

One of the pieces of this whole lifestyle/T2 diabetes/weight loss journey that has been the most mind boggling to me?

Boundaries.

Some I had to learn, some I have to set and some I’m just now stumbling into.

In the trail/ultra running world that I have fallen in love with — it’s all about respecting, learning and pushing boundaries. Then you train and work to get past perceived and real boundaries.  (Feel the fear, ignore the temporary pain and do it anyway.)

Then there’s people. Holy smokes. Hands down, relationships and boundaries involving people have been the hardest for me. Figuring out where boundaries might be helpful, testing the waters, re-setting, communicating, re-enforcing those new boundaries.


I know I’m writing a blog about ALL KINDS of deeply personal stuff.  I’m almost always willing to be in intimate conversations with people (even strangers!) who want advice or need a listening ear or want to share their successes. I speak publicly, openly, honestly about the journey I’ve been on, what I’ve learned and the changes I’ve made in my life.

So I understand that what I’m about to say is an odd, conflicting confession of sorts…

I have also been establishing some boundaries.

I have never considered myself a guarded person. This has been new and uncomfortable ground for me.

Yet, in the past two years I found myself in a place where I had to put up some defenses to protect myself and my newly established habits.

It threw me off balance for quite some time.

I did what I usually do at first when things get difficult; I ignored it all. (Genetic trait, I’m pretty sure.)  Big, scary, hard topics coupled with the fact that I harbor a sincere, deeply embedded worry that I might disappoint or hurt someone. So, I just averted my eyes and hoped it would all settle out, resolve itself, go away…

Even when it was painfully obvious that ignoring some of these growing issues was not a sustainable or healthy strategy… I continued to fight it because it just felt wrong and selfish.

‘Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even if we risk disappointing others.’ — Brene Brown


I was 392 pounds, insulin dependent, Type 2 Diabetic.

I successfully battled diabetes and lost a lot of weight (non-surgical).  I’m told that losing that amount of weight and reversing full-blown T2 is a rare, single-digit feat of accomplishment.

That low percentage seems legit to me, given that I have only found a handful of people who have done the same thing in successfully re-inventing their lifestyle.

Please understand — I absolutely have stalwart friends, cheerleaders, support and encouragement.  100%.  More than 100% at times.

I was 2 years into my journey when I finally connected with a handful of individuals across the US who had ‘walked in my shoes’ and truly understood what I was trying to do.  They’d been there.  Done that.

It was so exciting to finally make these connections!

Over time, in conversations with each of them, they have all expressed roughly the same version of sentiments about our respective journeys…

It’s a lonely, hard, life-changing, I-will-never-go-back, you-really-have-to-do-it-on-your-own, kind of road.

The other common angst that emerged from conversation with these folks?

Just because we have lost 100+/reversed T2 does not mean we are ready or able to help someone else with their journey.

No matter how badly we may want to. No matter how much others want us to be able to help them.

Hearing this insight being repeated from others in various stages of their journeys, was hugely interesting to me.  I was struggling with this very issue. I saw my lack of being able to handle the pressure of it all as a serious character flaw.

They helped me begin to see it for what it was; just another part of the process.


I’m still learning how to thrive and survive and maintain in this new world I’m building.

I mean – c’mon… I’m new to this!

I spent 42 years obese, sedentary and making really poor food choices.  I was a freaking expert at living an unhealthy life.

I’ve only been learning and living this new healthy life for 4 short years.

The truth is that I was routinely getting overwhelmed by the fact that even though I’ve been IN this journey; I couldn’t answer all of their questions, I couldn’t help everyone find (or stay on) their own path and I couldn’t fully support other people emotionally on their own journeys.

I’m one person who’s still trying to figure out her own life.

It’s really an impossible equation, yet one I was trying to own and live up to whole-heartedly.

Last year two of my good friends talked bluntly with me about setting boundaries. In their own ways they said they were watching me struggle, quite inelegantly and painfully, with trying to be counselor/coach/cheerleader/emotional support for a cadre of people near and far.

And they could see it was hurting me.

‘Bets, have you thought about the fact that you could likely ‘drown’ while trying to help someone else?’

They were hard, good conversations.

I’m not a crier.

There were plenty of tears as I really tried to accept what they were telling me and then figure out what I was going to do about it all… I mean – I KNOW I was put on this planet to help people.

Know that for a fact.

Yet, they were telling me a very basic truth…

If I’m not focused and actively working on being healthy and whole and stable; What good can I possibly do for anyone else?


As I continue to figure out what I need, how I feel, what makes me feel strong and what I really struggle with — I keep working on boundaries.

Not the kind of boundaries that cut me off from the world and box me in.  That’s not at all the goal.

I’m working on living/healthy boundaries that protect and nourish and help me feel safe enough to take some bigger, stronger steps. The kind of boundaries that will ultimately allow me to help others and stay on my feet (running!) for years to come.

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Testing boundaries in trail & ultra running.

Jogging my memory…

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I’m so blessed I was given the chance to change….

I’m in Ontario, Oregon for work today.

(I have the best job on the planet.)

My work takes me to the far (and fascinating!) corners of Oregon from time to time. One of those corners is Ontario… This fiercely proud and hard-working town is right on the Idaho Border. Literally on the border; I can see a mile down the road, and that’s Idaho.

Driving into town last night, I got off the freeway in the wrong spot.  I just wasn’t paying attention. In turning around I realized I was in the parking lot of the hotel that I first stayed in when I was over here for work ten years ago.

I am always over here in July.  Ontario is… uh… warm this time of year.  Yesterday was 114.  Ten years ago it was 102.

Do you think it’s odd that I would remember the temperature from ten years ago?  (If you know me – you know I can barely remember what I wore yesterday, let alone details from months or years ago.)

But I do remember.  Here’s why…

Ten years ago I weighed at least 200 pounds more than I do today.  I remember my trip here well…

It ended in an ER.

I was diagnosed with heat exhaustion /borderline heat stroke.  My core temperature got to 102, I was throwing up, dizzy, having horrible leg cramps, had stopped sweating, had chills, wasn’t coherent and my nose wouldn’t stop bleeding.  My blood sugar was off the charts and would remain off the charts for weeks after this episode.

The hotel manager offered to call an ambulance when they saw me stumbling in from my car through the lobby at the end of the day. I promised I would promptly drive myself to the hospital and I turned around and got back in my car.  At least that’s how they told me the story unfolded the next day.

I remember being in the ER, hooked to an IV, being wrapped in sheets that were wet and cold and packed in ice from head to toe.  I had spent all day out in the sun, wearing a hat, seeking shade and drinking water — I was not entirely sure why things spiraled so out of control…  I thought I was being appropriately careful.

The nurses seemed to know what the problem was…

The nurses comments as they were taking care of me were along the lines of ‘this is usually what we see in the elderly, but when you are this obese; the heat isn’t going to treat you kindly…’

They remarked at the time that my core temperature matched the outside temperature. THAT’S why I remember it was 102 degrees.

And no.  That health threat and those comments STILL weren’t enough to launch a lifestyle shift.  It would be another six years before I got my act together.

I had honestly forgotten about the heat exhaustion episode — until I pulled in that hotel driveway last night.

I drove away from that hotel thinking about how I am in such a different spot. Such a better spot.

I spent most of yesterday evening thinking about just how different my life is from that first visit from ten years ago…

I used to HATE to sweat.  Avoided it at ALL costs.   I felt like sweat was tattle-tell proof of the fact that I was fat and that even a basic effort like walking across the room was work for my body.  Yesterday morning before heading for the airport I grabbed a few miles on my favorite local trail.  Soaking in the sunshine and views, working up a sweat and thinking about how lucky I am to be able to run.

My entire diet was fast food or ‘this is their local specialty’ or ‘I’m on vacation so calories don’t really count.’   I packed and carried all of my own food this trip so I wasn’t stuck without a healthy option. (Or an excuse…)  It’s summer!  Fruits and veggies are insanely good right now!

Sour Patch Kids and Doritos vs. almonds, an apple and some Hood River cherries.

I lived on diet coke and diet Dr. Pepper.  By the gallon. No joke. Totally hydrated on water with lemon from my Nalgene that I tote everywhere.  (Again, no excuses…)

I had to have a hotel with a fridge to keep my insulin cool.  Now I’m worried about keeping my coconut water chilled. 🙂

I drove my own car over because I knew I wouldn’t fit in an airplane seat on the small commuter jet and I didn’t want to have to tell anyone that was what I was afraid of….  This time around I flew and fit perfectly in my seat, with no seat-belt extender.

Last time I weighed 390ish pounds.  This time I weigh 165ish pounds.

**I still love my job — that much has NOT changed. 🙂

The comparing and contrasting could continue, but I think you get the general picture…

A decade can make a world of difference. 🙂

What a ride…

248231_10150320004126258_5696017_nThe adventure of my life these past four years is kind of unbelievable. And even though I lived every single moment of it… It still doesn’t seem entirely real to me.

It’s been four years, July 2, since I woke up knowing I had to change my life.  Literally and figuratively. I woke up with a feeling of fierce and yet total determination. I didn’t have any idea HOW to get it done; I just knew I had to get it done…

What did I have to ‘get done’?

Most of you know my story… I was 392 pounds at my heaviest.  Type 2 diabetic, insulin-dependent, morbidly obese.  I woke up on July 2 and decided that I no longer wanted to be ‘the walking dead’.  Just getting by in life was no longer acceptable. I wanted to LIVE my life.  I didn’t want to take shots.  I didn’t want to be T2 diabetic.  I didn’t want to be morbidly obese.

LUCKY for me; these were medical issues that I had a chance at possibly changing.  A long-shot with terrible odds; but a shot none-the-less.

For some reason, life was handing me the gift of an open door AND the clarity to see it. I understood on some level that I was being one last chance to build a different life than the one I had been living.

I walked through the open door.  And I am not going back.

Without a doubt, it has been the wildest, messiest, craziest adventure of my life. Very little has gone exactly as planned.  Yet; I’ve wound up exactly where I am supposed to be.


I started to reflect on how to distill all 1,460 days of this incredible journey down into a worthwhile thought or two…

What have I learned? 

What would I want someone to know was important to me?

What matters to me now that I’m in the daily process of practicing and cementing all of these  lifestyle changes?

After some serious miles of running and thinking/contemplating/reflecting these past few weeks there is one thought that keeps running (pun totally intended!) through my brain pretty much non-stop…

‘Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your methods.’ — Anon

Even with solid, life-goals right out in front of me to stay focused on, I’m also learning to embrace that the paths leading to those life-goals are very, very much like the twisty, unpredictable and beloved trails that I am learning to love to run…

(I LOVE the symbolism. 🙂 Not gonna lie.)

I love that the trails I run can serve as a constant reminder for me to stay focused forward, looking ahead.  And yet they also serve to remind me to appreciate the texture and detours and bumps in the road of the journey.

July 4th is the celebration of our Country’s birthday and Independence.

And I see July 2nd as MY very own personal independence day.IMG_7002-web