Friday, January 27, 2012

The Upside of a DNF

"If you see failure as a monster stalking you, or one that has already ruined your life, take another look.  That monster can become a benevolent teacher, opening your mind to successes you cannot now imagine."  -Martha Beck

Life has moved on after Bandera.  My knee seems to have recovered well and I've managed a handful of 10 mile runs without any pain.  I'm now trying to ramp my miles up a bit for a week or two before the Red Hot 55k in Moab next month.

It has been funny processing through my Bandera experience.  In 2010, when I ran Boston and had a lackluster day, I was left with a frustration about how it turned out.  Yes, I finished the marathon, but fell way short of the goal I had set for the day.  After the race, whenever I looked at my Boston shirt or jacket, I wanted nothing to do with it.  I had this odd feeling that I didn't deserve to wear them.  All things Boston just reminded me of that failure and missed opportunity.

I assumed I'd have similar feelings about Bandera after having to drop.  But a funny thing has happened.  Whenever I see my bib, race sweatshirt, or buckle from last year, a fire is kindled within.  My DNF has ignited something that is burning strong. And I know it wasn't there pre-DNF.

I recently taped my Bandera bib to my bathroom mirror, so I see it before most training runs.  Why?  Well, there are several things I want to be reminded of each day:

- Never take for granted the opportunity to run.  One slip can end it all, or at least impact my ability to continue running well.

- Don't assume I'm going to run well or finish a race just because I did the year before.

- Remember the feeling of having to tell myself (and others) why I quit.  Yes, I know I thought I was making a nagging injury worse during the race.  After Bandera, it took no time at all to get tired of hearing myself spout out excuses when asked about it.  I know now more than ever, how much easier it is to say, "I finished."

- I need to be tougher.  I need to exhibit more Grit.  I need to squash that voice inside that says I can't do it.   It speaks out during most ultras and I need to have the determination to ignore it. I didn't have it that day in Bandera and the bib reminds me of that.

The DNF at Bandera has been a huge positive for me.   While I hope it never happens again, I feel more focused & humbled, and I know this will prepare me to run a smart race in Moab and beyond.


  1. Great post, Woody. I can definitely relate. Dropping out of Leadville in 2008 has fueled more finishes and positive outcomes than finishing that particular race ever would have. It sucks, but it's nice to be able to use it for good going forward.

  2. I remember you telling me about your decision to drop in '08 and what you felt after the race. I don't think it really sinks in until you deal with it personally. Now I know and hope to follow in your steps by turning it into fuel!