Well, there it is; a DNF. 🙁
After years of successfully fighting the temptation to quit some of the toughest races around, my first Did Not Finish (DNF) ever, across all sports and disciplines, came today on a 3.5 mile circuit cross-country mountain bike race.
To say I didn’t fancy it would be a massive understatement. UK cross-country lap races don’t exactly get my juices flowing and I had only signed up as it was supposed to be on my training patch at Minley Manor, just a few miles from home. The location was switched to Winchester a few weeks back and knowing that area from my childhood, I was struggling to picture a course that would excite me.
The practice lap revealed as much; 6 laps of a combination of rooty woodland singletrack and snaking through grassy open fields. This was going to be a chore.
I felt slow and lethargic on the practice lap and was surprised to feel that way. Having not tested my bike legs since 55 hilly miles I’d run at Race to the King two weeks ago, it was becoming apparent that I may have some deep set fatigue in my muscles.
It crossed my mind to just shoot off home before the race even started but it’s against my DNA to not at least give something a go. Until today, the same could be said for finishing a race at whatever cost.
I started to race in the flurry as the 25 or so riders sprinted up the hill off the start line. The heart rate spiked and then settled slightly as we navigated through the trees and after this section I was in the front half of the group.
My legs had nothing to offer. I was blowing harder than I would expect for such a course and there was quickest fatigue I’d ever experienced in my legs. Something wasn’t right. I pushed on to see if things would settle down but after 1 lap, I just had to listen to my body. I turned off the course.
Having read a blog about a DNF from a professional ultra runner a month or so ago, I had a fresh appreciation for the body’s need for rest. It didn’t make sense for me to be chronically fatigued. I’ve been out running several times since Race to the King and also completed a gym session with Sam, my trainer, albeit not a particularly intense one.
Alas, when I needed to put the hammer down and get my race mode in gear, all was revealed.
True, I didn’t fancy it today and yes, I probably could have limped round the course in about 90 minutes but at what expense? A broken body? A broken mind? Or both, probably.
It hurts. I’m pretty embarrassed and I’m worried that a seed of doubt may creep in at future events. A seed that has never been there. Fear, yes. But never a doubt in finishing.
I kind of envisaged my first DNF may come 1000’s of miles from home on some inhospitable course in relenting environment but no, it came on a local XC race in a grassy field after 13 minutes of racing.
As time goes by, I’ll reflect on this as a good decision. Listening to the body is a skill in itself and self-preservation cannot be underestimated.
A valuable lesson was learned today in that you don’t really know the extent of fatigue until you really need to dig deep and you find out you’ve got no shovel.