Did Not Finish? Does Not Compute.

I abruptly stopped  posting last fall after my “Bell Lap” piece. The abrupt silence was likely in response to the even more abrupt end to my season.

I headed into the Lakeside race weekend in the second weekend of September knowing that it was a bit risky pushing for a sixth race, just one week after the fifth race at Guelph Lake II. At Guelph, aiming for a better showing than I’d had at that site in the longer 5i50 in June , I gave it my all and was rewarded with an age-group third place medal for my efforts while narrowly skirting a hamstring blowup on the final few kilometers of the last run.

But, I figured, I could push for this last one, a short one, for the symbolism, for the support of Lightning McQueen, and because it was a short race, a flat course, and one I’d done well at the year before.

I felt pretty good. I had taken a solid combined recover/rest protocol leading up to the Saturday start, and although I was mentally tired from the season of training and racing, felt physically decent.

That race morning at Lakeside brought rain, thick clouds of hungry mosquitoes, and a muddy and puddle-laden race site. In any case, it would prove to be a short stint in misery for me that day.

The first run at this MultiSport Canada series duathlon, a 5km out and back, is mostly on flat dirt roads. The duathlon field was large, and we set out quite fast. The roads were a bit squishy and there was a touch of slide with each step, but more so, my left hamstring was not ready to forgive me for the push in Guelph the week before. It was twitchy within 500 meters of the start, and though I kept backing down my speed, I knew I was in trouble by the 2km point. Cresting the little hill of the turnaround gave a moment of relief, as I heeded my long-suffering physio’s recommendation to “engage my glutes” on the hill. Coming back down, I felt okay. And then, suddenly, back on the flats, not.

The thing with a hamstring blowing out is that you can be fine one second, or even be a bit crampy or twitchy, but running along all the same. And then, suddenly, running is not possible. Like a crash test car slamming into a wall, my race, and for that matter, my season was over. I pulled over to the side, gave myself a stretch and a massage while everyone in the field passed me, and then tried a few steps. Nope. All done. Non-negotiable. Not even a walk back to the start would be possible.

One race too many. Or just some bad luck. Either way, a very sudden end. And a first DNF (Did Not Finish).

First DNF

First DNF in 14 starts. Took me weeks before I could look at this without wanting to cry.

So began several weeks of absolute rest. No walking beyond the absolutely necessary. No stairs unless required (curses on my old brick house with three stories and loads of stairs!). No running, cycling, or hockey.  All while dealing with the mental struggles of having my first ever DNF and not knowing when a full recovery would be possible.

With six race starts, five completions between late May and early September, this forced “absolute” break was welcome in some ways. It launched a winter of physio and strengthening exercises for my posterior chain. And, fortunately, within a few weeks, I was just ready enough to start my next challenge. A challenge that would humble me more than this DNF, on an ongoing basis, and in a way that I welcomed.

More on that very soon.

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