50 Shades of Self-Sabotage and One Ugly Ponytail. My 2013 Western States 100 DNF.

Posted by Jen on Jul 8, 2013 in Uncategorized |

True or False, I am a reasonably smart person. While yes, its true that I am a blonde, I did simultaneously get a B.S. in biology. And, despite my scientific mind, my common sense is really my strong suit. So it will be bewildering to all of you reading this, how I faltered in my race plan for Western States 100. I have been going over things in my head since I was able to regain a normal state of conciousness on Sunday post DNF status at Western States 100. I don’t feel sorry for myself or regret dropping out as it was really the only choice I had given the state my body was in by mile 78. Here’s a quick run down of my day.

Pre-Race: Early in my week, it seemed to be going well, I was zen, off of the internet, sleeping okay and feeling positive. Fast forward to midweek, my pacers and crew had arrived, my house was chaotic, I was in host mode and not taking care of my own mind or body. By Friday morning, I was exhausted and all the planning, splits, and organization and too much chatter about the day had worn me down. Fail.

Crew love

Race morning: woke up after about 3 restless hours of sleep. Damn it anyway, but I am the insomnia queen, so no worries. Ate breakfast of gluten free muffins and put my hair into haphazard ponytail that would annoy me all day long. Walked to the start feeling off. Couldn’t find pins for my bib, as they had run out. I ran around frantically looking for them. Brett Rivers saved me with giving me some. Weighed in 3 pounds over yesterday’s weight. Weird. Went to start line, put on my ipod. Ipod out of batteries.What? My sister ran her ass off and found my back up ipod- put it on, batteries out, despite them both being on chargers overnight. Got too worked up about that. Fail.

Race Start: Smooth actually, felt great to get this show on the road. Cruised up to the Escarpment at an easy pace, chatting with Meghan Arbogast, and finding myself behind Emily Harrison, who I instantly decided had the best hairdo out there with her neat braids and was then really bummed at my lame ponytail and hat combo. I was not living up to the #1 rule of the day: Keep it sexy. Kate Martini Freeman will tell you this is more important than any win. Hair Fail.

Red Star Ridge: Feeling okay, but had been struggling with my stupid shorts since mile 4 as they were literally falling off. I had, while on the run, taken one of my pins off my bib and put in on my jersey to hold my shorts up. I ended up rolling my shorts into the liner and forming a super ugly and ineffective pair of “buns.” I was apologizing to the men behind me who didn’t want to pass me as the chance for a full show was pretty high at that point. Found out I was 4 minutes outside of top 10 at aid station and couldn’t care less. Shorts Fail

Duncan Canyon: Saw my crew- dropped my hydration pack and picked up two handhelds and told them I needed a new skirt. The one I had a feeling I should have worn from the start. Got my newly charged ipod and was hoping for a turnaround. I was super annoyed at my choice to drop my pack as the handhelds were heavy. Plus I was still rolling my damn shorts up and felt like taking them off and running freaking naked. Hydration Fail.

Robinson Flat: felt like hell up the climb to the meadow, but overall just kept moving, and was evidently passing people despite my slow as shit pace. Heat wasn’t really an issue yet. Saw my crew- they gave me a skirt, thank the lord and I proceeded to change behind the restrooms where modesty was only sort of important. Got ice under my hat and left the aid station with a conehead hat and fresh bottles of Vitargo and water. Climbed to Little Bald and was hoping to wake up and get my ass in gear. Decided against it and only half put my self into gear. Too many fails there to qualify just one.

Dusty Corners: Ran there lackluster and just tired. Got my hydration pack there with Vitargo, drank coke and told my dad and sister I was trying to get going and turn it around, but to tell my mom not to bring Eva to Foresthill as I would be struggling today. The last thing I needed was my child to see me swearing my head off and looking weird. Something felt off but I was trying to get positive and settle into the day. Things always, always get better. At least they usually do. They totally will, I told myself.

About 30 minutes after leaving Dusty, I went to reach into my pack for salt and there was none. Alas, my former shorts pocket had all my salt and I had none. No problem, right. I am heat-acclimated baby. Ok I will get some at Last Chance, I reminded myself. Electrolyte fail.

Last Chance: ran in and out of the aid station like a damn idiot, only to get weighed where my weight seemed ok. In fact, this is only aid station where I was remotely close to the 124.5 pounds I had on my bracelet. I ate some fruit and left without salt. Into the canyons, without salt. Sweet. I also advocate fighting a fire without water. Eva was also born by immaculate conception. You get the point. I hope AJW nominates me for rookie of the year for this one. Quadruple idiot fail

Bottom of Swinging bridge: I jumped into the creek and sat there cooling my core off and feeling better. I was pissed off at my ponytail yet again- I now had dreadlocks. I began the climb to Devil’s thumb. I was drinking but my breathing was laborious and my legs were dead heavy. I saw my husband , who was filming my zombie march, where I told him my plight and he said all the women he was filming looked like hell and that I was only 15 minutes out of the top 10. I told him I couldn’t breath, didn’t have salt and hadn’t peed but maybe one time. He said, “yeah but your ponytail looks amazing.” Liar. Don’t panic, put it together and just get to Foresthill. I felt relieved to hear that it wasn’t just me struggling. In training, I had run from Last Chance to the top of Devil’s thumb in less than an hour. It took me almost an hour just from Swinging Bridge alone. Death march.

Devil’s Thumb: Weight up 5 pounds, feeling dizzy, but not worried, just tired. They gave me one lousy salt tab and that’s all they could spare with all the runner carnage. I filled my bottle and kept going. Ran with Scotty Mills, my optimistic angel on the trail. About 20 minutes after the salt tab,I started feeling better. But I still had no salt on me. I was not sweating very much either. We ran to the bottom of El Dorado and I saw Joelle Vaught in a chair. She looked cute, another successful hair day, but not happy. I said hello and proceeded to climb down to get in yet another creek. The volunteers kept watching me to make sure I didn’t drown- probably a good call as I couldn’t walk a straight line in the aid station. They also offered to give me a blood alchohol test right then and there. I denied I was drunk. I grabbed a salt cap and began the climb up to Michigan Bluff.

I ran when someone was looking or really actually shuffled with Joelle the last half mile where we laughed about our sad state of affairs. Got into Michigan where I just couldn’t figure out what my problem was. Weight was now up 7 pounds and the medical asked me to sit. I said no, and explained that I was super puffy, swollen, I must have a salt issue. So I drank some Odwalla and grabbed yet more water and kept going to FH. See, my science degree is really working for me here. With the intelligence of a doctor, I said no to the salt since my weight was up and I was dizzy. Or did I need more salt, I dont have enough brain function in this heat to figure it out. Oh well I just totally redeemed myself.

Finally, somewhere in there I got some energy back. I was motivated to turn the day around and couldn’t wait to get my pacer.

Right before Bath Road, I took an advil, to ease my aches and give me a way to rally down Cal Street. That’s right, a B.S. in biology. Microbiology. I saw Jimmy Dean who gave me a pep talk and then guess what, I found my smile. I was happy to have made it and somehow was holding steady in the field. I still didn’t feel great. My feet were swelling in my shoes, I now had cankles and bad hair and the dizziness I kept attributing to a hot day. I got to Foresthill at mile 62, where my weight was up now to 8 pounds. I ate watermelon and changed my socks. I was super quick in and out. In hindsight, I wish I would have listened and taken the 5-10 minutes to talk to medical, sit and find out why I was feeling so off. Someone should have slapped me right then and there. But no, I am stubborn. Listening Fail

Cal Street: JDF and I took off like idiots running a 5k. I was motivated to race, obviously having lost my mind somewhere around Deadwood as the pace were running was too fast. I didn’t temper my pace despite all systems telling me something was wrong. JDF asked if I had peed lately and I said no. I thought about that and realized I hadn’t gone for a few hours at least. Having finally gotten salt from my crew, he told me to start taking an S cap every 15 minutes to see I could catch up. We got into the backside of the Cal and it started cooling off, only prompting me to run harder.

We were passing people and in hunting mode, despite the fact we had 35 miles to go. No, this was not my first hundred mile run. But my god, it sure felt like it. Race Strategy fail

Finally we passed a very slow train of ladies and their pacers putting me into F11 status, leaving Cal 1. Only prompting me to take another advil and push harder. Finally we got to Cal2, where I re-fueled for a second and then took off again about a mile down the trail where I was dizzy as could be, an acute headache now pounding my temples and I stopped to make myself urinate. I noticed pretty quickly the color and distinct look of my urine- as peeing blood has never happened to me before. Body fail.

Well fabulous. JDF talked me through how it was likely not a big deal, etc., etc.. But I was concerned and things were way off for me well before that. We did the walk of shame back up the hill a mile to Cal 2.

Cal 2, take 2: They informed me to sit and hydrate. I did as instructed and my legs seized up sitting in the chair. We left Cal 2 and tried to run again, but the onset of the Elevator shaft shuffle commenced. All the gals I just passed, passed me back and I couldn’t care less. Competition fail.

I don’t remember much after we got to Cal 3. I know that Jimmy Dean was telling me stories about naked trysts in college, though that might be a hallucination, and as we neared the river I just wanted to lie down on the trail and sleep. It wasn’t pretty and very unlike anything I have experienced in 100 milers. I am always cognitive and mentally together even if I hurt. I almost always finish and choose to do so even when a win or podium or top ten is out of the question. The finish is worth it. But in this case, I couldn’t move past Rucky Chucky. Brain fail

Rucky Chucky: Drop. Bracelet cut. Medical evaluation and recommendation to get renal panel drawn. Deliberation about hyponatremia. Biology degree revoked. WS100 Fail

Aftermath: Feeling much much better. Yearning to find another race to suit my fitness and desire to execute well. Some possibilites include races close by or international. I have no idea yet, but I know I made too many mistakes in Western to let it go. You always learn when you run these things. I would do so much differently next WS. But that’s why we run 100′s. If they were all predictable, there would be no adventure. Sometimes we win and sometimes we fail, but we as long as we can get back out there, its all worth it.




Jul 8, 2013 at 7:32 pm

That’s why we run 100′s indeed. Every one I swear I should stop. But they have that special draw…TRT100? Solid report of fails. Now to fix them, one by one…and to wear pigtails next time!

Jul 8, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Thanks Olga- you know, it’s never how you dream it up to be in most cases and that’s okay with me. But this was something else entirely. I totally agree on the pigtails or I am loving the double braid look. I am thinking about TRT- but want to run it for the right reasons and need to know I can dig deep when I need to- so thinking and thinking. Looking at some fall races too…

Jul 8, 2013 at 10:00 pm

These are the races that we learn the most from! Glad you are ok, do not beat yourself up at all. You will be back out there smarter and stronger, and still faster than JB!

Sarah Lavender Smith
Jul 9, 2013 at 6:30 am

Such a well-written, smart, candid, funny and heartbreaking report…bravo! You ultimately will gain more from coming back from this epic fail.

Jul 9, 2013 at 9:51 am

I think just the stories of naked trysts might have been worth it. Live to run another day. Very funny race report, glad you are feeling better!

Jul 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Thanks for your account of a race that didn’t go your way. I met you briefly after Devils Thumb…my race didn’t go to pot til Cal1…this was my first ultra that was a “fail” for me, as I walked the last 25 miles puking all the way. Your comment at the end…sometimes we win, sometimes we fail…getting back out there is important hit home. Great write-up!

Jul 11, 2013 at 7:35 am

Thanks for sharing so candidly. I hope you are feeling much better now and that tests/observations show you’re back in balance and healthy for whatever your next challenge is.


[...] Top Female Jen Benna’s WS100 DNF Entertaining, Informative Read. [...]

Jul 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Great post! I’m just getting back into ultras after some time off. I’ve not done a 100 yet, but I will! I’m crazy like that. Like me some punishment. Love the writing. I’ll be back!




Copyright © 2014 A Girl’s Guide to Trail Running.

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