Illness and Health Issues in Ultrarunning

Join me, Tim Long, and Gary David today on Elevation Trail as we welcome guests, Tracy and Rasmus Hoeg.  They’re both Drs. (the real ones and not just PhDs) and study the effects of endurance training and racing on the human body.  We address the questions that burn in many of our endurance-shaped minds.  Gary and I also chat about the Yiannis Kouros rant and my Leadville 100 big belt buckle for sale on ebay (www.footfeathers.com for info on both those topics).

Tracy’s site is http://sealegsgirl.blogspot.com/

Hope you enjoy the show!

Lost In Alaska With Geoff Roes

“The idea for the camps was definitely something that came about gradually over a couple years. The incredible running terrain around Juneau was the first thing that got me thinking about the idea. I’ve run in a lot of places but after a couple years in Juneau I realized that Juneau was the most incredible place I’ve ever run. I began thinking of ways to show this amazing running to other people. My first idea was to guide day runs for visitors that come to town everyday in the summer on the cruise ships. Gradually as I thought about this more and more I came to the idea of doing it as a week long camp instead of a single day thing. And then about a year ago the idea had percolated long enough and I decided to go for it and make the whole thing a reality.”  

This is Geoff Roes’ answer to me when I asked how he came to the idea of his Alaska Running Camps.  I’ve always been intrigued by how great ideas are formed.  There are sparks of ideas that hit you out of the blue and then there are the ones that form over time.  Living in a place as big and awe-inspiring as Alaska, it takes a while and a lot of exploring for the expansive beauty to sink in and be fully appreciated.  It got to a point for Roes where he needed to share a small part of this paradise with people and what better way to do it than through running.  

Geoff has been running trail ultra races since 2006 and, in my opinion, came into the sport’s spotlight in 2008 at the North Face 50 mile championship in San Francisco where he placed 5th racing names like Matt Carpenter, Uli Steidl, and Kyle Skaggs.  He oozed potential and fire at that race and it seemed to catapult him into 2009 that began an incredible string of performances earning him UltraRunning Magazine‘s Ultra Runner of the Year award in 2009 and 2010.

So, you have the best ultrarunner in the country combined with one of the most beautiful natural environments in the world.  What else is there to do than start the Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp.

First things first, and getting sponsors on board help not only with up front costs but also add an air of solidity and clout to something new like a running camp that, in order just to travel to, creates pause for many would-be participants.  I asked him about how sponsors reacted when he presented the idea to them.  “I think everyone I approached about sponsorship was into the idea of being a part of this. I can’t remember anyone who didn’t find it appealing. The sponsors were providing various products so the campers all go home with a whole bunch of great running gear/supplies.”

Speaking of sponsors and money, the pricing of the camp is very reasonable with nearly every detail included from ground transportation to a massage for each participant.  I asked Geoff whether he’s making decent money from them.  There’s nothing wrong with earning money and these camps are unique and a great benefit to the sport.  He responded, “I definitely made a bit of money from the camps, but not as much as you might think. In the end I decided that I needed to raise the price a little bit for 2012 because I probably didn’t end up earning much more than minimum wage for the amount of time I put into the camps in the first year. I’m certainly not going to get rich from these camps, but going forward I think I can do things much more efficiently now that I know what I’m doing.”

Of course, there are intrinsic values to the camps aside from earning money, which Geoff explains when I ask him what he learned from the first year of hosting them.  “I learned that showing something to people that is so important and satisfying to me (running. and specifically running in Alaska) ends up benefiting me as much as it does the campers that i was showing it to. I felt like everyone took a lot of positive things away from these camps, but I also feel like I may have benefited as much from the camps as anyone. There’s just something really satisfying about showing people something that means so much to you and have them respond in such a positive way.”

Geoff’s girlfriend, Corle (Core-Lay) is a big part of the camps too.  The work involved with the AMURC is daunting.  You have do all the pre-work to make sure things are ordered, reservations booked, schedules, routes, and then the cleaning, cooking, run leading, teaching, all while playing the happy host bombarded with questions about everything from black toenails to electrolytes.  Geoff couldn’t do it alone.  When I ask him who, if anyone, helps him, he replies, “Corle and I pretty much do it all. She does the majority of the food and cleanup. She also provides massage for the campers in whatever free time she can come up with. I also have a lot of training partners in Juneau who come out to the runs to help out with shuttling, route finding, and entertaining the campers with their local knowledge and stories.”

With the tremendous amount of  work involved with the camps, I ask Geoff how it affects his training and how he decided on the dates for the camps.  He responds, “I don’t think the camps affect my training much. During the camps we pretty much do a lot of the same runs that I do all the time in training. The dates of the various sessions were determined by taking into account my racing schedule, the weather, and the availability of the cabin we use for lodging.”

Speaking of the training, we then talk about specific races and how he’s feeling physically and mentally for near-future races like the North Face 50 mile championship on December 3rd in San Francisco as well as plans for next year.  He just got in a long run with Dave Mackey last weekend in Marin (same trails the NF50 is held). Let’s just say he’s ready.  As for next year, the most interesting piece of information Geoff provided me is that he is not running Western States in 2012 and says, “I’m not certain whether I’ll ever run it again.”

Geoff is in Nederland Colorado (just west of Boulder) for the school year while Corle attends Naropa University.  He says he’s acclimated much faster this year (altitude on his runs there are 9,000-12,000 ft – Juneau is at 56 ft) and is getting in substantial training.  Regarding his first winter in Colorado last year, he says, “I’m not sure if that was a mental thing or a physical thing but I’ve felt great up to very high altitude this fall. I still really feel it when I get about 12,000, but don’t feel it much at all up to there.

Corle and Geoff

Geoff returns to Alaska in the spring when Corle finish up her classes.  First order of business upon his return will surely be the preparation for the first running camp session to be held the week of May 28 – June 2.  I personally can’t think of many better ways in which to spend a week.

All the Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp information is on the website. Registration is open and spots are filling, so check into it and sign up soon if you’re interested in learning from a very gifted runner in a very gifted place.

UROY: How Big Is Your Running Award?

Tim:  What a year of racing so far. American ultrarunning has experienced globalization in its biggest events and narrow perceptions have been peeled wide open. It all seemingly began with Salomon surging to a convincing men’s and women’s sweep at last year’s North Face Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco, thus earning the $20,000 prize and introducing a significant change in the landscape of US ultras. That spark set off the firestorm of not only “foreigners” winning the big American events, but one team dominating the big races. Salomon seems to have single-handedly retooled American ultrarunning to the international colors and to the meaning of the word “team”.

What does this storm of white and red compression clothing do to the sport here in the US? It reestablishes the concept of “elite” and “best”. The coveted annual award of Ultra Runner Of the Year (UROY), presented by UltraRunning Magazine has been awarded to North Americans (Canadians and Americans, mostly) who’ve won the big US events, with acute focus on the big 100 milers, specifically Western States. The organizers of this award will have to either clarify, which they don’t do currently, whom is eligible for this award or specifically rename it the “UROY award for North American residing runners placing highest in primarily western US trail 100 mile races with arbitrarily weighted importance to which only the selection board is privy.” Personally, I say open it up to the world. What do you think, Matt?

Matt:  I think this is a problem: I could say that the UROY award goes to that year’s “world’s best ultrarunner,” and up through 2010 there might not be much opposition to that. My audience would half-nod in agreement, not really knowing what they’re agreeing to. But really the award is for the best American runner (which echoes your earlier reference to “narrow perceptions.”). From the UR website, the announcement of the award reads like this: “2010 UltraRunning Magazine North American ultramarathoners of the year.” That is fairly clear as to whom the award goes; it’s reserved for an American (and rare Canadian). The point is this: clarify the intent of the award, which is to recognize ultra runners from North America only. I bet a lot of people think it carries more weight than that.

Another problem comes from just a fleeting glance at the past winners. The UROY prize has pretty much gone to trail runners who have excelled at the 100 mile distance (a specific kind of ultramarathon). More specifically, as you have already pointed-out, the winners have excelled at 100 milers in the western half of the U.S., and even more specifically at one particular race. So, just call it the Western States 100 Mile Champ award or the Champion of the 100 Milers in the Western Half of the States award. All kidding aside, many interested people have shared these complaints.

Tim:  As you point out, there are a lot of tangential conversations that emerge from this topic. Back to my original point, the merging of nationalities is common at races like UTMB, but we’ve never really seen it here in the US (especially in the bigger 100 milers). I think the organizers of UROY have to face the task of either revamping the award and the process in which runners are chosen or the committee must face the diluted value of the award. In many people’s minds, including mine, Kilian Jornet is the UROY, worldwide. The UROY voters in the US have had a somewhat easy task when voting in the past; “Who won Western States? Okay, that’s our UROY winner.” What do they do now that a Spaniard, a Frenchman, and a South African have won the big 100s in the American Wild West? The “old boys” network has its work cut out. Regardless, Salomon has smashed the rosy, narrow-view lens through which we’ve enjoyed looking, believing that America had the best ultra runners in the world. This exciting year will come full circle in December and The North Face Championship in San Francisco will be the climax event of 2011. I’m excited that we at Inside Trail will be there.

Matt:  Yes, the process has only been complicated by the non-American wins at big American 100s (and yes the TNF50 in December will be epic!). The award’s value will certainly be diluted if the much larger (internationally enhanced) audience doesn’t concur with the judge’s decision, especially in the men’s “race” to UROY. By reading what others have already said about the UROY and USA Track and Field’s awards, one has to wonder why there hasn’t been more effort to find a true governing body to oversee these important recognitions. Is that what the International Association of Ultrarunners is all about? Why does the UROY have more credibility than the winner of the IAU 100k World Championship? Because UROY is about trail/mountain 100 milers, not some subordinate road ultra? Essentially, what happens in mountain 100 milers in the western portion of the U.S. says a lot more about who is “the best” ultrarunner (or it used to say that). According to the UROY web page, regarding the 2010 voting, “A panel of 18 race organizers from all regions of North America submitted ballots this year. An ultramarathon is generally defined as any race longer than a 26.2-mile marathon. There were 554 ultramarathon races held in North America in 2010.” I would guess that the 554 races probably include road ultras. And based on the voting, the races that really count are, in fact, 100 milers run on trails.

In the end, clarify what the UROY award means (as it apparently means a lot – at least in the U.S.). Because of the confusion about the true criteria of the award, and because of the huge displacement of American runners in these “big” races this year, the award committee probably ought to reassess (quickly) what it’s looking for. After all, what exactly is an Ultra Runner of the Year?

This is the article we wrote for Go Trail Magazine this month.  Check out the mag.  It’s truly levels above its contemporaries. 

Weekend Wrap at Inside Trail (Sept 23-25)

Lizzy Hawker breaking the 24 hour world record. Photo: CMUDC

Though Inside Trail’s passion lies with off-road competition and adventure, we cannot overlook outstanding performances in our cousin sport, road racing.  First, congratulations to Lizzy Hawker in her jaw-dropping run at the 2011 Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Running Championships 24 hour race in Llandudno (North Wales).  Just four weeks after winning the grueling UTMB, Lizzy covered 246.4 km (just over 153 miles) in the 24 hours, breaking the 18 year old world record held by Germany’s Sigrid Lomsky by three kilometers.  Of course, we must also tip our trail hats to Patrick Makau (Kenya) for setting the new marathon world record with his 2:03:38 run in Berlin, beating Haile Gebrselassie’s record by 21 seconds.  Also racing in Berlin, Haile must have instinctively sensed that Makau was having a special day because after Makau made his move, Haile backed off, bent over, then resumed running and finished.

Photo: Davy Crockett

Here in the US, the Bear 100 trail race continues to evolve into one of the classic hard-nose races on the 100 mile calendar.  An exciting race from the start saw a group of eight pull away on the initial 4,000+ ft climb to the first aid station in just over two hours.  As contenders dropped away from the steady Nick Pedatella, Ben Lewis and Gary Gellin, who seemed to focus more on tactical racing than pure speed with each of them also getting lost at times.  In fact, near the end of the race, Pedatella ran off course, allowing Ben Lewis to take the lead.  Pedatella recovered the correct course and the lead, winning in 20:55.  Lewis came in shortly thereafter in 21:18, and Kelly Lance put in a breakout performance and a study of perfect pacing to take third in 21:29.  Remarkably, both Lewis and Lance had never run a 100 miler previous to Bear.

For the women’s race, Nikki Kimball dominated from the start en route to a substantial new course record in 22:19.  Jane Larkindale, in her first 100 miler since her 2010 San Diego 100 win, came in fresh and obviously well-trained to take 2nd in 23:25 and Ellen Parker rounded out the top three with a solid 23:53, also earning the Wolverine Club sub 24 hour buckle.  Full results here.

A happy and triumphant Geoff Roes. Photo: Justin Radley

The UROC (Ultra Race Of Champions) took place this weekend and though many elites were not in attendance, it didn’t stop the ones there from having an exciting race.  Huge congratulations to Geoff Roes and Ragan Petrie on their wins.

Men:

  1. Geoff Roes – 8:58:04
  2. Michael Wardian – 9:20:01
  3. Matt Flaherty – 9:22:42
Women:
  1. Ragan Petrie – 10:11:05
  2. Devon Crosby-Helms – 10:25:50
  3. Anne Riddle Lundblad – 11:01:44

The noticeably low-key, at least in terms of exposure, USATF 50k National Trail Championships took place Saturday in Bend, Oregon with recently crowned World Trail Champion Max King taking the men’s title by a comfortable margin in 3:27.  In a more tightly contested race, Stephanie Howe took the women’s national title in 4:19.  Both King and Howe live in Bend, OR.

Mike Morton tearing through the miles at Hinson Lake 24

On the East Coast Mike Morton braved the 90 degree heat index in North Carolina to win at the Hinson Lake 24 hour event.  The final mileage and results are not posted yet but another competitor, Brett Welborn, had this to say,

“Mike was at 156+ miles but was still moving well with 1 hour left…I would estimate he had sped back up and was doing 8 minute miles. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at 163-164 miles when the final results are posted…within just a few miles of the American Record (which are typically chased on flat pavement with much fewer runners in the way, and in better temperatures).

His first 25 miles was ~2h58m. He hit 50 miles ~6h15m. He went through 100 miles ~13h10m.”

Welborn goes on in reference to Ultra Performance of the Year,

“A lot of people have been talking about Ian Sharman’s 12h44m Rocky Raccoon 100 as Ultrarunning’s performance of the year. But I think after this weekend some folks should take a look at Mike. It was 40F warmer at Hinson Lake. So yea, his 100 was ~20-25 minutes slower, but then he ran ANOTHER 63-64 miles in < 11 hours ON TOP OF THAT. AND it was on a 1.5 mile loop trail, so he had to contend with constantly passing 250+ other runners.”

And finally, check out Go Trail Magazine’s October issue, released today.  Inside Trail has a monthly column beginning this month.  The magazine is top notch with terrific articles and stunning photos.  Hope you enjoy it!

Inside Trail Chat With Liza Howard

Liza cruising at Rocky Raccoon 100 2011. Photo: Lynn Ballard

Liza Howard lives in San Antonio TX with her husband, Eliot, and their firefighter-aspiring son, Asa.  Stop by her website/blog, www.lizahoward.com and you’ll be smirking and outright laughing at times being entertained with mundane observations of Lego construction, yard plant mutilation, and then there’s the running.  Liza is currently the USATF National Trail Champion at both the 50 mile and 100k distance.  Unfortunately, after those wins and her win at Rocky Raccoon 100 (in 15:33!) the last several months have been mostly idle ones for her due to a broken foot.  Now, after wearing her “boot” and pining for the trail while doing run-laps in swimming pools and spending hours attached to anti-gravity treadmills, she’s back to training and gearing up for her next race, the Javelina Jundred 100 miler in Arizona.  The Ultra Runner of the Year buzz has begun and her results demand attention even with the 7 months of inactivity.  Other accomplishments include: Leadville champion in 2010, overall winner (men and women) of Cactus Rose 100, and two-time winner of Rocky Raccoon 100.  The fact that she only raced the first 9 weeks of this year and is national champion at 50 miles and 100k is impressive, to say the least.  The lady makes good use of her races when she can.  With her return to racing after the long injury, we wanted to showcase this special lady with an interview.  Enjoy.

IT:  So, Liza, where’d it all begin?  Where does a petite, self effacing young lady who dominates races (over women AND men) come from?  How’d you get to this nice life you’ve found?

Liza:  Army brat.  Navy wife.  I fell in with a wonderful marathoning crowd living in Virginia Beach.  After a mid-course correction in life, I went to work for Outward Bound in Colorado.  I worked out of Leadville and Silverton and became aware of the 100-mile race.  Eliot, my husband, was my co-instructor on a 30-day mountaineering course in the North San Juans.  (You know someone truly loves you when they think you’re great even though you haven’t showered for 30 days.)  We moved to San Antonio for Eliot’s job.  He runs the outdoor program at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  I started working for NOLS and one of my co-instructors suggested we run the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim.  It sounded fun and after that it was a pretty slippery slope to my first 50k.  Then it was the usual story: I fell in with the wrong crowd and succumbed to peer pressure.  

Liza pacing her son, Asa, in their yard

IT:  Let’s get started by bringing people up to speed on your racing and injury this year.  What’s been going on in 2011 for you?

Liza:  2011 started out pretty well with Bandera and Rocky in January and February.  I PR’d at both, but GI troubles and wardrobe malfunctions made Rocky a bit of a suffer-fest.  I ran Nueces in March, the USATF 50-mile trail championship.  It was my fourth ultra in four months and it was “character building” for 46 miles.  I was happy to finish and happy for a break from running afterwards.  It’s hard to have an off-season here in South Texas because our big races run from the end of October through the beginning of April — just before the season gets into full swing in the rest of the country.

In any event, I didn’t run for a good two weeks while I worked a NOLS backpacking course in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico.  I felt well-rested and excited to run again when I got back to San Antonio.  I promptly got a stress fracture in my third metatarsal and I was in an immobilization boot for two months.  It turns out my Vitamin D levels were very low.  I aqua-jogged for hours and hours and even had the chance to run on an anti-gravity treadmill, but I was still in the boot when Western States rolled around.  And I only had a few weeks of running on the ground before Leadville.  I was sad to miss running those races.  I was sad to have used so much of the family budget on the entry fees.  More than anything though, I was sad I couldn’t go out for a run.  Injuries are good for keeping things in perspective at any rate.  I was ecstatic when I finally got to join my running buddies again for a weekend run.

IT:  How’s your foot now?  What’s your longest run been since coming out of the “boot”?

Liza:  The foot is solid.  I ran 67ish miles on it over the weekend for a 9/11 memorial run with Team Red, White & Blue — on highways and country roads and sidewalks. Not a whisper from the foot.  🙂

IT:  You’re racing the Javelina Jundred 100 miler in Arizona on November 12th.  With two months to go, how do you feel for that one?  Think you’ll be 100% for it?

Liza:  I’m very excited about Javelina.  As much as anything, I’m excited that the terrain is similar to what we have here in San Antonio.  It’s frustrating trying to simulate mountain terrain.  I’m also a bit nervous because I haven’t raced anything since February, but my four year-old keeps me too distracted to dwell on that too much.

I’ll certainly be as fit as I was for Rocky come November 12th.

IT:  You excel on flatter, long courses, as seen at Rocky Racoon 100 (two wins 2010/11 with a pr of 15:33) but then you showed up to Leadville that climbs up to 12,600 ft. and took the win there in 2010.  How in the world do you find places to do your hill training?  Do you suplement your normal running with any strength work?  I read somewhere that you completed a one-day push up dare.  Tell us about that.

Liza:  My former coach, Amanda McIntosh, won Leadville twice and she trained for it here in San Antonio too.  Honestly, I didn’t do all that much steep hill work.  I ran some moderate 3 mile repeats a handful of times on a smallish grade hill.  And I did train on the treadmill some, but I think I really just reaped the rewards of my time working for NOLS as a mountaineering instructor carrying a heavy pack.  I’m a good hiker — and that’s mostly what I did up Hope Pass.  Ultimately though, the key for me was going early to acclimatize.  I was in town twelve days before the race.  I would have been crushed otherwise.  I also doubt I’d be successful at a mountain race with significant climbing like Hardrock or Wasatch if I had to train here in San Antonio.

I wish I could tell you that I am consistent about strength training.  I certainly want to be.  Other than a 30 minute core workout I do about 4 times a week, I really just run.  Obviously I think I would benefit from a good leg workout.  If I get to run any mountain races next year, that will become a routine.  Right now I’m concentrating on increasing my cruising speed for Javelina and Rocky.

The summer push-up challenge was something to keep things interesting between me and my co-instructor on a NOLS course up in Alaska.  I believe the goal was a thousand throughout the course of one day.  My arms would fall off if I tried that now.

IT:  You and I joked about the density of men’s thinking and general knowledge of women in ultrarunning.  Why do you think that is?  I mean, do women need to start winning races overall (like you did at Cactus Rose 100) to demand notice?  Seriously, what causes women to be overlooked in our sport?

Liza:  I talked to my friend Chris Russell about this.  We came up with three reasons.

1. Lack of competition.

Besides Western States and a couple of other races like Miwok and TNF 50 in San Francisco, the women’s fields at races just aren’t that deep.  I won by 7 hours at Rocky last year.  There’s just not as much racing going on on the women’s side; And it’s the racing that draws interest and coverage.  There was a good amount of coverage of the women’s race at Western States with its deep field.

2. Time gap difference.

It’s logistically difficult to cover both races unless you have a loop course.

3.  Ann Trason factor.  (Chris’ insight)

“A lot of her records still stand whereas the men are setting new marks.  If someone started shattering Ann’s records, it would cause notice.”

IT:  Even though you look like you’re in your late twenties, you’re hitting a milestone birthday this year.  What do you think about Meghan Arbogast’s performance at the World 100k Championship?  She lead the US team with her 5th place in 7:51… at 50 years old.  Do you see yourself running ultras competitively in ten years, 20 years?

Liza:  (Very nicely done with the intro there. Strong work!)  I think Meghan exemplifies what’s possible for female ultra distance runners.  She inspires.  I certainly don’t see why I can’t improve over the next decade.  I’ve only been running ultras for about 3 years now.  Maybe by the time I’m 50, I’ll be as fast as she is.  It would be pretty darn satisfying to lay down a super speedy time at Rocky right after my 40th birthday.  Good present.

IT:  Thank you.  My mom taught me how to soften women up (likely why I’m still single)..  Any interest on your part in running the 100k worlds?  I think you could do very well in that format.

Liza:  Roads.  Ick.  Perhaps with the right peer pressure…

IT:  You’re sponsored by New Balance.  How and when did that come about?

Liza:  I wrote them and asked if they’d consider sponsoring me.  I was running in their MT100s and I saw that they had “Outdoor Ambassador” team and I thought it seemed like a good match.  Happily they did too.

IT:  It sounds so easy but you have to have the results to back it up.  How has being a big sponsored runner changed your running?  Do they help you out with race/travel costs?  Will it mean you travel more next year to race?

Liza:  New Balance provides me with shoes and clothing and helps with race and travel costs.  This is huge for our family budget.  I would not have been able to sign up for Western States or Leadville this year without that aid.  Their sponsorship has made it possible for me to race outside of Texas.  New Balance doesn’t ask me to run any particular races or any number of races.  It’s very surreal and exciting.  I hope to convince them they should have me travel more next year.  (Me and my son and a sitter.)   Seems like I should concentrate on doing well at Javelina, Bandera and Rocky to make this argument more convincing.

I am also very fortunate to be sponsored with product by GU and Drymax socks and by Team Traverse, a local philanthropic group of runners here.  It’s still a net loss hobby, but we haven’t had to put Asa to work in a sweat shop to fund any airline tickets yet.

IT:  Speaking of next year, you’ve had a lot of time to think about plans.  What are your big races next year?  Are you doing the heavy early season racing like you’ve done in the past?

Liza:  

November: Javelina Jundred 100

January: Bandera 100k

February: Rocky Raccoon 100

March: Nueces 50 mile (because it’s right in my backyard and there’s prize money because it’s the USATF Championship)

Ummm…

Western?  Leadville?  UTMB?  2nd child?  Hard sayin’.  If someone would like to send me and my family — and a nanny — to France for the summer to train —  I promise to do really really well at UTMB.

IT:  I’m going to open it up here.  Anything else on your mind?  Thoughts on commercialization of our sport, like Leadville’s new owner, growth of our sport, DNFs, other nations nabbing wins in America’s biggest races this year, gardening or landscaping at your home?  

Liza:  Trying to understand what caused someone to drop from a race is an important part of becoming a better ultra marathoner.  I try to read people’s race reports with an eye towards anticipating problems and gaining trouble-shooting techniques. (e.g. have emergency supplies of electrolytes on hand for cramps, bring cold weather gear, study the course map etc.)    

Because ultramarathoning is fundamentally about perseverance, however, it’s easy to move from evaluating the reasons someone dropped to evaluating the person themselves. This is especially true when you don’t know the runner.  

“Why didn’t he keep going?  He could have after a little rest.  Ego too big not to place?  Why not walk it in and inspire other slower runners? Why not set an example for tolerance for adversity and uncertainty? Etc.”   

When my thoughts turn this way on a long run, my mantra is: Why-do-you-look-at-the-splinter-in-your-brother’s-eye-and-not-notice-the-beam-in-your-own-eye?  (After 20 miles that usually turns into a breathless: Stop-criticizing-or-you’ll-run-into-a-tree-branch-and-get-a-stick-in-your-eye.)  It helps.  I will say I’m rarely judgmental when I’m giving 100% to my own run.  100% effort usually fills me with all sorts of empathetic compassion. 

DNF-ing myself: I run ultras to practice perseverance.  Hopefully, with enough practice, I’ll have reserves to tap into when the suffering isn’t a choice that I’ve signed up for.  So while I work hard to avoid a suffer-fest, it’s still useful to me.  I imagine a DNF has a lot to teach me that I also need to learn.  I am working very hard to avoid that lesson none-the-less.  Perhaps listening compassionately to others’ accounts will serve instead.  

 PS. You should definitely stop running a race if you are injured and continuing would seriously exacerbate the injury.  

IT:  Liza, thank you and have a great race at Javelina and enjoy the rest of the year!