My riding friends know this sentiment well. In eventing, you can end up with the E, the TE, the RF, the MR instead of a score and alphabet soup aside, they are all bad. In running events, there is usually only one set of letters that shows up instead of numbers and that is DNF, the disappointing Did Not Finish. I've had letters here and there during my eventing career, but never a DNF during a running event. Not in 2004 when I ran 3 marathons (only one was planned), not in 2005 when I ran 13 half marathons, not in 2009 when I ran 9 half marathons and a full (the first with stitches still in my wrist), and not in 2010 when I ran back to back weekend marathons. This weekend, I set off on the next adventure, a 50 mile run. Saturday was the 50th running of the JFK 50 miler and since this goal was set due to proximity with my 50th birthday, it seemed appropriate. I trained, I studied about nutrition and hydration, I bought great gear (hey, any excuse to shop) and at 5 am on Saturday morning I set off, the Friday night nerves mostly gone. I had a moment of wondering why I thought running on the Appalachian Trail in the pitch black dark was a good idea (but my lovely headlight was doing very well, so it was ok) and then many moments of wondering why anyone would put in a single track course down rocky switchbacks, but trail run - ok. I came off the Appalachian Trail almost an hour behind my goal. My lungs were really unhappy about the uphill start in subfreezing temperatures and just never really got it back together for me to be able to breathe well. Once on the C&O Towpath trail, I just plugged along. All the hydration and nutrition stuff seemed to be going fine, and here I must give thanks to folks on the runner's world forums as well as to Rob Colenso and Andy Berster, who shared their extensive experience very generously. Unfortunately, my lungs didn't really consider the C&O flat either (I later checked topos, my lungs were right). I plugged along. I ate, I drank, I was truly humbled and amazed by the folks who would finish in under 6 hours or under 7 hours or under 8 hours telling me that I looked strong as they went by. I was thankful for the volunteers who refilled the water bottles and handed out snacks and cheers at the aid stations, I was grateful to the many park folks, police officers and paramedics who kept everything safe. In the end, I didn't quite make it. I felt like I could have easily continued to plug away and complete the 50, but I missed the time cutoff at 41.8 miles by 4 minutes or so and thus ended the 50 mile attempt adventure.
I headed back to my B&B, the lovely and literary www.innboonsboro.com and had a bath and then dinner at Dan's Restaurant and Tap House. I turned on the Stanford Oregon game, but fell asleep three plays in and slept soundly for 9 solid hours. This had me waking a bit early and I found I was intrigued by the idea of trying again, maybe somewhere a little flatter. I talked to Kaiti and Rob about it at brunch (Rob is a multiple ultra finisher, including several much tougher than JFK) and got an internet thumbs up from Andy. So the plan is to continue to train (maybe that's why I entered the Las Vegas half marathon that happens in 2 weeks) and aim for a spring 50 miler that is much flatter (in fact on the prairie) and happens in conjunction with a 100 miler, so there isn't really a time limit for the 50. Maybe it is a feeble way to say I've run an ultra, but it continues along the theme of the weeniest maniac (http://seema-thefloridachronicles.blogspot.com/2010/06/im-maniac.html), and it's my goal, so why not?