Well shit, that didn't exactly go as planned.
There were so many great things about today that it's hard to believe it ended in a DNF.
I was fit and ready, tapered properly, acclimated to the heat (after a week in Mexico + a week sauna training), injury free (even some small tweaks I've been working through for about eight weeks were fully at bay today), my nutrition was dialed, and most of all I ran a really intelligent race.
I started conservatively, somewhere back around 30th, though it's tough to tell with both distances starting at the same time (63km & 118km) and 2100 people taking off around a track. By four hours in however, at about 40kms, I had successfully worked my way up to fifth place, just five minutes behind the leaders. I was exactly where I wanted to be and my legs felt fantastic with no issues whatsoever. The heat was there, but it wasn't actually beating me up at all. I actually said out loud and to myself, "Gary you can win this thing today, just keep dong what you're doing right now," and then within an hour it all came crashing down as all I wanted to do was to take a nap in the forest.
Everything from the neck down was doing its job and performing perfectly, but I basically started falling asleep if you will. My circadian rhythms seemed to be shutting me down when of course I needed them to be doing the exact opposite. The nine hour time difference from Vancouver to Spain was too much to tackle in but a few short days and I didn't sleep a wink the night before, so when we lined up at 6am this morning I'd been up for twenty-two straight hours. Home-time was 2am and my body was treating it as such.
At four and a half hours in I just lost all resolve and ability to perform, but I pushed on in the hopes it would pass. At six and a half hours I arrived at just passed the mid-way point of Benafigos (61km). My crew, and now good friend Isma was there, as he had been all day. I looked at Isma and told him I needed to sleep. I wasn't prepared to pull from the race just yet as I wanted to see if I could in fact just nap it off if you will. I lay in his car for 40mins, sleeping for about 20mins, but to no avail. I was done. I pulled from the race and am incredibly disappointed that I had to do so. Now you may counter with "well you still could have finished" and I would respond with "you're absolutely right" but that's not what I came for, and in fact that's exactly what I did when I ran here in 2012. That year the heat ate me up and spit me out and my legs seized up completely. I ran about 55km and walked the remaining 60km to finish in 16h30m. I've done it once on this course and I just wasn't up for doing it again. If I had stuck with it a few more hours maybe things would have turned around, but again that's not what I came for. I was here to podium, top five was my outer range and I was shooting for a 12h - 12h30m time frame. I could have and should have been there, but once that was gone the desire to just get it done was non-existent. I am also saddened to learn that Zaid and Nemeth had to pull from the race with their own issues today, presumably heat based.
I take what I do very seriously and I work incredibly hard at it, and when a race organization such as Penyagolosa Trails hosts me as one of their elite international runners I want to perform as much for them as I do myself. I cannot thank Tico and his crew of people enough, and there are in fact too many people to name right now. Each and every one of them has been amazing and has made my time in Spain that much more special. I told my crewman Isma that I was sorry I took up so much of his time today only to DNF, and he looked at me and said,
"I love the mountains, I love the people in the mountains, I love trail runners and the trail running community. Today was very special for me for many reasons, not the least of which was getting to know you and to call you a friend."
Truer words could not have been spoken.
I know this might sound funny, but I'm really proud of how I raced here today. Racing in Europe it tough business when you're travelling from half-way around the globe. I feel like I got 90% of my race right, and the 10% I didn't was out of my control as I just could not have travelled here any earlier. If the race distance were fifty kilometers, even sixty of seventy I'm sure this day would have been very different. I will chalk this up to jet lag, I will take my lumps and I will call it another lesson learned. I will continue to move forward, preferably up and into the mountains of course.