It’s hard to put into words a race that I have DNFed (did not finish), but I will do my best. I will also try not to whine as much as possible, but this was a hard race. There were positives that came out of this experience, not just pain and agony 🙂
Lets start with a little back story on the trail itself. It is located in the Ouachita forest, which spans part of western Arkansas and Oklahoma. This particular trail is outside of a small town called Mena. ABF is located near a small community called Big Fork. If you are wondering what ABF stands for it’s Athens Big Fork, which is a historic postal trail created over 130 years ago. The trail runs north to south which causes it to run up and down a total of 8 mountains, with just a handful of switch backs. The trail it’s self is roughly 10 miles long.
So lets get into the agony and suffering part….just joking. When Josh and I first arrived at the Big Fork community center (super small building). The dirt parking lot was filled up with vehicles and roving runners. I could feel my excitement for the run growing stronger and stronger. When we made it inside, we signed the runners list and pick up our numbers. I was 96 and Josh was 97.
As we all lined up (there were only about 90 of us) I was ready to complete the hardest marathon in Arkansas. We ran about 2.5 miles of road before we hit the trail. At first the trail was piney and soft. The trees were just starting to blossom, there were purple flowers dotting the ground everywhere, just beautiful.
I felt exhilarated and full of energy. There was one point while coming down the first mountain, that I was telling Josh that I felt like a deer in the woods. We were laughing and having fun. The scenery was beautiful and the company was good.
We hit the first aid station and blew past. I hadn’t drank any water or fueled yet. That was when we hit the first stream and things became extremely rocky and technical. The water was cool and refreshing. My Carson’s (brand of my shoes) took the water like a champ. We ran over 3 more mountains, to make the cut off for the marathon. Of course we made it, and I was still going strong. My muscles were a little tired, but I didn’t think anything about it. I fueled with our fat bombs (almond butter, coconut oil, pink salt, and coco powder), and drank my water.
We had 4 more mountains to go up and over, we would hit the last aid station, then turn around. 3 mountains in and about 6 stream crossings later, I started to lose my mojo. The mountains were taking their toll out on my legs. The turn around aid station was lacking, the people were okay. We continue on our trek.
By the next aid station (3 more mountains). I was dying inside, but I’m not a quitter. My body hurt and my mind was slowly being poisoned by negative thoughts. I tried to keep my thoughts on my son, getting back to his smiling face. I tried telling myself we were almost done. I resorted to talking to myself. Telling myself I was strong, I could do it, they were just mountains, but my body was not listening to any of it. My knees were killing my on the down hill, the back of my knees were killing me on the up hill.
It was at that point with my muscle spazing out, that I realized I had under trained. I had been running, doing my squats, and lifting weights, but I had not been doing race specific exercises. I wasn’t doing hill repeats, and I wasn’t trail running as much. I wanted to push through. I wanted to complete my race.
By the fifteenth mountain I had hit my wall, I was trying to climb over it, but I just couldn’t. When we arrived at the last aid station I was done. I couldn’t continue. I was feeling defeated. Josh and I were informed that we were not to go on, we were done. It was a relief and heart breaking at the same time. I stood there legs shacking, trying to hold back my tears. I felt like I was letting down my son and daughter. That I was a failure, but then there was this ray of light, I realized that I wasn’t a failure. I was human and I had hit my limit end point.
In the future I would train appropriately. There would be times that I would not finish. There would be times when I would hurt so bad, but still cross the finish line last. There would be times that I would smash everyone and feel on top of the world, just not today and not this race.
I walked away relieved it was over, ready to see my children and put it all behind me, but always remember that I am human, good days and bad days will always be in my future.-SH