This Runner's Trials

DNF: Asbury Park Marathon Recap

Today I had my first Did Not Finish :(

I totally didn't see it coming, but perhaps I should have.

Sadly, this will not be a happy race recap. But I think I know where you can find one ;)

Background on the DNF reason

I try not to go in detail about my gastrointestinal issues (GI) on this blog, but I have them. A lot. Ask my friends ;)

I've dealt off and on with runner's trots but got it pretty much under control a couple of years ago. Then this June, right after my surgery, I experienced a whole other kind of stomach discomfort on runs: major cramping and nausea.

I thought this was due to the horrible, hot, humid summer weather and the fact that I have a low salt diet. So I upped my salt intake, but the feeling didn't completely go away.

In September, the nausea and cramps welcomed more kinds of GI distress that I won't share with you ;) My problems became an almost daily occurence. Ironically, this is the time my training  started to go down hill.Coincidence?

My husband encouraged me to cut out dairy. My BFF- who has celiac disease- told me to keep a food and symptom journal. My mom begged me to see a doctor. I ignored them, and just tried to eat more sodium.

The past 2 weeks, my stomach has been a mess. I'm constantly full, nauseous, or in the bathroom. I assumed this was from tapering. A cut in mileage without cutting calories= stomach problems, right?

It got so bad the past few days that I was barely able to eat when I should have been carbo-loading. I had a long chat with my BFF on Friday and I convinced myself it was just pre-race nerves. The mind is a powerful thing.

The night before the marathon

Last night, I had my usual pre-race dinner: pizza. Normally, for a half marathon, I eat 5 slices. Last night, I could barely stomach 2. I choked down a third but honestly thought I was going to get sick. Even my brother noticed my weird behavior and asked what the heck was going on.

Race morning

The last thing I wanted to do this morning was eat my regular pb&j bagel. It took me 40 minutes to eat half of my bagel. Unheard of. I only got through a fourth of my bottle of Gatorade and skipped the Honest Food bar snack I had planned.

Regardless of my stomach issues, I was ready to run this marathon. I was convinced I'd BQ...

It was a bit windy, but the weather was pretty ideal otherwise.

And you know what? I really did feel awesome when I started running. I was so glad I chose the Asbury Park Marathon. I couldn't think of a better place for a Jersey girl to run than along the beach ;)

As soon as the first mile marker came, so did my first stomach cramp. There is NO reason I should be cramping on mile one. I massaged it away and kept on trucking.

The race was going great. I kept an 8:00ish pace no problem. I knew I should slow down, but why bother if I felt great?

I took a sip of water at each aid station, about every mile. I thought this was weird- I normally drink Gatorade- but the thought of Gatorade made me gag. This should have been a warning sign...

At mile 6, I knew I had to eat. I didn't want to hit the wall so I knew I needed to start eating now or it'd be too late. I tried to eat my Sharkies, but I spit them out. I literally couldn't stomach them. I tried to take Gatorade, and it came right back up. I was in trouble.

Since I adopted a positive attitude recently, I decided not to dwell on my stomach issue. Instead, I told myself I was awesome, I was going to BQ, and went on my merry way. Ironically, between miles 6-7 I felt the strongest and had a great time. I wish I could bottle that feeling.

At mile 8 I couldn't ignore my stomach anymore. I tried to take Gatorade again and had no success. I knew the race was basically a fail for me, which was so hard to swallow because my legs felt great and my pace was right on target.

I didn't know what to do. I literally went from a BQ mindset to a DNF mindset within minutes. I didn't want to drop out. I had so many people counting on me and the thought of telling people I DNF'd made me tear up. But I also knew that it wasn't smart- or possible- to run a marathon without fueling. I just kept trying to eat and hoped the feeling would go away.

Around mile 10, I tried to do anything to make my stomach feel better. I slowed down. I ran/walked. I hunched over more when I ran. Nothing helped. Nausea was now accompanied by a pain on the left side of my stomach. I knew now I shouldn't finish the race.

Dropping out was a decision I didn't take lightly. I've done close to 30 races and have never had a DNF. I've wanted to stop in tough races, but never have. In fact, my hardest races are the ones I'm most proud of because I finished.

I saw my parents at mile 11 and told them what was going on. I grabbed my dad's water bottle and tried to drink that, and could barely get water down. They felt bad but told me it was the right choice. But I couldn't give up just yet. I told them I was going to run the loop to the end of the boardwalk and back to them before I made up my mind.

This is the first time I started feeling the effects of my not fueling. I got a little light-headed and felt slow. I had to drop out. If I kept running this time, I wouldn't have the option to turn away the ambulance.

At mile 12.5, I stopped. I reviewed my Garmin and saw I did those 12.5 miles at an 8:16 pace. Still on track to BQ :( It was SO hard to stop knowing I had done so well so far. But health is my number one priority. 

I'm really bummed. I know I made the right choice, but I feel like a loser.

I'm supposed to run another marathon in 13 days. I registered for it as a back-up in case this one didn't go right. But right now, I'm not so sure I want to do it.

Whether it was pre-race nerves, lactose intolerance, an issue stemming from  my surgery, or pregnancy (highly doubtful), there is definitely something going on with me. I feel like I need to take a step back from all out racing to get this issue straightened out.

Thank you all so much for all of the good luck wishes! Honestly, one of the reasons I didn't want to DNF is because I didn't want to let you all down. But, I've already received so many supportive messages. You guys are awesome. Thank you for understanding :)

Comments (53) Trackbacks (18)
  1. I am so, so sorry! I hope you can find a solution to your tummy troubles.

  2. aww jen i’m sorry about the race :(
    but you’re not letting anybody down if you’re listening to your body. this is just a minor blip on the radar… 1 DNF out of all the races you’ve done is nothing!!

  3. I’m so sorry that this happened. I can’t imagine how hard that decision was to make. We are all cheering for you to BQ, but not at the expense of causing yourself that much pain and suffering. I’m so glad you stopped when you did. Very smart. There will be more races and you will BQ. Take care of yourself!

  4. Jen! I’m SO sorry!!! Don’t feel like a failure cause you definitely are NOT one! Things happen-and sometimes those things are out of our control! You trained hard and you can be proud of yourself for everything you accomplisehd-whether you finished the race or not! I really hope you get the stomach issues figured out soon! That sounds miserable!! You are aweosme, girl! Don’t ever let anyone or anyone’s expectations make you feel otherwise!!! :0)

  5. So sorry to hear this :( We all know how hard you trained for this, so I can’t imagine how it feels to have to drop out. I hope you can figure out what’s causing the issue. Don’t feel like a loser, you definitely did the right thing!

  6. I’m so sorry Jen. You did the right thing by listening to your body, but I know you can’t help but feel disappointed. Please don’t feel like you’re letting anyone down; protecting yourself and honoring your body is far more important than anything else. I hope that you figure out what is going on with your stomach so that you can find a solution.
    Best wishes!

  7. Jen you are awesome and you did the right thing. I am so sorry that happened to you and I hope you get your stomach issues resolved. You are still a rockstar!

  8. While I’m really sorry that you’re not well and that you DNF’d….I’m so PROUD of you for making the right choice and not putting your health in danger.

    Your friends and readers are behind you no matter what!

  9. I know you are so disappointed…Please keep your head up and know that you are more than what your body tells you that you are. Sometimes our mind and body don’t correspond and its so unfortunate. I hope that your stomach issues are improved so that you can meet your goals!

  10. Oh, I’m so sorry! You didn’t let us down- internetty support is unconditional :)

    I agree with you re: taking a step back- normally I wouldn’t, for someone like you who is in good shape, but since you feel something is actually wrong, it’s best to get it checked out. You still have years to BQ!

  11. Oh Jen…I’m so sorry about your race today. I know you didn’t make this decision lightly and I’m sure it must’ve been heart-breaking for you. But PLEASE don’t feel like a loser or feel like you’ve let us down! You made the smart choice. Taking care of your health is number 1. And it takes a brave person to realize that during a race. Get some rest and take care of yourself. Try not to think about racing or marathoning right now. Just take a couple of days and pamper yourself…and then maybe go see someone? Whatever is going on, I really hope you feel better soon!

  12. You are so amazing! I felt so sad when I saw your DNF tweet. But being healthy is REALLY important. I hope tummy issues are good news!
    Take care!

  13. I know I already sent you a message, but I just want to reiterate how amazing you are. The decision you made today was just as difficult as a marathon. It’s not always easy to make the smart decision, but you did it. You continue to inspire!

  14. omg Jen that sounds so horrible, uncomfortable and like a serious medical problem. I hope that you go to a doctor to discuss these issues and get them taken care of!

    Don’t ever feel like a loser for being sick! That’s something that is totally out of your control and I know it is disappointing but I am glad that a DNF was the decision you made! That makes you an anti-loser in my book :)

  15. You’re so NOT a loser! You’re an amazingly wonderful woman! :) Way to think about your health and take care of yourself. Hopefully your story will inspire others to do the same.

  16. wahh im so sorry!! you will have 16 smiling faces telling you that you are awesome no matter what on tuesday!! and its true.

  17. i’m so sorry. sounds like you made a smart decision today and there will be races for you in the future. hope you feel better soon.
    amy from los angeles

  18. I’m so sorry for you! I can relate on the stomach issues : ( I have what they tell me is IBS and know how it feels to run through gastric issues. Not fun, especially on race day when you feel your own body has it out for you. You made the right choice, and the choice you had to make! Week after week you inspire people to run and set a glowing example. Feel better soon.

  19. You made the right decision for you, which is your only obligation! I hope you’re able to BQ in a couple weeks, but if not I know that you’ll be able to sometime in the future! Feel better!

  20. I’m sorry that this happened. But good for you for listening to your body. There are always going to be other races, just remember that.

  21. You did the right thing Jen! You are still the most awesome and inspiring runner I know! I know I wouldn’t have run my first half marathon without you. This race doesn’t define you and you will figure out what’s up with your bod and be back running soon I’m sure :)

  22. Thank you for stopping. You are such a positive role model in your running and part of that is knowing when enough is enough. It takes more guts (sorry for that choice of words) to quit in the middle of a race than to push through and risk bodily harm.

    You will be back running again soon. In the meantime, please listen to your body. Sometimes it whispers but now it’s yelling at you. You will be back running again soon!

  23. So sorry that you didn’t finish! But it’s more important that you take care of yourself, and continuing sounds like it would have had a much longer impact.

    Take care of yourself and it sounds like there’s more to be figured out with the stomach issues. Good luck!

  24. You are incredible for training and trying your best despite those stomach issues! I have similar issues and I spend a lot of time in bed, so that you don’t let your GI problems get you down is a huge inspiration. Good job! And I hope you figure out what is wrong and are able to fix it!

  25. Awww… Jenn. I’m so sorry. It sounds like you really did do the right thing. Just remember this isn’t your only chance to BQ, you’ll have a million of them and this is just one little blimp on the radar. <3 you girl! Lots of hugs and well wishes. :)

  26. I’ve only been reading for a few months, but I was really rooting for you! I’m so sorry it didn’t go as planned, but you did the right thing choosing future health over one race. This was a very brave, honest post. I’ve been having similar stomach issues lately, too, so I’m interested to hear what you find out about yours!

  27. Bummer dude :( I’m so sorry. It’s tough, but listening to your body is so so important. Hope your tummy troubles subside!

  28. Great job respecting your body!

  29. I’m so sorry. :( This decision had to be such a tough one, but you made the right call. Your health is the #1 priority and hopefully, you can get everything figured out soon.

    Hang in there! I still think you’re an inspiration. :)

  30. oh my goodness. I’m so sorry to hear about your troubles, especially when all else seemed good. But, you were right to stop, sounds like you couldn’t go any farther. I hope you’ll go see a doctor and they are able to help you with this so you can get back to running without any worries soon! You should feel great about going so far and doing so well!! I can’t do an 8:16 pace for 12.5 miles on my absolutely best day!

  31. Boo.

    Sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest, but I really think you did the right thing.

    Someone with less knowledge or experience might have tried to push through and suffered the consequences regretting it.

    The smart thing to do was to “save” your legs for a race that you can and will BQ. You won’t regret it when you finally do it on your next race!!!

    Lots of love,

  32. I’m so sorry to hear about your race. You’ve worked so hard and I can’t imagine how frustrated you must be feeling. I’m sure whatever next step you take will be the right one and for the record, you & your abilities are not defined by a race!

  33. I’m so sorry to read about your experience! I know you feel bummed. :-( But you truly are brave for deciding to stop, and there will be other marathons.

    I hope you sort out your tummy problems. I guess if you learned anything, it would be that now is the time to try to figure out what’s going on with those. :-/

  34. Jen, you are awesome for many reasons! First of all, I’m so impressed that this was not a “woe is me, the world is ending post” – you are clearly bummed and not happy with how it went, but you know your health is more important and there was nothing you could do about it, and you know there will be lots of other opportunities for your to BQ. You are a great runner with a wonderful mindset, and hopefully you can figure out what’s going on with your stomach soon! I can totally relate to the mentality of not wanting to recognize that you’re in pain or that something is wrong, but it seems like you knew when to stop thinking that way and start looking out for your wellbeing. There will be so many more races for you! On to the next :)

  35. Aww Jen… I feel your pain! I wasn’t nicknamed “Tender Tummy” for nothing!!! I understand completely where you are coming from and if you step back, do whats best for you. Either way, if you decide to run in two weeks or not, do it for you, don’t worry about what people might think or if you qualify- just run with a smile on your face… and if you decide not to run, come up to Boston for the race and stay with me and we can WATCH the Boston marathon- it will be just as fun : )

  36. It sounds like you might have IBS. It causes cramping and a bloated feeling from trapped gas, which can make you feel full and nauseous. Try eating more fiber (I take Citrucel once or twice a day) and probiotics pills and see if that helps (it takes awhile)- that’s teh treatment for IBS. Figure out what types of foods give you those symptoms. Activated charcoal is a lifesaver for the full feeling to release intestinal gas- it will help you eat. Peppermint oil pills help with cramps. I’m not a doctor, but this is what works for me. Good luck on your next marathon! It takes more courage to stop than to keep going.

  37. I think it is amazing that you listened to your body during the marathon! It could have been dangerous to continue. I’m sorry you are feeling down!

  38. Listening to your body doesn’t make you a looser. Knowing when to quit is one of the strongest things you can do. And loosers aren’ strong. Therefore, you are definatly NOT a looser!

    I hope you find a solution to your problem soon. I have the opposite problem, I get fun issues after I run (and eat).

    Feel better soon!

  39. You in no way let any of us down! You are still an amazing and strong runner. This post is so mature and rational.
    As you know I also have stomach problems too. I have been to several GIs to figure them out. I have medication to help but it still doesn’t solve my problems 100%, so I would recommend getting to a doctor right away since they can take a while to get you a diagnosis. It takes a lot of tests, but the sooner you know what is wrong, the sooner you will feel better.

  40. Jen – I am sorry to hear that you had to pull out. But like you said, you made the right choice for you at the time.
    I have had serious stomach (and general digestive) issues in the past as a result of my endo.
    It is something that has really affected my body and my ability to run when it happens.
    It can come on over a couple of weeks disguised as something else, or can come on in the space of an hour (usually after a particularly strenuous run)
    However, like you, the decision has to be taken to look after your health number one.
    I know that it is no consolation to you right now, but you will come back from this and will lay the Asbury demons to rest!
    Good luck with your recovery – I hope that you begin to feel better soon.
    Sending you good wishes!

  41. Wow, Jen, I’m so sorry. Have your doctors checked you out for any sort of IBS diseases, like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis? Whatever’s going on, I hope you feel better soon. And remember, you have your whole life to BQ!

  42. awwww Jen … I am so sorry! You did the smart thing and stopped. There will be plenty of other chances to BQ once you get the GI issues figured out. You are awesome :)

  43. That was a tough descision and I think you did the right thing! Still sucks hmmm?

    The chance to BQ will always be there, but now you have to take care of yourself and get better soon… You’ll rock your next race, no doubt about it!

  44. Jen,

    I have so much respect for you! What a difficult decision to make in the middle of a race. Try to remember that the marathon isn’t JUST about the race on race day, it’s all the effort and hard work you put into it months before. Be proud of your accomplishments up until this point. You are truly inspirational. Keep your head up!!

  45. You are a rock star! Your health is more important than anything, and hopefully everything will get sorted out and the next race will be great. You’ll BQ; it’s just a matter of when!

    Feel better!!

  46. Oh Jen – you definitely did the RIGHT thing by stopping. This race is just one of many that you will do, and certainly NOT a sign of failure. Your health is much more important than any race. Take care of yourself & get your stomach issue straightened out. Running will still be here when you do!

    Big hugs coming your way from here in FL.

  47. Again — so sorry to hear about your race experience :( It’s great you have another race lined up. I, too, have Philly . . . but now I’m dealing with some knee issues (might be ITBS) . . . I think I got a little over-zealous with my training. I’d say let yourself be upset for a few days (I certainly was!!!), but then just regroup and get back out there. It feels so awful right now, I know. But I did a race (half-marathon) the week after my marathon and it really helped with my confidence! Are there any shorter races you could do to get that crossing-the-finish-line feeling? <3

  48. So sorry to hear about this!! I hope you can figure out what’s wrong. I think it’s great that you listened to your body, but I know you worked so hard for this! You are amazing and have accomplished so much! I hope you feel better soon!

  49. So sorry to hear about your tummy issues! That is no fun. A DNF would not be an easy decision to make, but sometimes the best ones are the hardest. Hang in there. I hope things get figured out soon enough. Great pacing too!

  50. I DNFed at Chicago last week, my 2nd too with heat stroke at mile 15. I couldn’t keep anything down either. While you made the right choice, its the harder one to make and ultimately, feels like Sh!t. I was out for a new marathon last week, now I am not sure and taking a moment to think about it. Whatever you do, always do what’s best for you.

  51. i know this is not the way you hoped that day would end but you definitely did the right thing. if you would have kept going who knows what would have happened but a bad bonk is inevitable. smart girl pulling out and saving your legs. you definitely have a BQ in you, we all know that, its just finding the day to show it to the world :) hope you are feeling better and get that stomach figured out… sounds very frustrating :(

  52. Jen, I’m sorry I’m so late on here- but I’m SO sorry about the race. :( However, you are AWESOME and should be so proud of everything you’ve accomplished, and also proud that you were SMART and knew you needed to stop, otherwise who knows what could have happened to you… your health is a priority!

    I know that doesn’t make it any better though. :( I hope you are feeling better!!!

  53. My heart aches for you. Get those issues worked out and try again in 13 days! That BQ is your’s!

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