DNF Report: PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

On Sunday, January 18, 2009 I started out in the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. I don’t really need to bore anyone with the pre-race ritual or how things went for the first few miles. Just know that it seemed that my new plan for fueling myself was going well and the weather was beautiful.

6.7 miles… The point that people want to know about, right? My race had been on for 1 hour and 9 minutes and suddenly I was going down. Really, I don’t remember tripping at all. One minute I was running, the next I’m trying to be roadkill by performing a faceplant in the road.

I got up and said that I was okay, then immediately changed my mind about my status. I pressed my hand to my chin and was treated to a palm full of blood. My friends helped guide me over to the side of the road, I took my hand away from my chin and they all said, “That’s going to need stitches.” I put my hand back up, then glanced at my other hand and saw more blood running from wounds there and started to panic a little. I guess the sight of my own blood was starting to be a little more than I could handle!

My friends called Chuck, one of the coaches for the TNT group in the race, since we had just passed him a little ways back. A cop came to us and called the firemen for me. My friends removed my watch and waist pack from me, helped hold me steady, while I just stood there falling to pieces.

After waiting for the firemen for a while (it was probably about 5 or 10 minutes, but it felt like hours to me), the decision was made to walk back toward mile 6 on the course with Chuck to get to the firemen and my friends would continue on with their race.

Chuck and I walked back about a half mile to meet the firemen. They dumped water over my hands and wrapped them in some gauze, told Chuck they would take me to the aid station at 7.2 and loaded me into their truck.

We couldn’t park right by 7.2, we had to park about a half mile beyond. So I got out of the truck and walked with one of the firemen to the aid station at 7.2. I was still bleeding from my chin at this time. When we got to the aid station, they told the fireman they had nothing to help me and that I could walk to the aid station at 10.6 for help.

Yes… that’s right. They wanted me to walk to mile 10.6. Well if that’s what I was going to end up doing, I would never have gone BACKWARDS on the course nor would I have caught a ride FORWARD to walk BACKWARD on the course once more…

So the fireman and I walked the half mile back to the truck so he could drive me to the aid station at 10.6.

When I got to 10.6 they had me lay down on a cot, stuck a large band-aid on my chin and told me to get on a waiting shuttle. I boarded the shuttle, with 3 other people that were already on and waiting. One of the people on the shuttle was one of the elite runners who had hurt his hamstring. The others were people who had been trying to qualify for Boston and hurt themselves. I felt a little out of place, the slow girl shooting for a 4:30 on the course that fell on her face!

We waited… and waited… and waited. The shuttle driver came back to us and said, “We have to wait for at least 7 people on board before we can leave.” It’s terrible, but we made jokes about going out to trip some people just so we could leave. I thought it was kind of ridiculous to make us sit there and wait, especially since one of us (me) was actually bleeding!

Finally another shuttle came, all of us got off the shuttle we were waiting on and boarded the new one. There were already a couple people on the new shuttle and we had to drive to mile 13 to get one other injured person. After navigating the road closures, we finally got our last victim and the shuttle took us to the finish area. From there we were all booted off, the shuttle left and I felt lost.

I figured my mom had another hour in her race. I didn’t want to text her, on the off-chance that she may actually look at her phone and worry. No need to ruin her race, right? But what was I supposed to do for an hour? I decided to go find the finish line aid station and see if I could get more help or advice.

The finish line aid station didn’t want to take off any of the bandages that I had on my hands or chin, saying that it would be best if everything was just left alone. But they did give me some Tylenol, water and directions to the hospital closest to my hotel. I started shivering at this point, so they let me sit there with a blanket for a moment… but then they told me that I probably needed to leave since runners with blisters were coming in and needed the space.

So I wandered aimlessly back out to the parking lot. I let two girls use my cell phone to call their friends. I talked to two women who had run the marathon in about 3:30 and they were really supportive to me. One of them said, “Just remember, you’re still the same person that you were when you got up this morning. Maybe a little stronger though.” I love runners, they’re so awesome.

I called my husband a few times and explained to him why my online progress stats weren’t updating anymore. He kept refreshing his web browser at home to see if we could figure out my mom’s progress in the half. They never updated beyond her completing half the race while I was waiting, but based on her pace for the first half and her start time after the wave start, we figured out a rough estimate of when she should be finished. So I texted her to tell her where to find me when I thought she would be finishing… and it happened to be at EXACTLY the right moment as she crossed the finish line.

After struggling to find each other in the crowd, we made our way to the light rail station to catch a ride back to my car. There were a lot of runners on the train, all of them really supportive of my efforts and my DNF, sharing their own war stories. Again, I love runners!

We got off the train at the park and ride, got to my car and I drove myself to the emergency room. Yeah, I’m weird like that. I suppose I could have let my mom drive, but for some reason I felt obligated since it was my car.

We got to the hospital, got checked in, they took me in for x-rays on my wrist right away then called me into the back to see the doctor. I told my mom to stay in the waiting room, she doesn’t like to see the stitches process and I didn’t want her to get woozy. Unfortunately, they kept me in the back for HOURS. And there was some person in a room near me who kept puking really loud and whining and crying, saying something like, “I don’t want to, I don’t want to…”

After a while they went to get my mom so she could keep me company. She only had to be back there for a little while before the doctor came in to stitch my chin closed. He put a stitch on the inside, one that will dissolve and then put 8 stitches on the outside. A nurse cleaned out my hands, while seeming distracted by the Arizona Cardinals game on the TV outside. I wish he would have trimmed back some of the skin that is flapped over the wounds, but that would have been precious moments away from televised football. He bandaged my hands up, stuck a bandage on my chin over the stitches and they sent me on my way.

We got back to the hotel room at about 5:30 PM and ordered pizza, because other than a bowl of Lucky Charms at 5:00 AM and some course-ingested sugar, neither of us had eaten much that day. Plus my mom earned a splurge because she put forth a good effort in her race. I cried my way through trying to clean myself up in the tub with a wash cloth and called it a night.

Back at the hotel, after my 4 hours in the Emergency Room.
Back at the hotel, after my 4 hours in the Emergency Room.
My right palm has some large gaping holes (covered in bandages), my left thumb is sprained and has a gash around the base of it that re-opens every time I move, my chin is covered in road rash and has a cut that is stitched closed. It could have been worse, I could have broken bones or teeth. Lots of things hurt and make moving/chewing/motor skills kind of awkward, but overall I am okay.

So I earned my first DNF (Did Not Finish) in a race. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. But I’m coming to terms with the experience. It wasn’t ideal, but I’m sure it’s a character-building, lesson-teaching, strengthening, fortifying, blah-blah-blah type thing.

At least I’ve found my smile again!

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32 comments

  1. Jill, certaintly not the race you were looking for, but it is an experience none the less, and probably one you will never forget. Keep your head high (no pun intended) and keep on running!

  2. Oh my gosh,

    I cannot believe what you had to go through to get medical treatment. Sounds like the race organizers need to have a much better plan in place for treating injured runners, especially those with serious injuries and not just blisters. Runners should know ahead of time where they will need to go in the even medical care is needed. Makes us both angry to think about you haveing to walk anywhere to find help. Hope you are home and the recovery for both your mind and body will be speedy.
    Stub and Big Joe

  3. I knew that smile would come back sooner rather than later!!! You have a story that I was deeply enthralled reading about! I know you are still very disappointed! But remember you will be back stronger and tougher than ever!! It is a crappy “life experience”…sometimes you don’t ever want to have those…but they do show us what kind of person we are-and you are a STRONG WOMAN!!! Don’t ever forget that!!

    I’m so glad you wrote a race report! I’m so glad you shared your experience with us! Damn did you get to ride in a fire truck? I am SO JEALOUS!!! And you were with a fireman. I have a thing for fireman!! Look how lucky you are!!

    It was an awesome report-and they definitely need to be a bit more prepared for injuries!!!

  4. I keep remembering this spot where I almost tripped in the first half of the race and wondering if it was the same spot. Both me and Malinda stumbled a little on it. The road just rose up like a speed bump almost but you couldn’t see it at all. Also, we’ve had a lot of rain and cold weather this winter and I’ve noticed a lot of new potholes come out. That is too funny that you just had to wait for someone to get injured. I’m surprised that Elite Racing didn’t have that organized better. Usually I am impressed by their organization. Man you really banged up your hands too. Ouch! I wish you had a better experience here! Yes you should come back next year. If you are looking for a race sooner there is a great one here on Feb 15, they have a full, half, 10k, 8k and 5k. http://www.lostdutchmanmarathon.org/ Its supposed to be a beautiful course. You are welcome to stay with me. We have comfy private guest room. Hope you feel better and yes, I agree that next time we should have lunch or something. Maybe I’ll make it to vegas for a race in the next year. Still trying to put my finger on what races I will do in the next few months.

  5. Rolf: You’re right, it’s not something I’ll forget and it does make an interesting story. I had to laugh at the “Keep your head high” remark, even if you didn’t mean the pun. That’s great…

    Stub & Big Joe: Yep, I’m back at home now. It was kind of frustrating and I was surprised that there so many doctors at aid stations but they weren’t equipped to help me. But then, I usually find getting medical help a frustrating experience in general anyway. I’m fighting to find someone to take my stitches out at the end of this week now!

    Penny: Are you secretly a motivational speaker? Because you have some awesome words of wisdom. Yeah, I rode in one of those smaller fire trucks, not the big ones. And I got carted around by two firemen, that was kind of fun. If I had thought of it, I would have tried getting a picture of me, covered in blood with my fireman rescue!

    Alissa: I wonder if that was the same spot. It did seem to me the roads were a little rougher than I remembered them last year, but then they’re still better than San Antonio’s roads were! I was surprised at the poor organization in the aid area, Elite is normally so on top of everything. If they want to make it up to me by providing free entry into a future PF Chang’s race, I would accept that! 😉

    Thanks for the Lost Dutchman link… that looks cool. I may have to do that one someday, if not this year! (My race “bucket list” keeps getting bigger and bigger!) And do try to make it to Vegas… especially now that RNR is in charge of the race! PF Chang’s in January, Seattle in June and Vegas in December… sounds like a good plan to me. 😉

  6. i was thinking of you this weekend, and hoping your race went well. Too bad about your DNF, but all runners need a good DNF story to tell right? This seems a good one…I suppose you could top it with say giving birth in the middle of the race or something?!

    Hope all heals well and quickly!

  7. that must’ve been one heck of a fall! i can’t believe they didn’t rush you anywhere sooner and made you do all that waiting instead. while i can imagine how frustrating a dnf can be, at least you have a good reason! your post-er pic is so cute, i love that you are wearing your running attire still. 🙂 hope you are continuing to heal and that the soreness is gone!

    ps – were the fireman at least hunks? 😉

  8. Heather: That would be an AWESOME story… giving birth during a race, or right as I came across the finish line. How do you time something like that? 😉

    Lindsay: Thanks, I think that may be one of my best “race photos” ever! The firemen weren’t bad… a little short though, they were about my height and I’m just 5’5″. But they were entertaining and kind to me!

  9. Jill,
    You don’t know me, but I read about your mishap/misstep and just wanted to thank-you. You see, now I know that my achilles tendonitis is NOTHING compared to what you’ve gone through!! Sorry to see you had such a challenging and frustrating experience. But I can tell it’s made you a stronger person. Glad to see you’re able to be upbeat about it. Hmmm, shouldn’t you have had GOOD luck with bib #7070?? Rest, relax, get well soon, and keep everyone updated on how you’re doing. Thanks for sharing.

  10. So I started blog-jumping and ended up here just because you posted that you were a Vegas girl and recently was marathon-bound.

    KUDOS to you! No matter how well/poorly/if you finish, I think anyone that puts in the time commitment to train for a marathon and mentally prepare for one is already amazing.

    I attempted my first marathon in December (the Vegas one, actually – I grew up in the city, and though that coming back would be awesome)… my best friend and I were halfway through the race when we were both struck with injuries (her hamstring, my ankle & IT band). Because we’d flown all the way from the East Coast, put in a lot of training, we decided to tough it out. Eightish hours later (yes, 8), we limped across the finish line into the arms of our waiting significant others and got our medals… yeah, we limped for 14+ miles (the course even got screwed up, and we ended up going 27.7miles!) and refused to get on the sag wagon.

    Trust me, that’s not to diminish your injury – had I been visibly bleeding in any sort of way, I would’ve let the meds take me in, too!

  11. I can’t believe they expected you to walk back and forth (while bleeding nonetheless) to get to the various aid stations that could help you… definitely something to learn from. Sorry you had such a tough experience, but so glad you wrote the race report anyway.

    Love the picture of you with the bandaged hands…You’ll get ’em next time.

    Take care…

  12. Rick: Yeah, bib number #7070 does seem like it should be kind of lucky, huh? Thanks for your kind words. I will definitely keep everyone updated on my progress.

    Darcey: I’m so sorry you had a rough time in the Vegas marathon. I actually did the half at that event. It’s a tough call to know what to do on the course. I did the 2008 PF Chang’s marathon and my knee gave out at mile 23. I limped the last 3 miles (no way would I have quit at that point!). At least you got the medal, that has to count for something! 🙂

  13. I agree with Penny, they do sound like they need some help organizing their “Aid” stations. To tell you to walk forward 4.6 miles to another aid station – I’d have smacked that person.

    And now I’m curious too – was the fireman cute at all? I love men in uniforms like that! 🙂

    Glad you are smiling again, and that you did write about this. I am sure it was like therapy, right?

    Terri

  14. I can’t believe they had to drag you around like that! At least it makes sense to me now… I could swear I ran by you farther down the course than 6.7 miles.

    I have to say, the picture of you above, you look very… content. I know you were far from feeling that way. But there is a positive glow to you in that shot, I can’t quite put my finger on it.

    I’m glad you’re healing, even if the whiskers are getting itchy!

    XOXO

  15. I read this while I was at work earlier today and I’ve just been infuriated ever since. It was sad enough to hear that you were unable to finish, but to have gone through so much trouble afterword is just salt in the wound, literally. You seem to be pretty positive about the whole ordeal, but I’m just appalled at how lousy you were treated! I work pretty closely with emergency medical services, I know enough about how we operate to say that for an event of this size and caliber, they were seriously poorly prepared. I’m just shocked at the incompetance and rudeness! It’s just rediculous and unacceptable. I seriously want to chew out the organizers and the responders and tell them how to get their act together before next year’s marathon!

    Well, I hope sharing the story was theraputic. I feel better now that I’ve ranted a bit too. Hope you have a speedy recovery!

    For all you looking for firemen, I know a few in Salt Lake!

  16. […] In keeping with my “Off-Season Epiphany“, I’m allowing myself a brief break this week. It should cool back down to the 90′s next week and I will be ready to run again then. I have even gone so far as to write a marathon training program for myself that begins next week. Am I signed up for a marathon? Uh…. no. Will I register for a marathon? Perhaps… But I am really getting the itch. It’s been a long time since the infamous DNF… […]

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