DNF – Did Not Finish: an occasion when a runner, rider, driver, etc. who is competing in a race does not manage to finish the race.

This was supposed to be my post-ultra debrief after Tryavna Ultra, a 141km foot race with over 6500m of elevation gain. It turned out to be my first ever DNF.

Records are built. So are DNFs. Basically, it’s the racing equivalent of quitting.

I hate quitting.

Hate is a very powerful feeling. It almost took over Europe in early 40s due to some dudes hatred towards others. Its still omnipresent amongst us, day by day. Hate can poison your brain in record time. And just like any other poison, it will haunt you days on end and then it will kill you.

After more than 18 months of no official races, I thought this ultra might be a great restart. I thought of it as a really neat run a couple of months before, but as the weeks passed by, pleasure faded and uncertainty took its place. I started putting more and more pressure that I need to perform, I need to cash in on that training, that I must focus on others rather than my own little stupid race… and eventually, it got me.

I had a really busy season this year, not just training but with personal matters as well. We had moved twice in the past 6months. New house, new problems, a lot of unfinished things to take care of, the never-ending PORC store that we started in January, a wedding get-together we had to take care of and so on. It was quite a roller coaster and most of the days felt like being in a tumble dryer with seconds of pause in between cycles to focus on a particular matter.

The week started light. I felt good as I had a great training period over the last 6 months, but little to no mountain runs. I tried to make it up with my incline trainer, weight training, and hoped for the best.

I left Bucharest with George on Thursday, Cristina and Alex joined us by Friday, just before the start. I love seeing them as they stood by in my darkest and best hours.

My goal for this race was to finish it within 27hrs.

27hrs of insecurity, doubt, fear. Within these 27hrs, they are my sense of security.

My mind was spastic in the days before the race, quickly shifting between nutrition plans, ceramic tiles, suppliers to pay for the event, hydration plans – it was all a mess. I couldn’t think straight for 5 minutes as something else would pop out. This took humongous real estate in my mind with little to nothing available for the race itself.

Everything was off: I didn’t feel like running at all, I didn’t even want to look at the elevation plot, I didn’t memorise the checkpoints and relied on meh, I’ll just look on my watch, I didn’t calculate any food intake, I barely planned my food one night before but mostly because I had to rather than looking forward to.

It was the perfect recipe for disaster.

Where there is no order, there can be only chaos.

-the old dude from Pi

The race started fast, way too fast and I felt that over the first kilometres. 4:30min/km is too fast for a 141k race but I just let myself get carried by the front pack. 2nd kilometer: 4:20min/km. Even faster. I knew I will blow up eventually but I still kept going.

This race felt so short that I don’t even feel there’s any ground to cover in between the checkpoints. After almost 8 hours of running, my mind hit a wall that I had no tools to conquer. I was beaten.

I thought I was going to die. Literally.

Ultras are a funny game. You either die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Looking back, I wish I would have settled for a slower pace. I wish I didn’t pick up the pace with another dude that felt too fast at that point (newsflash: we DNFed in the same checkpoint). I wish I would have had more tools at that time to figure shit out rather than calling it a day.

I stated multiple times: the mind gives up before the body. More here.

The sense of disappointment regarding my crew is so strong that I don’t think I could ever face them again.

On to the next one. It’s just one DNF.

It doesn’t cancel all my training.

It doesn’t cancel the countless days when I had literally no will to train but still did it.

It definitely doesn’t cancel the fact that I will cash in on those traingings at TOR.

Rome wasn’t built in a day & it didn’t fall overnight. – Jocko Willink