Ultrarunning DNF podcast episode

Chantelle Robitaille: Lessons From The Dreaded Ultrarunning DNF

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Getting beyond a DNF
  • Keeping the big picture in perspective
  • Uncovering motivations that will lead to your success
  • Setting A, B, and C goals
  • How to diagnose whether you should continue or DNF?
  • Understanding the difference between hurt and hurting?
  • How to evaluate what went wrong during your race

Guest Bio:

Chantelle Robitaille is a CTS Coach, ultrarunner, and the CTS Coaching Development Director who holds a Master of Science in High Altitude Exercise Physiology. Read more about Chantelle here.

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform

Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Speaker 1 (00:06):


Corrine Malcolm (00:07):

My guest today is CTS colleague, Chantelle Robataille, not only is Chantelle an important member of our running coaching staff at CTS, but she is also our coaching development director, helping us grow growing our new coaches. It’s really exciting to have someone in this position right now before joining our team, Shantelle went back to graduate school and a career transformation where she earned a master’s of science and high altitude physiology. Shantelle, welcome to the show.

Chantelle Robitaille (00:33):

Good morning. It’s great to be

Corrine Malcolm (00:35):

Here. Yeah. Thanks for waking up and setting some time aside this morning to have some coffee with me and talk about what I think is a really important conversation anytime a year, but particularly right now. So I brought you onto the show because I wanted to talk about that dreaded three letter acronym DNF, or did not finish. We’ve all been there. I mean, okay. I’ve been there at least. Um, and I know many of our athletes have been there as well, and for many DNS can feel devastating, but I don’t think they have to be. So recently, I think last week we were having a conversation with one of our other coaches, Duncan, who was brilliant. And he mentioned that most of our new athletes coming into CTS, they’re often coming in because they’ve recently DNF their goal race and they want to change something. They don’t want to do that again next year. So this got my gears turning. And I’m wondering that if you’ve thought of that before, and if that’s directed any initial conversations you’ve had with new athletes coming in to your roster,

Chantelle Robitaille (01:38):

I think that was a good moment because I think we both experienced this. We’ve had athletes that have obviously come to us because of a recent DNF. And if I really think about it, a good number of them, um, but I guess I never really, you know, put it into Duncan’s framework about that, that being their reason. And it definitely does shape things, but I suppose not any different from any other athlete that we get, because when someone’s new, where we’re always looking at who the athlete is, where they’re coming from, what are their, what are their pain points? What are their challenges and areas for growth. And I suppose if they’re coming for the sole reason of the DNF, it’s not really, maybe they feel in that moment that it’s defining them, but it doesn’t define you at all. Yeah.

Corrine Malcolm (02:25):

I think it’s easy for, right. For your results or your lack of results to feel like that’s your, your self worth. But it’s interesting to me to be like, okay, is that, is that their sole motivation? Like what else is motivating them all of a sudden, how do you maybe steer, if you have an athlete come in and where you all of a sudden get a sense that their sole motivation is to get redemption at a race where they’ve DNF, like how, how can you steer that conversation to try to find other points of motivation? It’s a, it’s hard to suspend the next 12 months or 10 months or whatever it is training solely for redemption. So I’m wondering if there’s other motivation points you can pull in easily with those athletes.

Chantelle Robitaille (03:05):

That’s it, that’s a good point. And maybe for some of them that is kind of a starting point. Like, I don’t want to feel this way again. Um, I don’t want to go through that again. So maybe there is a sense of redemption, but in order to, in order to think about like how you’re going to move forward in those 12 months, there has to be more than just thinking about that one point in time. Right? Because that, that one point in time is so small when you consider the weeks, the months, the years that go into your training and your development. So yes, it’s important if that’s, you know, a key factor for them, like I’m going to go, I failed at the bear and I’m going to run the bear again, you know, cause that was just a recent one that should be, you know, a more motivating factor, but we still want to look at, okay, what are, let’s break it down?

Chantelle Robitaille (03:51):

What are the reasons why we think that you weren’t able to complete that goal and look at all those little pieces and think about how we can weave those little pieces into the next 12 months. Sometimes that’s, you know, they, weren’t very focused in their training. Sometimes there was too much other stress in their life and it had nothing to do with themselves as an athlete per se. Um, th those things we have to look at, so we have to look at like the really broad picture to get them from this point now, to where we want to go. And if we only focus on that one day, we’re going to miss a lot of opportunities for growth along the way.

Corrine Malcolm (04:32):

Yeah. I think that’s important. I’m, I’m personally an athlete and a coach where I need to have lots of little wins along the way to the, to the big race day, because I find that if you put all this pressure on that one big race day two, that’s just a recipe for disaster as well. Like you have to, you have to think about K about these little goals that I’m accomplishing every single day or every single week where I’m checking the boxes. And so that race day, I think is just a replication of that. So you’ve got athletes coming in with DNS that are focused solely on it, but then I’ve got athletes who maybe they’ve never DNF if they’re a newer to ultra running event or they’ve never DNF, they’ve gotten really lucky. They’ve never had any big GI GI issues. They’ve never been injured out on the trail.

Corrine Malcolm (05:12):

Um, they’re fast enough that they’re not worried about cutoffs or they haven’t raced this length before. So they haven’t had to think about cutoffs yet. Like what do you, you know, we talk about alternating being like, yes, it’s physical, we’re prepping you physically, but it’s also mental and emotional. Um, I don’t know that. I think sometimes we don’t want to talk about DNS or the possibility of DNS because you know, maybe that’s bad luck. Um, so is there a way to set athletes up to handle that decision making process in a race better? Like, can we preempt those conversations when we’re doing race prep with everything else?

Chantelle Robitaille (05:45):

I think that’s a good question. And I think sometimes helpful, you know, it’s helpful to talk about there’s a lot of, um, emotion involved right in the inner race day. And so I think throughout the course of the training schedule, I think as a coach, there are some interesting things that we can pick up on. Particularly if you have an athlete that’s really interested in the sport. Um, now we have, you know, thanks to you and, uh, Dylan and a few other, uh, magical unicorns out there. We have the ability to watch a lot of really cool races unfold that we, in a way that we wouldn’t have otherwise. So those are really great. Those for me have been great talking points for athletes, you know, looking at UTM, be seeing elite athletes, having to drop out, um, listening to podcasts where athletes are breaking down their racist and what worked for them and what didn’t, you know, Dylan just did a great podcast recently that I really enjoyed with Courtney to Walter about the decision making processes and making sure that you’re having those are great talking points because athletes listen to that and go, wow.

Chantelle Robitaille (06:50):

Even the great and powerful Courtney to Walter has a bad day. Right. And that’s all it is. And I think she said some really cool things that I often mentioned to athletes like, okay, you prepared for this day, you were all excited about it and it didn’t work out the way you planned. Emma sucks, give yourself a timeline. Like you can be sad. You can be angry. You can be upset for a little while. Don’t pitch up 10, live there,

Corrine Malcolm (07:15):

Not worth it. The energy expenditure there is just not, not worth it. Courtney’s such a great example of that. Right. She’s the, the, I I’ve always gotten the sense that those DNS aren’t devastating to her. Like she’s like, okay, it’s not my identity. Like I’m going to get back out there and to bounce back. So I think most of us were like, wow, she bounced back so quickly from that DNF to when you TMB. But it’s like, if you’re not pitching a tent there and you’re addressing what went wrong,

Chantelle Robitaille (07:41):

There’s nothing like, yeah,

Corrine Malcolm (07:43):

That’s great. I think that’s a great example that we should all take take away. I also think that there’s probably, do you think there’s ways in training, be it long runs, be it interval days, intensity sessions where we can kind of practice those, those emotional decision points with athletes?

Chantelle Robitaille (07:58):

Definitely because sometimes just like, you’re going to have maybe a bad race day, you’re going to have a bad training day, you know? And so the same thing, like don’t dwell on it. If you see, you know, I think about like when I see athletes comments on a bad day and then I see, and then the next day then like I had a great sleep. I had such a good run today. Life is good, you know, and just remember that when you have those bad days, like they’re going to happen, right. Life is a long journey, just like a hundred miles is a long journey, you know, and racing and running these races. It’s a long journey that we want to do for a long time. And we do it more, you know, for, for many different reasons, right? The sense of community, the sense of accomplishment, the ability to run in new places and explore new places and do new things. So it’s more than just the finish line.

Corrine Malcolm (08:48):

Yeah. I think that’s really interesting. I think I always tell athletes, like hopefully training is hard enough that you, like you’ve done that racing is easier and a, of like that you’re going to have terrible days. And I laugh. I was laughing a little bit when you talked about athletes and making these comments on bad days, because we’ve all read them, we’ve all written them. I mean, and I was just thinking, I was looking through training logs last night and I totally had that. I had an athlete who thought that he had totally sucked in this interval workout and then felt great the next day. And also the intervals weren’t that bad. Like I looked at them and I was like, really, these are, these are pretty decent intervals. Like I think it’s this perception that things might not be going as well as they should in this comparison game that we all get stuck in, both in racing and in training as to why we might not be as good as we were last week or next week, or as good as this person that we’re idolizing. So I think it’s, it’s, it’s practice points. You can get, you can, I think, grow those mental gears during training and put them into practice during race day.

Chantelle Robitaille (09:44):

Exactly. And I think one thing I always try to instill in athletes that I work with is that don’t think of the fact that maybe that workout didn’t go as well as it should. You know, it might be like a bunch of small things went wrong. We’ve all had those days. Right. But we have those days in other situations too, right. You have a bad day at work or dislike stuff happens all day long. Or if you’re a parent, you ha you know, your kids are having, are driving a kind of crazy because they’re going through something. It doesn’t mean that they’re a bad kid. They’re just having a bad day or a bad time, you know, and you have to just wake up the next day and try it again. And I like to think when, when things don’t go, right, we can look at okay, can we pinpoint a reason why that didn’t go very well?

Chantelle Robitaille (10:27):

Right. Like in a training session, you know, did you have a poor sleep the night before? Were you having a particularly stressful day? Did you forget to eat for crying out loud? Right. Like let’s, let’s face it. There’s lots of reasons. So it’s not a failure. It’s just an it’s, it’s a learning opportunity. What can we, what can we learn from it so that you don’t repeat that if it’s something you have control over, what can we do so that you don’t repeat that mistake the next day, right? How can you set yourself up better the next time? And I think at DNF is the same thing. It’s just obviously probably a little bit of a longer time stretch, right? Within a race. If you’ve had to drop out at, let’s say, you know, mile 70 of a hundred mile race, it’s a longer stretch. And there might be a few more things, but that’s good because if we can figure out what went wrong, we can figure out how to not do it again and how to, how to prepare better so that it doesn’t happen again.

Corrine Malcolm (11:24):

Yeah. And I’ve noticed, I mean, like there’s obviously people drop out for so many different reasons. You get timed out, you know, that happens. Um, you decide that you can’t go on you, your it’s not your day, you’re injured, whatever it might be. And I think something I’ve noticed in myself. So I was at UTB in 2019 and I got this terrible stomach bug. I came into the race, super, super fit. And if I had gone into the race, knowing like my only goal was to finish the race because I wanted a Hardrock qualifier, for example, I probably could have handled what I was dealt that day a lot better. But because my goal was to, I was going into really competitive ambitions. I like was like, I’m not walking it in. And I pulled the plug and like, you know, for someone else, we probably could have walked it in and not a terrible time.

Corrine Malcolm (12:10):

And so I think it’s really interesting looking at my athletes to say, okay, how are we setting you up for success or failure in this race, by the goals that you go in with it, you know, what is a goal beagles, seagull, Deagle, like try having that conversation ahead of time so that when it, when things go wrong on the trail, you have a framework to adjust to. And I’m wondering if you’ve used, if there’s any set framework you use with athletes so that they don’t get surprised out there. Like I did in 2019 where I was like, I’m done this, isn’t what I wanted. Um, because afterwards I had to reconcile with that. Like, what did I actually want out of the race? And could I have changed that by just going into the better framework?

Chantelle Robitaille (12:49):

And I think that’s, that’s again an important lesson, right? When, when athletes see that, you know, and learn, I think now with all the podcasts and interviews and things, we have, we get to learn a lot from athletes like yourself that are very seasoned athletes, high level athletes working super hard. And yeah, you could tough it out to the finish line, but that wasn’t your goal that day. And also if you had tufted up to the finish line in under those circumstances, what kind of damage would that do for future training? So it’s always, it’s always a cost benefit analysis. And I think when setting goals with athletes definitely there’s an angle, which might be a particular, uh, time, you know, there might be a beagle time. Um, there might be, you know, that Deagle time is just like that dreaded death March. Maybe the Deagle is the death March the death March to the finish line.

Chantelle Robitaille (13:42):

Does that, you know, does that belt buckle mean anything different to you maybe in the case of certain races, maybe it’s a different color, but you still earned it. Right. So you have to think about all these things. So does it make sense to continue to that finish line? Because sometimes just because you can continue doesn’t necessarily mean that you should write. The goal is always to maybe in an elite athletes case, the goal might be finishing the race and still being able to recover and train for the next event that’s coming up. Maybe the next event for them is even more important for most athletes. However, the goal should be being able to, you know, finish the day or finish the race with the ability to recover and still be able to run and enjoy running. And if, if you, you know, obviously getting timed out is a different situation, right.

Chantelle Robitaille (14:36):

But if you have to make that, that difficult decision at an aid station where you come in and the crew is telling you like, oh, you look awesome, keep going. And you burst into tears. Um, and you think about, you know, what’s, what’s going on and diagnosing, always think about, can I continue, you know, as one and two, should I continue? You know, is what I’m dealing with. Is this going to cause long-term damage? Is this going to cause a potential health problem? Or am I just in a funk? And I need to just keep going a little while longer and see how I feel at the next aid station. And that’s, that’s a tricky choice sometimes, right?

Corrine Malcolm (15:18):

Yeah. It’s an incredibly tricky choice. I think it’s important. I’ve had this conversation with athletes recently to saying, okay, like particularly newer athletes to the sport. Um, like you’d have a conversation with your crew ahead of time about this, because, you know, if it’s your loved one or your parent or someone crewing you, like, they don’t wanna see you in pain, they don’t want to see you hurt right. Or hurting rather. Right. Like it’s, it’s uncomfortable to see your loved ones, you know, friends, family, um, being like being that uncomfortable. And I think having a conversation with your crew ahead of time can be really important too. Like these are the scenarios in which I really want to stop. Like I know I’m going to hurt at some point. I know like that that’s the nature of a hundred, right? At some point it’s going to hurt and I’ve like, I’ve got to choose if I want to be uncomfortable or not.

Corrine Malcolm (16:05):

And knowing what you’re willing to be uncomfortable for versus what you know is worth me pulling the plug over. Because I think your crew, then it’s not fair to them to put that pressure on them, to help make them make the choice for you of like, should we encourage them to continue or not? And so I think having a really honest conversation with your crew ahead of time, like really, really think about it like, like is, is the death March? Is you finishing at all costs important? And then your crew recognizing that like, okay, like this is really important. They don’t have another race coming up that they want to finish at all costs type of thing. Versus, you know, we’re hyper critical of elites as well for dropping out of races because every, you know, we all, everyone else sticks it out and guts it out and finishes under, you know, less than ideal circumstances at times.

Corrine Malcolm (16:50):

Like, why do I need to drop out? But you know, everyone’s got their own reasons for racing and their own seasons that they’re trying to protect. But I do think that that crew member or that crew chief or whoever it is, becomes a really important component so much. So that there’ve been a few athletes where I’ve been willing when they’ve, when they brought it up to like, I’ve, I’ve had a meeting with like the athlete and their crew chief ahead of the race to be like, okay, like, let’s talk about what you really want out here. Like, what is the goal? What are they allowed to say to you? Or not allowed to say to you out on the course, because otherwise it’s just like the person’s guessing like this person is saying they really don’t like it right now. So I’m wondering if you’ve experienced that with an athlete or if you’ve encouraged an athlete to come up with any sort of, you know, like maybe it’s a safe word with their career. Like when they say this they’ve done, like, what does that, like, what are they going to say, uncle out there?

Chantelle Robitaille (17:43):

I think that’s a good one. Having, having that safe word or saying uncle, I think definitely, you know, coming, going into a race, you should always have a plan. You know, a plan, a B, C, D. Um, even though for the most part, you know, plans are only as good as the day you write them. I think it’s still good to go through that mental process of if I’m having a really great day, here’s what the day’s going to look like. Right. Here’s what my times are likely to look like. Here’s what aid station turnarounds are probably going to look like if I’m having a less than ideal day, here’s what things could look like. Here are things I know that are helpful for me. Here are things that I know definitely won’t help me, you know, is your, is the athlete a tough love person? Or do they need a cheerleader? Because if they’re a tough love person, they’re not really going to enjoy the cheerleading. You know, when you come in and people say like, you look amazing, and I’ll never forget saying that to someone once. And they said, where the F are you looking?

Corrine Malcolm (18:43):

That is such a critical thing to talk about with athletes? Like what, what do you want to hear out there? Like, I was an athlete I distinctly remember. And in high school, I think it was a parent or my brother and my little brother was running along the cross country. Like cross country course, like cheering for me. And I yelled back at him. I was like, stop, like go away. Like I do not like this. And having that, having that snow. Oh, no, it’s okay. Having that is so important. Like being told like, oh, it’s close. Or, you know, like for ski racing in particular, like that was the thing I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to know splits. I didn’t want to know exact splits. I wanted them just to tell me that every second counted because it’s all I needed to hear, to stay motivated.

Corrine Malcolm (19:27):

And so I think it is, that’s a great conversation to have with your crew. Like what do you want a cheerleader? Do you, do you respond well to tough love, like recognizing that about yourself and it might take a race or two to figure that out. Um, and if you want to figure that out before your big a race so that no one is surprised, come, come to am at an aid station somewhere. But I, I liked that the, like the full conversation of, do you want a cheerleader? Do you want tough love? Like, how are you? Are you, are you a compliant three-year-old when you race or are you like kind of a difficult child when you race? Like what, like, what is your racing? Yeah.

Chantelle Robitaille (20:01):

And you’re terrible twos. Are you and your terrible twos, or can you rationalize

Corrine Malcolm (20:06):

Personally? I’m a very, like, just like docile toddler where they’re like, eat this now. And I’m like, okay. And they’re like, keep running. And I’m like, okay. Um, but that is not, that is not everyone. And sometimes it takes a special, special kind of love out there to get people motivated. So we’ve talked a little bit about, you know, we we’ve mentioned, you know, there’s different, you know, it is, it’s uncomfortable out there that things are going to hurt. And so my, my take, and I think you’re, you’re in the same boat as me, but I’ve encountered a number of athletes and even coaches or people who coach, but they also run, um, who really have this death before DNF mentality. And I’m just, I’m wondering, like, what is your take on this? And like, how, how do we change that narrative with athletes? Because I personally do not love it.

Chantelle Robitaille (20:53):

I think, you know, it’s, it’s kind of interesting because I think we’ve seen as we do with every trend, right. We see these shifts and trends, um, throughout ultra running. And, you know, I think like in the early days of ultra running, that was really the thing. Like if you finished and you didn’t have a broken bone and you weren’t, you know, dragging yourself off the finish line, you didn’t work hard enough out there. You know? And there definitely was that like David Goggins ask mentality, you know, like you’re not, you’re not tough enough. Um, and maybe, you know, maybe for some people that’s, that’s part of their, their personality and that’s part of who they are. They do everything to the extreme, and I’m not saying it’s right wrong or indifferent. It’s just, you know, stiff. It’s just different. But I think, you know, now that we, we’ve seen a little bit more of a shift to thinking about the mental side of sport and that sometimes, um, you know, the mental, our mental state can harm us if we, if we ignore too many things, but we got to ignore some things and that makes it kind of messy for people to know, like, do I need to be like super gentle on myself or do I need to be like a total hard-ass, you know, and where, where do you, where do you draw that line?

Chantelle Robitaille (22:09):

And I think that’s where you have to really be real within yourself. And it kind of comes back to what we had just mentioned, like, what is the goal under? What circumstances will I, should I, and will I want to continue? And under what circumstances do I need to, you know, call uncle. And I think we need to be really real about that, and it’s not worth, you know, it’s not worth our health. You know, how many times have we seen people out on the race course in a really altered state where they could really hurt themselves or put someone else in danger because they are continuing under circumstances where they probably shouldn’t. Right. So we should definitely learn from those experiences and talk to, you know, talk to our athletes and certainly have the athletes talk to their crew about certain things that are real and could happen where they shouldn’t, um, you know, where they shouldn’t continue, where it may be dangerous to continue. And if they are working with a coach, that’s where, you know, maybe there is an opportunity for them to pick up the cell phone on the, on the course and say like, listen, I really don’t know. Like, I feel like I could continue, but I don’t really know if I should, you know, and they might be in an altered status where they can’t make that decision. So they, they need that crew chief to be able to help them, you know, navigate that.

Corrine Malcolm (23:35):

And we celebrate that. I mean, we, I think culturally, as a, as a, as a trail community, we oftentimes celebrate these athletes, finishing, you know, famously at Western states, for example, right. The, the last finishers, like totally one being like, kind of out, like not like a little bit altered and the other one, you know, being bent over sideways and then admitted to the hospital, um, after the race, like we celebrate that as a, as a culture in part, I think because of this David Goggins ask attitude and I’m, I’m of the mindset where it’s like, it’s okay to drop out if you’re hurt, but it’s different to drop out if you’re hurting. And I think that that’s, that’s something that, that I ask myself, am I hurt? Or am I hurting? Am I doing permanent damage or long-term damage? Or am I just uncomfortable right now?

Corrine Malcolm (24:21):

And where, and what does that look like? And that’s, those are the conversations where it’s like, okay, I go to the next aid station, okay. Go to the next aid station and reevaluate. Cause you can, you get, these races are long, you can reevaluate out there. I famously, um, called coop during UT MB. I ran into a friend on, at an aid station. I was carrying a mini phone with no numbers in it, besides the emergency contact numbers for the race organization. So I couldn’t call my mom who was out, out on the race course. I couldn’t call Adam Saint Pierre, my coach, who was back home in the states. And so I ran into Celia from GU and I said, Hey, do you have Jason Coop’s number? And she was like, I do. And I was like, can I talk to him? And so in the middle of the race at UT and B, I called Jason coop.

Corrine Malcolm (25:03):

And I said, I don’t, I’m not having fun. I don’t like this. And he was like, well, Korean, you’re calling me because you want my permission. You want someone else’s permission to drop out. You’re not ready to drop out. And you’re looking for someone to say, it’s okay. He’s like, so, you know, like, I really think that you need to continue on and reevaluate. Then the next time you see your crew, and that was such a good conversation to have, like, I think that’s a life conversation to have like, are you like, are you calling someone for help? Because you want them to like tell you it’s okay to stop doing what you’re doing or, or like, because you’re not ready to stop yet. And so I like, it was just like that to me was like a big awakening personally, as an athlete. And then something that I even have used with my athletes now, it was just like, okay, like, it’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to drop out if you’re hurt, but I’m going to try to keep going if I’m just hurting. You know, if I, if I’m still just because like, these races are races of attrition, so just kind of keep, keep pushing and it’s hurting, everyone’s hurting. Everyone is hurting terrible time, right?

Chantelle Robitaille (26:05):

Everyone’s going to have those terrible times, those terrible times. Aren’t but hopefully those terrible times are going to last, you know, hours and hours. Typically they, they tend to ebb and flow. And I think that’s a, that’s a great distinction between am I hurt or am I hurting? You’re going to hurt. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to suck some of the time, you know, and definitely a good amount of the time. You’re going to have to just suck it up and do the best you can and keep soldiering on. Right? Keep soldiering on and hope that, you know, get to the next station aid station. Maybe they got some different food there that you’re going to be excited about. Maybe a friend or family member is going to surprise you there and that’s gonna, you know, help you for a little bit. Maybe you need to blast some Pearl jam, you know, something just pump, you know, find some way to bring it out.

Chantelle Robitaille (26:56):

And I think these, again are things that you can practice right throughout your training. Maybe you have a, maybe it’s just a long training day. Maybe it’s a long training race. You know, if you’re preparing for, let’s say a, um, a hundred miler and you do a 50 miler, you know, you can, you can learn a lot from those particular experiences. Like what are some things that can, can help you get through it? And we talk a lot. We’ve seen a lot in the news recently, too, right? About, about, um, taking care of our mental state during events. But I think we can use this along the way. Also after the event, what is our mental state like? We’ve, we’ve used, you know, we’ve, we’ve put our body through an awful lot. And even if someone DNS, they might’ve still run pretty darn far, right?

Chantelle Robitaille (27:42):

They might’ve run 60, 70 miles. It’s still pretty hard. So your body is your body is in a weird state of imbalance. You’re going to have some weird hormones going on, coursing through your body. You’re going to probably be sleep deprived. Anyway, you might be dealing with some pain. So you’re still going to be in a little bit of an altered mental status. Right? So be cognizant of that because yeah, be kind yourself. Do do some nice things for yourself. And again, like you can be sad about it and you can be a little bit angry about it for a little while, but then afterwards you got to like draw a line in the sand and say, okay, you know, take Courtney to Walter as a great adviser. Like I’m going to feel until Tuesday. And then I’m going to figure out what went wrong.

Chantelle Robitaille (28:29):

My stomach went wrong. I got to work on this. Right. So this is a perfect way to whether or not you have a coach, like, okay, what went wrong on that day? And what, what, what little things now you’ve got this amazing opportunity because maybe you’re not going to have a race now, especially at this time of year, right? You’re not going to have a race now for a little while. So what do I need to work on? Have you been slack? Have you been seeing a PT and you go in there like once a week and then you don’t do anything. You don’t do anything PT related until the next time that you see the darn PT. Again, that must be the most frustrating job in the world. Right? So you can get better at that. And that’s, that’s not extra work. It’s part of your training, right? It’s it’s fundamental stuff. Have you been neglecting strength, training is your nutrition, crap. Do you have too much stress that you’re not that you’re not sleeping? Well, if you’re doing your training perfectly, right. And you’re doing the strength training and you’re doing all the other stuff, but you’re not getting proper sleep. It doesn’t really matter what you’re doing. Right. Because you’re throwing, you’re throwing 5% at least of your performance out the window.

Corrine Malcolm (29:37):

Yeah. A hundred percent. I think, oftentimes what happens after these races that maybe it’s a thing, but oftentimes we just come out of these, out of DNS, like just with our egos bruised more than anything. I watched a runner at CCC get asked, are you, are you not meeting other people’s expectations? Are you not meeting your own expectations? Is that why you’re upset right now? And the athlete was like, it’s my, it’s my expectations. I’m not meeting my, we think you’re doing great. You’re not meeting your own expectations. And that’s why you’re having an issue right now. And is it worth continuing or not? Like we think you should type of thing. And like it’s the ego our egos get in the way oftentimes. And yes, there’s other things that cause dropouts for sure. But a lot of times it’s our ego it’s fear that we’re not going to be able to do it.

Corrine Malcolm (30:20):

It’s fear that we can’t continue. And I think you brought up a really good point. Obviously a DNF requires a bounce back or like requires time to readjust and look at what you’ve been doing and what you haven’t been doing and make changes. And sometimes DNS happen for just weird reasons. Like extra hard, you have a bad day. Like it’s, those maybe are the hardest things because you’re like, what do I change? Like as the trust myself, I was going to be better next time. But we are in this really interesting time of the year, right? We are towards the, the season is winding down. Obviously you can raise your around now I’m in ultra running. But for the most part, the season is winding down. People’s last big. A races are happening. Um, basically in the last couple of weeks, they’ve, it’s been like hundreds every single weekend, but we all of a sudden, if you have an athlete that DNS, what should be their last race of the season, I think that can lead that. Oftentimes athletes really struggle with that. I’ve done it. I’ve DNF my last race of the season before. And it’s really hard. And so I’m wondering in particular, like what do you do with those athletes who they weren’t planning to race again, but all of a sudden they’ve DNF and maybe they DNF early enough where their legs are still. Okay. But now they’re in this mental bind of trying to like clean their palate in a lot of ways. Like how do you, how do you approach an athlete in that situation?

Chantelle Robitaille (31:37):

That’s a good one. I’m thinking of a particular athlete who had a recent DNF on a course that she’s run well three times before. And she just had a bad day. She’s been dealing with horrible panic, perimenopausal symptoms and having a really hard time with heat. And it was a really hot day. It was a trail that she runs all the time because the race is in her backyard and she fell, hit her head, um, kept soldiering on. And then two, eight stations later saw, you know, she lives in that community, saw some friends at an aid station and they said, who you, you really don’t look good. Like I saw you coming up the trail and you’re doing the weeble wobble. Like you probably shouldn’t continue. And she realized probably she shouldn’t continue. And she thought maybe she’s doing herself some further damage. You know, she was a little bit dizzy and so on. So she stopped. She was, had a crummy night, she felt terrible. She was angry. And then the next day, what did she do? The race was still going on. She packed up her lawn chair. She went onto the course and she cheered her head off for all those final finishers.

Corrine Malcolm (32:48):

And that

Chantelle Robitaille (32:50):

Was it. It was awesome. It was awesome. She called me, she knew that I had a runner still out. I was at the race. I was with my, my other athletes, um, wife, we all went up there together. It was awesome. She took videos of F and pictures of everyone she knew. And then, you know, she had a little bit of sadness again. And now that it’s fall, she can’t do any more racist. She lives up in the mountains. There’s not a ton going on. So we’ve, we’ve just been focusing like coming back to, you know, why do you do the stuff in the first place? Because I enjoy it. It’s fall. Now. It’s the most beautiful time. What are some trails you haven’t been up on in a while because you’ve been preparing for this race, you know, what are some places you can go?

Chantelle Robitaille (33:34):

What are some things that you can do? Um, and even last week she jumped into a little 5k race just for fun. And she, she ended up, um, winning the race in her, in her category, you know, and it was just for fun. So we just come back to like, maybe some athletes need to just come back to the fun of running. Like, why do you do this sport in the first place? Because you love it. Cause you love your trail. So get out on some favorite trails, go do some favorite things. Is there even like a, if you’re not hurt, right? If you, if you end the race ended because you were timed out and you’re not injured or anything like that, is there some kind of, uh, it’s it’s fall, right? Is there some kind of a fun run you can do? Is there a Turkey trot you can jump into where a silly costume and run around?

Chantelle Robitaille (34:19):

Like, just try to find the fun again, if you can, you know, if, if you need to kind of find some way of, you know, bringing joy back to running and bringing back that association of joy with running for some that’s an option, you know, um, or maybe if they are still kind of got that hunger and a little bit of a fire, is there an F in their area that they can do or something that’s not too far away. So what’s going to kind of motivate them so that they can kind of close down the season with a little bit more of a smile on their face rather than this, you know, feeling like they’re in the pit of despair.

Corrine Malcolm (34:57):

Yeah. It’s trying to bookend it. Right. You’re trying to find a clean way to book end of the season. And sometimes that’s really easy and sometimes it’s really hard. And it’s one of those things where, you know, it’s hearkening back to a conversation I had with John Fitzgerald on this podcast a couple of weeks ago, it’s this idea of, do you need to do this thing or do you want to do this thing? And I’ve had to have some hard conversations with some athletes recently who say, say similar situation, like went in really fit, didn’t have the data they were expecting. It was really humid. It impacted everyone at the race. Um, ended up dropping out around mile 80. So ran a long ways, right? That’s a long ways to run. Um, and it’s kind of, you know, it’s an emotional blow, you know, you go and try to be competitive.

Corrine Malcolm (35:42):

You probably could have walked it in, but at what cost or is it really worth it? You know, did you need that belt buckle or not? And then all of a sudden it’s like, okay, like when do I really want to start my next season? Do I need to book end this one? Am I do I do I feel like I have to do another race in order to mentally clean my clean, my palette? Or do I want to do, am I actually hungry to do the training, to show up to a race to feel good about it? Or are you forcing it? And it’s like, that’s a hard thing to navigate to understand your motivations, to do something like, is it, am I forcing it? Am I getting back out too fast? Because I’m forcing it? And I’m like, okay, we’re not doing any intensity.

Corrine Malcolm (36:19):

Listen to your legs, listen to your brain, head out for an easy run. If your brain likes feel good, you can run a little bit longer of your brain and legs say, no, you’re cutting it short, like trying to find a way to reset the body because I think you just end up I’ve, I’ve forced it before I’ve come back to a race too soon and, and had a terrible experience. And I think it can be really hard. But I think for those athletes to all of a sudden, if they don’t have a way to book end the season, it’s like, okay, can we find them an easy win early in the season? Like, uh, like instead of going, is another next race being high stakes, either time completion, race goals, you know, being competitive, whatever it is is like, is there a way to do an easier, easy win ahead of that race as a practice race, just so that they, they can like, they’re like they get that confidence back of like, I can do this because I feel like all of a sudden, if I’ve, I’ve been in this situation, I D and after race in October, and then my next race back was going to be kind of like mid winter.

Corrine Malcolm (37:13):

And it was a high stakes race. And it was a lot, like I went into it being like, am I tough enough? Will I be able to do this? Can I do this thing? Because I hadn’t had a way to kind of like, get over the loss before that in a lot of ways. And so it’s, it becomes this kind of like, yes, we’re looking at the athlete physiologically, but you also could look at these athletes psychologically. And I think DNS, although they are physical in nature, generally speaking, they’re also very mental in nature. So I’m wondering if you have any advice, any other advice you’ve had a lot of advice, any other advice for athletes who are at the end of their season, and maybe, maybe they’re looking for a way to clean their palette or they’re looking away to, to avoid having to clean their palette because maybe their goal race didn’t go as expected.

Chantelle Robitaille (37:56):

And that’s a big one, right? It’s, it’s just the, the mental thing. And they’re going to have all kinds of people around them saying like, nah, don’t worry about it. You know, you’ll have time, you’ll have a chance to go next year or, oh, well at least blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They don’t care about any of that. Right. They had a bad day. They had, so they need, they need to be able to like sit with it and figure it out. And sometimes, especially like in your example of someone who made it 80 miles, that’s still really hard. So mentally, they may have this little seed of like, but I’ve got to do this, but I’ve got to do that. I think your suggestion of having them go out and run and see how they feel. Cause at that point they are so from their body more than likely, right.

Chantelle Robitaille (38:38):

The brain wants to do one thing. And the body is like, no, dude, we are not doing it. We are not having it. So going out and running without a specific goal for a little bit, just to kind of check in and see where the body is. Sometimes getting them to go out there and they might feel like, oh, I feel fine. And they go out and run and it’s a beautiful day. And like, oh my gosh, it just felt so I don’t know what’s going on. My legs felt so heavy. And then they go out the next day and they still feel that again. And they’re just really tired and I don’t know what’s going on. It’s because you’re not your body’s tired. Right. You put it through a lot. So no, maybe you’re not ready to go do that other race that you think you should sign up for, but you know what you could do.

Chantelle Robitaille (39:20):

You could go volunteer, right. You could go spread the stoke, you could go pay somebody, you could help someone else out. And so sometimes like, have you ever been had that situation? Like I tell athletes a lot of times, if you’re out running in, you’re having a time look around and find someone else who looks worse than you and help them out. Right. So like, Hey buddy, how you doing? You’re not, oh, I’m having a terrible day. Is there something that could help, you know, like maybe you’ve got that. I don’t know. You got a little mini Snickers in your pocket that you can give away to someone and it perks them up or you can tell them a joke or tell them a story and make them feel better. And then suddenly you feel a little better. And so I think that same thing can sometimes be applied.

Chantelle Robitaille (40:00):

Like if you have kind of, you know, you can’t get out there and do maybe what else you’d like to do is there’s a lot of the reason we do this sport is for the community. So what can you do in that community to give back? Um, you know, if you physically cannot do another challenge, maybe there is other, you know, another challenge you can set for yourself. But I think that’s a good, helpful way. And also to start thinking about like, okay, the season is coming to an end sometime starting to think ahead about what the next season is going to look like will be helpful. So if we break we’ve broken down the DNF, right. And we’ve identified some areas where we know we can make improvement. So going through the plan with the athlete and being really conscious about the fact like, okay, here are some things we’ve identified that we can work on that may be helpful and, and maybe, um, help you have some better success next year.

Chantelle Robitaille (40:55):

Here’s, let’s have a reminder of what the upcoming plan is gonna look like. Here’s where we’re going to work on those things. And sometimes that takes a little bit of the anxiety of like, I failed, I suck this sucked. I need to fix this. I need to fix it now. And you can remind them like, Hey, slow down. You know, we’re going to fix those things in time. We’re going to focus on those things in time. You don’t need to be stressed about it right now. Um, and I’m drinking tea cause I’m caffeinated. But my tea wisdom here says all good things come in time. And tea helps with that. So sometimes just take, take, take a breather, you know, and remember that those things will come in time and you’ve planned those out. So you don’t have to worry about them right now.

Corrine Malcolm (41:46):

Yeah. And I think it’s one of those things too, where it’s like, once again, your, your results or lack of results, whatever it is, does not define you as a human. And I think that’s an important reminder when it comes to, when it comes to these things, either when you, when you don’t perform to your expectations or if it’s, if it’s, you know, coming out of a DNF, I think both of those things ring true and they’re not, it doesn’t make it easier. That one doesn’t make it easier. It’s, it’s, you know, easy, easy to say, hard to practice, but I love the, I love the Courtney to Walter strategy there too, of like, okay, I’ve got until Tuesday to feel bad about this and then I need to move on. And so I think that’s kind of what we’re going to be taken away from something like this. So is there anything else about DNS or about, um, I don’t know, either pre pre or post DNF that that listeners should keep in mind.

Chantelle Robitaille (42:32):

So keep in mind that they may happen to you, right? No, one’s immune from the Vienna. No one is immune they’re coming for all of us. They were always there and lurking just lurking around, so know that they can happen. So I think, you know, knowing that they can happen be conscious of the things, all the things, doing, all the things that you can do to try to, obviously the best thing is to avoid it, right. Avoid getting into that situation in the first place. So, you know, train smart, get proper rest, you know, eat good food, you know, get some, make sure that your training is balanced. And if you’re not really sure what to do, get some, get some good help and some good advice from that, um, on that to make sure that you can try to avoid those things, but also prepare yourself mentally that if they happen, you know, you don’t need to live in the pit of despair.

Chantelle Robitaille (43:23):

You can move on from it and you can learn from it. Um, I think also what you mentioned, you know, preparing yourself as an athlete for, you know, what, what is my goal for this race? What’s my goal B goal, you know, all the way down to the death March goal. What are some situations where I know I can not continue. I need to make that decision for myself. I shouldn’t put that on someone else because later on you don’t want to have that resentful thing. Like, geez, you know, I really should think I should’ve considered, but I don’t know. My crew chief said that I shouldn’t and I listened to them on the day. It’s your race. They are not, you know, they’re responsible for helping support you, but you are responsible for getting your own to that finish line or not right in the end.

Chantelle Robitaille (44:08):

So take accountability and responsibility for what those situations are, communicate them clearly to yourself. Um, you know, make yourself a voice note on your phone, carry a piece of paper in your pack, whatever it is, you know, when you’re feeling crummy, pull it out and realize like, oh, I haven’t reached this part yet. I got to keep putting one foot in front of the other, you know, whatever it, whatever it takes and know that if they do happen, like it doesn’t make you bad athlete. You just had, you had a bad day. So the good thing is when you fail at something, you can learn from it. Right. And you can get better. And so don’t, don’t, don’t dwell and wallow in the bad thing, learn from it and move the heck on.

Corrine Malcolm (44:54):

Yeah. And that’s so, so important, right? Like you, you get to control for the most part, your own destiny. So do the work, check the boxes, check the boxes every day, check the boxes during the race. Like those things are really important. And yeah. Having a plan going in having a plan with your crew, having a plan for yourself, listen to past, past Curran, past Shontelle whoever it is, they have your best interest in mind. Right? Like that’s important. I’ve had my crew remind me of that will pass. Kerryn said that she was going to eat this here. So would you like to do that? And I’m like, oh, okay. Yeah, pass Curran had the plan. So we’re going to do it. So it’s like, listen to that, you know, have that plan going into the race and then if it happens, cause it can, and it will.

Corrine Malcolm (45:29):

And that’s okay. You know, know that, that does not define you. The dreaded DNF does not define you and you can learn a lot from it. And so that’s what we’re going to leave everyone for today. We’re going to say it doesn’t define you. We’ve all been there, but you can learn from it. So use, use as experiences. I think the races that go poorly are sometimes way more valuable than the races that go well. So take that with you into the 20, 22 season and, uh, use it to your advantage. I think more than anything for next year. So Shantelle, thank you so much for joining me this morning, sharing your wisdom, um, on a really philosophical conversation. Um, and I can’t wait to see where you and your own running and your athletes running go in 2022.

Chantelle Robitaille (46:15):

Thanks Kerryn.

Corrine Malcolm (46:16):

Likewise. Okay. We’ll talk soon.

Comments 1

  1. Pingback: Reframing DNFs (Did Not Finish) in Ultrarunning - CTS Ultrarunning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *