Monday, July 13, 2015

My 3rd DNF - The Mega Donut Mile

Warning, some graphic content.

I have so many mixed emotions about this race.  DNFing (Did Not Finish) an event is always tough initially looking back on them, but as time passes you realize it's just one small pretty much meaningless event in the grand scheme of things and taking the DNF was more than likely the best choice possible.  Sure, sometimes our minds beat our bodies and we could have struggled on to a slow and miserable feeling finish and maybe not have much physical consequence as a result, but a counterfactual case acn be made that struggling to the finish may create a physical problem that takes a very long time to recover from and these are the things that are weighed when someone drops out.  Having come back from the dead many times in ultras, I understand how hard it is to DNF because my own experience has taught me that unless you are flirting with time cut-offs and will be timed out of a race, as long as you can walk from aid station to aid station, you'll eventually finish and quite possibly feel better at some point.  Obviously this isn't always the case.  Imagine you are vomiting/diarrhea and/or dizzy upon getting to an aid station at mile 60 of a 100-miler.  Quitting may seem the correct choice.  But what if you have 20 hours to cover the last 40 miles and 6 hours before you are timed out from the aid station.  Surely it is better to take as much time as you need at the aid station to get yourself in a position where you can at least walk to the next aid station.  If you can't do that in the time required, then DNFing is fine.  Also, if you are going to do some serious physical damage to your body (stress fracture, multiple times peeing blood, etc.) then it is better not to continue but you can still take all that time at the aid station before you call it quits. 

My first DNF was an unofficial race called the "Balled Eagle".  For a description of that race, I refer you to Mark Leuner's blog post on it.  This also has the Skunk video at the bottom which was great footage.  My second DNF and only "official" race DNF was the Tesla Hertz 100-miler in 2013.  I know I could have finished that race but the goals I had set out for it were very early on not going to happen and I foresaw a long and miserable 20+ more hours so I called it quits as I had better things to do and coming up the following week.  It was the right decision looking back on it.  I came back the next year and won the race.  So this leads me to how I DNFed my last race. 

I don't know exactly how the idea came to be.  I think John Tan posted something about eating a lot of donuts (I like spelling doughnut, donut).  I think I may have suggested a challenge of a donut mile where you eat a donut and run 1/4 mile around a track, eat another donut and run another 1/4 mile and repeat until you finish a mile and 4 donuts.  He agreed to that but to me that seemed easy so let's step it up with a mega donut mile challenge (James Cunningham coined that term).  Eat 1 donut, run 1/4 mile.  Eat 2 donuts, run 1/4 mile.  Eat 3 donuts, run 1/4 mile.  Eat 4 Donuts, Run 1/4 mile.  10 donuts total.   Seemed doable to me.  So we agreed on it and set a date and there were three competitors (me, James Cunningham, and John Tan) and possibly more would join.  Discussions were had regarding competition rules such as the donut sponsor (dunkin, Krisy Kreme, Dough, etc) and then what type of donuts to eat.  Would we have to eat the same donuts in the same order?  Water permitted?  Everything was eventually sorted out and the date of July 11th was chosen. 


James (6'0", 178lbs)
- Fastest race timed mile: 5:15 @ Fifth Av Mile in 2013(?)
- 9:34 at IronMan Brasil 2015
- 4th in AG at 70.3 Mont-Tremblant - June 2015
- 9th overall amateur at NYC Olympic Tri 2014 with a time of 2:00
- 1:23 Half Marathon / 37 min 10k
- Former Varsity Decathlete (56s 400m PR - 2003)
- Formerly weighed 230lbs when playing US elite level rugby in 2009
- Now 178lbs, 6" tall, 11% body fat
- Resting Metabolic Rate (doing absolutely nothing all day i.e. just breathing) = 2200calories
- Successfully completed (on multiple occasions) the 'Phall Challenge' - world's hottest curry from Man vs. Food (
- Have fitted and eaten an entire BabyBel Maxi ( in my mouth as part of a bet (loser ended up running through a ski resort in her underwear as forfeit)

John Tan is also a well accomplished runner and a triathlete and poop machine. 
John (5'3"?, 153.8 lbs?)

  • 5:10 fastest mile, 2001
  • Known as “RunFatBoyRun” because he’s fat and likes to run.
  • Former track “star” (50s 400m PR, 22.3s 200m PR)
  • Qualified for IronMan 70.3 World Champs 2015
  • 1982 Pampers Poop-athon regional champion
  • Most likely to wear pink
  • Ethnically, he is 20% donut, 40% bacon, 100% marshmallow
  • Hates wearing pants
  • Poops more than most people
  • Profuse ball sweater
Going into the race, I figured James was going to be the  favorite from the athletic side and even on the competitive eating side.  John was like me except he had ran a beer mile so has a slight advantage in knowing how that feels. 

To be honest, I was very nervous about this race.  I wondered what would happen if I felt like I had to vomit (throwing up meant you had to eat a penalty donut and run another lap).  What would happen if I couldn't finish the donuts.  What would happen to me after consuming ~3,000 calories of basically pure sugar so quickly?  I was really nervous about this.  As I arrived at the track and saw the donuts, I was feeling a little better (and hungry).  We waited for one of James' friend to arrive (Craig) and we also had a random spectator (Kat) to cheer us on and watch in amusement/horror. 

Pre-race contestants and donuts.  Smiles disappeared sometime later.

There were 10 Krispy Kreme donuts for us all.  Each round required eating a glazed donut.  The other donuts we had to eat in any order we chose were: 2 marble frosted, 1 pink frosted, 1 chocolate frosted, 1 cake batter filled, 1 boston kreme.  So since we have to have 1 glazed each lap, we start the race off with the glazed donut. 

At 1PM, the sun was beating down on us and the donuts for a while before we began the race.  We picked up our glazed donut to get ready to start and could feel the sugar glaze melting off the donut.  The start is called and we begin to eat the donut.  James finishes first but I am just a couple seconds behind.  I catch up to him on the track and stay on his tail, the pace comfortable (1:21 lap).

The lap is finished and I pick up my next glazed donut and eat it and drink water to get it down.  I work on my second donut (marble frosted) and James is finished with his second and takes a bite accidentally of a 3rd!

James about to begin his round of 3 donuts

He takes off running and I finish mine when he is about 1/4 through his lap.  I start running but don't try to catch up.  My lap felt good.  I begin to eat my round of 3 donuts.  I start off with a pink frosted.  It takes a while to eat it.  Then I move to the glazed donut.  It's feeling rough.  I can't swallow it as quickly as the others.  I'm spending more time chewing slowly and trying to resist and urge to throw up.  John comes in and starts working on his 3 donuts.  I pick up the Boston Creme and wow, I'm struggling.  I manage to put it down and take off on my lap.  Again, the lap feels fine but my stomach is feeling full and I'm very concerned at how I am possibly going to eat 4 donuts on completion of this last lap.  I arrive back at my donuts and John is still working on his 3 donuts.  Meanwhile, James just finishes shortly after and takes off for his final lap. He is an absolute beast and finished around 9 minutes.

 Well, I have no chance at beating James but I have a lap advantage over John.  I eat a chocolate frosted donut.  I feel like I'm going to throw up and/or poop.  I drink a lot of water and try to do the Kobayashi (Former Nathan's Hot Dog eating Champ) dance to get the food down in my stomach. John takes off on his 3rd lap. I pick up the cake batter donut.  It's sooooo heavy.  I'm in trouble.  I'm struggling big time.  I need to sit down.  So I sit.  I have two donuts to finish but I can not stomach the smell of the donuts anymore.  I grab the marble frosted donut.  I go to take a bite and as soon as it hits my tongue I am sick.  I have to use the bathroom (for #2).  I ask where the bathrooms are and they are right outside the track.  John is still working on his 4 donuts.  I go to the bathroom and it felt like a quick pit stop.  I get back and John is just standing around because he finished his donuts and did his lap.  So I'm last place.  That's fine.  But can I even finish this event.  I pick up my half eaten marble frosted donut and attempt to take a bit but can't.  I feel horrid.  My stomach is a mess.  My head is a mess.  I feel like I can easily walk the lap but I can't do the lap without eating the 1.5 donuts.  I'm crushed.  Everyone there is trying their best to encourage me to eat those donuts and finish the race.

"Fuc$ everything" is what I had to say at this point. 

A few different times I try but can't manage to put that half donut of marble frosted mess past my lips.  I look at my watch and it now says 20 minutes has elapsed since the start.  After trying to will myself to do it and with every one's encouragement, I tell them it just isn't going to happen and I'm going to admit defeat and take the DNF.  I knew there was no way I could finish.  Even if I managed to down that half donut, I still had a final glazed to eat and I couldn't do it without doing some serious harm.  I had a train to catch in two hours to Long Island and I didn't want to be in the hospital instead.  So that was that. 

We packed up and walked to Union Square where I caught the train to Penn Station.  I felt terrible though.  I needed to sit down and drink some water and stay cool.  I felt as bad as I did after reaching the Devil's Thumb aid station.  I went to New York Sports Club and took a cold shower.  Then went back to Penn Station and sat against a wall while waiting for Aleks to arrive.  Then I went to the bathroom and came back to sit against that wall.  On the train, I leaned against the window and tried hard not to throw up but I was feeling sick.  I tried to throw up in the train bathroom but couldn't.  I pooped instead.  Then I passed out against the window until we arrived at our stop.  When I got to Long Island for the BBQ, I went into the cool basement and napped for about 15 minutes.  Mostly, I was just sitting and not doing anything.  About 5PM I ate a piece of corn (thanks John for that advice) and a little salad.  Around 7PM after drinking some tea, I finally started to feel better and was eating some fruit salad and some pieces of chicken. 

So it took my about 5-6 hours to not feel like garbage following this race.  It's amazing how this took as much out of me as a 100-mile race.  Did I learn anything from it?  I think so.  First, although I can eat a lot for my size, it's usually spread out.  I also don't know what technique I would need in order to be a true competitive eater because they take down a tremendous amount of food so obviously, I don't know what I'm doing.  That's ok.  After doing this event, that is not a sport I have a desire to get into.  Maybe I'm getting older but I generally don't eat as much as I used to and get so stuffed I can't move.  I have learned not to eat every one's food when we go out to eat and I'm ok throwing food away sometimes instead of forcing it down.  Maybe that change hurt me in this race.  A bigger question I had was will DNFing this "easy" run cause me to DNF a more important 100-miler, such as the Vermont 100-miler coming up this weekend?  Or what about Leadville in a month or Wasatch to finish off the Grand Slam in September.  I don't think this race will negatively impact me there.  For one, moving wasn't really a problem, it was the eating.  So as long as I can move forward I can finish the race.  I have no doubts there.  Even if I'm calorie deficient I'll still move forward as has happened many times before.  However, I have had some stomach issues at races lately and maybe this is something I have to work on or at least be mindful of going forward.  Maybe I don't have that iron stomach I used to have and now have to think more about it in races. 

I have a lot of respect for James and John who finished this race.  Especially for John because it takes a lot of will to be able to force those donuts down and he was struggling.  James is just a beast.  I know he could have finished at least another half dozen.  If there ever is a second annual mega donut mile, I'll be happy to be the ref or help with the event.  But I'm glad to make this one and done.

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