each acronym sends shudders down the spine of a competitively-spirited racer.
if those letter combinations are unfamiliar to you, DNF is short for 'did not finish' and DNS stands for 'did not start'. neither of them are desirable appendages to your name on a race results table. in the case of the former the participant was able to launch into the fray but for one reason or another found him/herself unable to complete the task at hand; in the case of the latter, circumstances (often injury) pre-empted the individual from even stepping up to the line to begin the contest.
i'm thankful that i've not posted either standing in any race that i've registered for, although in one instance i did come awfully close.
this past week our faithful group of Barrie Running Ninjas sent our best wishes off with sensei and MEC-sponsored athlete jim willett who was traveling to colorado for the Desert RATS stage race - a six-day adventure crossing into utah along the kokopelli trail.
if you know jim at all you'd know that he really enjoys running - and from what i understand the joy that he finds from racing is not so much about the mano-e-mano nature of the duel but rather from (a) discovering the strength, resolve and latent abilities that emerge when testing oneself under demanding/adverse conditions and (b) the comraderie found amongst runners who brave such environments. with that being said he knew that he was entering an event with a very small field of registrants (18) and that he was in fairly strong shape having put in the requisite training. we all (including his sponsors) hoped that this would translate into a strong showing if not placing by the end of it all.
little did any of us realize that it could end so quickly.
you might know that frustrating feeling of watching a luggage carousel circle around and around with everyone else's suitcases except for yours ... i've been there more than once (first time while on honeymoon in england, and more recently after returning from a trip to romania). imagine now that those bags contain critical pieces of ultrarunning/survival equipment for a six-day race through the desert ... welcome to jim's world this past sunday.
however as resourceful (and amicable) as he is, it appears that jim managed to cobble together enough gear from his fellow runners to begin his trek. he's nothing if not doggedly determined.
and yet the kokopelli would vie him for the last word.
at the conclusion of stage 1 a number of the Desert RATS runners posted on the official website about their experiences from the first day, and to my dismay i read that jim had somewhere missed a turn, wandered from the trail by a number of kilometres and subsequently missed the hard cut-off time resulting in a DNF.
the first one of his already-storied running career.
many of us who consider jim a personal friend were bummed by the news - but in typical jim fashion, he managed to express an irrepressible optimism about what happened not only that day, but has continued to demonstrate the joy that is not dependent on circumstances by apparently choosing to run the remaining stages of the race (even though they do not technically count toward anything).
it's in view of all of this that i suggested on social media that we apply a different abbreviation to jim's 2015 Desert RATS experience.
as in did not quit.
that's really what happened here. it wasn't a matter of whether or not he was able to abide by the stipulations of the event - it's that in spite of all that threatened to turn this journey upside down for him, he persevered. and whatever the stats sheet might say, that is the mark of a champion.
and that most definitely describes my friend jim.