DNF…Did Not Finish or DID NOT FAIL?!?!?!

I was superiorly excited (ha ha ha) going into my last triathlon of the season…Superior Man Triathlon…Sunday, August 25, 2013!!  I had a great triathlon season, setting many PRs and was physically and mentally ready to set another one in Duluth for the half Ironman distance!!  I was determined to have a great race and not going to let the ghosts of Lake Superior haunt me…

I woke up on race morning at 3:30 am, ate my standard pre-race breakfast, changed into my tri kit, grabbed my transition bag and headed out the door for the DECC.  When I arrived at the transition area at 4:30 am, it was already very warm, humid and windy.  With these conditions, I knew I would have to adjust my race goals and expectations for the day.

I set up my transition area, relaxed by the water and at 5:45 am I boarded the boat to haul me out into Lake Superior where I would begin what would turn out to be a very challenging day.

The Vista Fleet took the athletes out into Lake Superior where we would embark on a day when Mother Nature woke up with a very bad attitude.
The Vista Fleet took the athletes out into Lake Superior where we would embark on a day when Mother Nature woke up with a very bad attitude.

While on The Vista Fleet, we donned our wetsuits, listened to the announcements regarding the swim course and mentally prepared ourselves to jump into ~60 degree water.  At approximately 6:30 am the boat stopped, we lined up and jumped off of the boat two at a time (one from each side of the boat) every 4 seconds.

A random athlete jumping from The Vista Fleet into Lake Superior.
A random athlete jumping from The Vista Fleet into Lake Superior.

Upon jumping into the water, I had an instant headache due to the cold water temperatures.  I took a few seconds to acclimate to the water and then began swimming.  With the winds in the mid to upper teens, the water was a little bit choppy, but not unbearable.  About every 3-5 breaths, I would end up with a mouth full of water instead of air, but I didn’t let this cause me to panic…”Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.”  Heading north toward the first turn buoy went by very quickly.  When I turned around the north buoys headed back south, it was obvious the winds were picking up and it took more effort to swim against the wind and water current.  I ended up taking in just about as much water as I took in air throughout the swim…this would come back to haunt me later…those darn ghosts…

My husband was able to take pictures of me swimming as I neared the swim exit.
My husband was able to take pictures of me swimming as I neared the swim exit.

I exited the 1.2 mile swim in 45:51, which was a 2:03/100 yard average.  While this was definitely not my fastest swim, I was ok with this time considering the rough waters and strong current.  As I climbed the ladder out of the water, my left calf cramped and I had to try to shake it off while I kept moving forward.  I felt light headed as I came into transition, but I attributed that to the rough swim.  I took my time transitioning to my bike.  Duluth was under a heat advisory, so I knew I would need to make sure I had enough water and electrolytes on the bike.  T1 took me 4:35…and then the fun began…

Exiting T1, hopping on my bike and ready to take on the 56 mile bike ride.
Exiting T1, hopping on my bike and ready to take on the challenging 56 mile bike ride.

I knew there was quite a tailwind on the way north to Two Harbors.  I wanted to take advantage of this tailwind, but not tax myself too much since I knew I would be turning around and heading right back into those winds.  I felt my stomach cramping a bit at about the one hour mark, but I just kept drinking my water…I made it to the turn around and immediately felt that headwind.  This was the start of what would be a VERY long ride back into town.  Remember that lake water I drank while swimming ?!?!?!?!?  Well, it was about to come back to haunt me…About 2 miles after the turn around, I crossed the railroad tracks and immediately projectile vomited all of the liquids I had in my gut out into the open air.  With those strong headwinds, I was grateful that I had turned my head ever so slightly to avoid having it come back into my face.  This very well could be one of the reasons they don’t allow drafting on the bike during a triathlon.  I’m very sorry to whomever may have been behind me (if anyone was) that got a face full…With 22 mph headwinds, I continued to push forward and make my way back to Duluth.  I tried to take in my fluids and even an oreo cookie (which is usually a great fueling source for me on the bike…not today), but it all came back up…projectile vomit #2 happened at about mile 40 (just shortly after the water exchange) and #3 happened right before I entered back into town (Lemon Drop hill area for those of you familiar with the Grandma’s Marathon course).  I finished the 56 mile bike in 3:22:38 with an average of 16.6 mph.  As I entered transition, I told my husband to call Coach and ask her if I should even attempt the run…

Dismounting the bike at T2
Dismounting the bike at T2

When I exited T2 2:54 later, I was advised to try the run and if by mile 3 or 4 I wasn’t getting better, I was to call it a day.  I began the run having a serious conversation with myself…”You are strong.  You are tough.  You can and will overcome this.  Body…just suck it up!!”  I also started to play a little Jason Alden in my brain…”Straight ahead, never turn ’round…Don’t back up, Don’t back down…Full throttle, wide open…When you get tired and you don’t show it…Dig a little deeper when you think you can’t dig no more…That’s the only way I know…”

With VERY limited shade on the run course and the heat index nearing 99 degrees, I was starting to feel the effects of not only Mother Nature, but also the lack of hydration and fuel that my body had so “pleasantly” decided to discard on the bike ride.  By mile 3, I was walking like a staggering drunk and the volunteers were asking me if I was alright.  One volunteer even asked me if he could open my Honey Stingers for me.  I kept drinking water and putting ice in places most people would never want to carry ice…running was no longer even an option 😦  It took me approximately 1:20:00 to cover just over 5 miles and I knew if I were to finish I would have to walk the last 8 miles.  I knew I would be out in this “hell” that Mother Nature had decided to descend upon us for another 2+ hours and my body would continue to suffer for it.  With a marathon only 8 weeks away, I made the gut wrenching decision to pull the plug and call it a day.  My first (and hopefully my last) DNF…those darn ghosts…

I prefer to look at is a Did Not Fail rather than a Did Not Finish…while it was a very crappy day, I can positively say…at least I didn’t crap myself 🙂

While my body got the better of me Sunday, my mind is strong.  I am focused, I am strong and I am a tough cookie!!  I will continue to push my limits and I will persevere!!  My mother said it best…”There are other races, but there is only one body.”  That mother of mine…she’s a very wise woman 🙂

15 thoughts on “DNF…Did Not Finish or DID NOT FAIL?!?!?!

  1. If you learnt something by failing, you didn’t fail!…. I did the same on a bike 3h into a ride…. When you were thinking ‘Just keep swimming, where you thinking of Dori from finding Nemo? 🙂

      1. True enough. Please remember, when you get to our level of fitness, off days happen. Also, next time, the hydration part takes place on the bike, not in the lake during the swim. LOL 😉

  2. That is a tough decision, but no good would have come from making yourself sicker. I’m finally starting to tell myself that there are plenty more races in the sea! Which marathon are you about to run?

    1. Thanks Kay!! It definitely was a tough decision, but I have accepted it and am moving forward. A large group of us are racing at Indianapolis in October. I am looking forward to pushing my limits there and seeing just how far I can go 🙂

  3. To quote some John Denver song lyrics, “Some days are diamonds, some days are shit” (or at least I think that how it goes). In any event, it sounds like your day was one of the latter variety. However, you put in the effort pre-race and you put your toe on the starting line. What percentage of our current population can do that? I think it’s time you and Tim came down to the Coast and raced with the ‘gators again. Take care.

    1. Thanks Bill!! John Denver may have to be a new song that I play in my head while I’m racing 🙂 We definitely need to get back down to the coast and race with the ‘gators!! I would love to convince Tim to make the trip over spring break again this year!!

  4. You are so strong! For two reasons: 1) For hammering through that brutal swim and bike (seriously, 22 mph wind?!); and, 2) For knowing it’s ok to call it a day rather than to risk further injury. Those were some brutal conditions; I’m not sure I would have even wanted to toe the line! You did not fail… days like that make you a stronger person! Best of luck with the rest of your marathon training!

    1. Thanks Erin!! It was a challenging day, but I definitely learned a lot and will use that information to be better prepared in future races. So glad to hear you had a FABULOUS race in Whistler!!

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