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 🙂

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My Reverse Triathlon

The alarm clock went off at 3 am Saturday morning for what was going to be a very long day!!  We loaded the car and headed to Des Moines for the Dam to Dam races (I wasn’t running the race because of my upcoming half Ironman, but went down to spectate and cheer on MANY friends who were running)…what an early morning…we are use to early mornings, but it seemed really early this morning!!

We arrived at the parking ramp in downtown Des Moines at 4:40 am.  I got organized and went for a 50 minute run around Des Moines while the Dam runners loaded buses and were transported out to the race start at Saylorville Dam.  I thought I would run over to Gray’s Lake and loop the lake before running back to the downtown area to give me a near perfect  run distance/time…well…Mother Nature had a few other plans…

Gray's Lake was closed!!
Gray’s Lake was closed!!
Thank you Mother Nature for all of the rain we have received lately...enough to flood the area around Gray's Lake and put the running trail under water!!
Thank you Mother Nature for all of the rain we have received lately…enough to flood the area around Gray’s Lake and put the running trail under water!!

Luckily I have run around Des Moines enough that I was comfortable with a creative route adjustment to get my distance/time in.  As I was heading back toward downtown Des Moines and the parking ramp, the sun began to rise…BEAUTIFUL!!

Sunrise over Downtown Des Moines.
Sunrise over Downtown Des Moines.

I made it back to the parking ramp in time to change clothes, rehydrate, hop on my bike and meet Robin at the corner of 6th Ave and High Street at 6 am for our bike ride out to Saylorville Dam to see the race start.  We wanted to allow ourselves plenty of time to ride the 12.4 miles out to the dam and not get trampled by the Dam runners running back to downtown!!

We were stopped by a very rude and unhappy state trooper at mile 1 telling us we could not go any further…he wasn’t even letting registered runners enter the race start from that side of the dam…thank you Boston Bombers!!  I may have had a few choice words for the officer and told the runners how to get around him and to the race start from that side of the dam…

Mile 1 turned out to be a pretty sweet location for us to watch all of the Dam runners come by!!  With 8000 participants registered for the 20K, there was a pretty steady stream of runners for nearly 30 minutes.  We then donned our bikes and rode back toward downtown Des Moines (via a different route to avoid the congestion of the runners).  We stopped at the mile 9+ point of the race course to watch and cheer for the runners for a while.  Most of the runners we saw were doing AWESOME!!  It was a beautiful morning for a run!!

Our vantage point at mile 9 of the 20K race.
Our vantage point at mile 9 of the 20K race.

We waited until about 8:35 am and then headed back toward downtown Des Moines.  Robin was running the 5K event at 9:15 am and we wanted to get her back, changed and to the race start in plenty of time!!  I headed to the finish area and cheered on/waited for many friends to finish.  I am so proud of my dear friend Tonja for finding mental focus and pushing herself to a PR of 1:45:10 today!!  Congratulations T you are a ROCKSTAR and I am so proud of you!!

Tonja and me at the finish of Dam 2 Dam
Tonja and me at the finish of Dam 2 Dam

After a very full morning and some lunch, we made it back home by about 1 pm, showered, took a nap and then decided to go for an open water swim.  In the last couple of weeks, every time I have tried to get into open water we have had severe thunderstorms prohibiting me from swimming, so I had yet to be in open water this year.  What started out as a beautiful morning turned into a rainy afternoon, but it was not storming, so we decided to go to The Pits for a swim.  The water was not nearly as cold as I thought it would be…I’m guessing mid 60s…it was near perfect water temperatures for the wetsuit.  I didn’t swim for long as the skies started to darken and I was struggling to get my breathing under control.  With a few more open water swim sessions this week, I will be race ready for Sunday!!

Getting ready to immerse myself into the water for my first open water swim of the year.
Getting ready to immerse myself into the water for my first open water swim of the year.

As I emerged from the water, a rainbow had recently formed off to the east…what a perfect end to my reverse triathlon!!