What a DNF really means.

As most of my family and friends are aware, I spent the last 6 months training for Mooseman 70.3.  It kind of consumed my life. I did  plenty of runs and swims in the pool, but not enough pool time as I should, and have put over 356 miles on my bike since february. I can run a half marathon- I did two months ago. I’ve competed sprint duathlons in the past with no problem, and even did a short sprint duathlon a month ago. But I think, for some reason, Mooseman was the one race which I was not going to finish.

My cousin brought me up to NH, which truly is a beautiful state.It was hot, but clear crystal blue skies and gorgeous scenery. Newfound Lake is gorgeous–cold- but nice.

On our first day there, I went for a quick ride on my bike to make sure everything was working smoothly and met the friendliest (well, most triathletes you meet are the nicest people, them and mountain bikers seem to be very friendly) man who told me about the race and where to go for my quick ride. He asked if I had ever done 70.3’s in the past. “Nope, this is my first triathlon.” He looked at me in awe. “Wow, decided to go hard right away, huh?Good luck!” “Thanks, I really need it.”

putting the wetsuit on

looking out at the choppy water

The day before the race when i checked in my bike, and got my chip and athlete bag. There were loads of triathletes around, who came from all over the world to compete in this race. When the I decided to try on my wet suit (mind you, it’s the third time I’ve ever trained with a wet suit) and do a quick swim. And for some reason, once I got into the 56 degree water, with the waves, I couldn’t seem to put my head in the water and swim. My stomach leaped into my throat and I nearly had a panic attack. I can’t do this! I walked back to my cousin and then met tw0 w0men from Minnesota who were getting their wetsuits on to try out the water.

“Have you been in?”

“Yes, but I’m really nervous.”

“First HIM?

“No, first triathlon.”

“Wow, girl, you decided big for your first triathlon! Here, swim a little with us, and then see how you do!”

They were so friendly.Even still, I was terrified of the water. (Have I mentioned I have a fear of swimming in open bodies of water?). I swam with my head above the water, then swam back to shore- still with my head up.

After the “swim” and athlete mandatory meeting, my cousin brought me back to the hotel and I just relaxed. My stomach was in knots. My throat hurt and I woke up in sweats. Ohh man, the fever is back from the mysterious illness. I was worried but excited about the race. Since for the past couple of weeks I haven’t been able to train because of insanely busy nights at work leaving me with no energy to go for the required rides and runs in the plan. I fell asleep but woke up after a few hours–my night shift body is still used to being up at night and asleep during the day.

The day of the race I felt excited, but at the same time, something wasnt right. My head hurt and my whole body felt like someone had beat it with a baseball bat again (stupid flu!). Since I had been unable to train as much as I should have, my nutritional intact was poor and has been, and the fact I was exhausted, I set out to just do the race. My biggest fear was the swim start. I had never swam with anyone else in an OWS before. Not to mention the water was 60 degrees. We got there at around 6 for body markings, since I could leave my bike over night. Wow, first time being body marked!

in line for markings

There are different waves according to age and gender, I was wave 6. there were a couple waves that went before be and after a couple of minutes, more waves would start.

getting ready for my wave to start

Then, it was my turn to go into the water. Feelings of fear, anticipation, excitement all rolled into one was what I felt. I walked to the side of some swimmers and when the gun shot went off, I ran and jumped into the water with many other women.

my wave

The water was cold, and for the first 20 minutes, I swam a modified doggy paddle/breast stroke. Then, I thought of my coach who’d say, “put your head in the water!” And, finally, I did. And, I got into the rhythm of swimming, never pushing myself, but swam a relaxed pace, because I did not want to get even more sick.. I was swimming with other people in open water, and did the first 1.2miles I’ve ever done in the water!And, survived. And, faced my fear.

so happy I was able to finish the swim!

The transition was good, and the hills that everyone was talking about were  easier than the hill workouts I did in the past. it was a modified two loop course and I felt great on the first loop. Then on the second, things just went downhill. I lost any energy I had and could not get my legs to pedal. I would sweat profusely, then get frozen, stopping along the way to fix a tire and actually vomit. I rode the last loop longer than I ever have done 20 miles before.

When I got back to Wellington park, I missed the cut off time from the bike by one minute and was not allowed to complete the run.

I was devastated. My cousin came over to me, and I just wept with feelings of failure. Ohh how I wanted so badly to complete this race that i had been preparing for for months. But, with all the illnesses I’ve had, lack of sleep, lack of proper hydration and nutrition, high stress job, my body just couldn’t do it. And, I know I could have finished it if I pushed myself more, but my body had had enough of me pushing it through sickness and exhaustion.

This is the first race I’ve never completed. Yes, i was able to face my fear of the water and swim! And, had I not been sick and have bike trouble, I could have made the time for the run. (In reality though, I do not think I could have completed the run having the flu, so in a way, i think the DNF was a sign I was not meant to do the race at this point of my life with everything that’s been happening.

At first, I felt like a complete failure. How could I not have finished the race? There were people older than me completing it, and I couldn’t? I felt ashamed of myself and embarrassed. And then thoughts about giving up on triathlons all together came into my head.

Then I thought, wait, this was such a good learning experience. I had never swam with other people before this, and now i know I can swim in a competitive setting. For the next time, I’ll be better prepared at the swim, and transition. I’ll know how to have proper nutrition and hydration and rest before the race (which still might be hard with working night shifts). I’ll listen to my body more–if it feels sick, not to push it, even if I want sooo much to finish.

Yes, it is disappointing that I did not finish the race I so desperately wanted to. And for a long time I felt like a complete failure. But, there are many athletes who did not give up after setbacks or DNF’s. It’s like the quote below by Brian Tracy:

“Never consider the possibility of failure; as long as you persist, you will be successful.”

There are a vast number of races in the future which I can do. I’m not going to let one dictate how I do in the future. It was just bad timing, I guess. I was sick, exhausted, undernourished. And, now, I have even more determination to do finish one in the future.

” Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.” -unknown
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