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

Race Day Check List

As I leave for the race tomorrow, I thought I’d give you my “race day check list” which is much much longer than a race day checklist for marathons and duathlons (well that’s a given, since you are now adding another discipline to the race). What type of fuel will be a different post (just when you were done with my useless posts).

  • Confirmation of race registration (i have that printed out)
  • photo ID (i have two drivers licenses now, so my nightmare of checking in during the NYC half won’t happen…Actually, the half was why I had to get another license in the first place.)
Transition area:
sunscreen, watch, heartrate monitor (maybe)
race belt/chip strap, towel, couple gels/ gel blocks, a couple bottles
bathmat (maybe, or just old towel to stand on)
SWIM 

My wetsuit gear and tri suit

wetsuit
tri shorts/top
goggles (x2)
neoprene cap, neoprene booties
normal cap
body glide
nutrition
Bike

my baby

helmet
my bad ass sunglasses
cycling shoes (i’ll be using my tri shoes…maybe)
sunglasses
socks (maybe)
water bottle (s) or hydration pack
repair kit
spare tube, CO2
multi tool
tire levers
duct tape (to tape the gels to the frame)
Run

my tri shoes and running shoes- the other Lock Lace needs to be put on....And part of my big toe

Running shoes with easy lace up laces
socks (definitely if I don’t use them for the bike)
hat
fluel belt (? maybe)
And a big SMILE and camera ofcourse (for someone else to take photos of me!)
I’m off for a run then swim, leaving you with some more Moby.

Was that a fish?

Lake Onteora

After who knows how many times I cancelled my open water swims due to work or fevers, today I finally had my experience swimming in a lake….Seven days before my race. Not too late at all, right? Don’t misunderstand me–I spent every summer of my youth at Lake George, so I’ve had plenty of fooling around and water play. Never, though, have I actually swam in a lake for swimmings sake (remember, up until November I swore I’d never swim). I was meant to do this last week, but the “mysterious disease” I’ve been suffering with for the past month would not allow it.

Today, at eleven o’clock, I met my coach once and for all at Onteora Lake which for people who are unfamiliar with the area, is somewhat close to the Ashokan Resevoir. Actually, if you are unfamiliar with the area, you have no idea what the Ashokan Resevoir is, so never mind. That comment was meant for people who do live in the area. I’m pretty sure there is a fair amount of mountain biking around the lake which I’ll need to check out once this dreaded race is over.

Here’s how my experience went:

I met my coach, who met me bright and early at a picnic table that is located next to the waters edge, carrying in her arms body glide, neoprene caps, a flotation device, and my wetsuit.

“You look tired, are you feeling okay?” Were her first words. I guess it’s obvious to nearly everyone I meet nowadays that I look like crap.

“Meh, not really, but I need to get into the Lake at somepoint before the race.”

My coach herself is doing a pretty popular, tough triathlon next weekend (and mountain bike race on Sunday—I want to be her) so she was going to watch me and not enter the water. After discussing my new baby and life, she went through the motions of putting on a wetsuit. I’ve only ever put a wetsuit on once before in my life and if you’ve never been in one before, it’s very…ehh… different. It took me about eight minutes to actually get into, even with the tri-spray D. used on the inside and body glide. The tri spray helps lubricate the inside of the suit, which makes it easier to take off. The body glide is for your wrists, neck, and ankles to help prevent chaffing.

“You have to inch your way with each leg, then the arms. At the race, you make lots of friends and will need to have someone zip you up. You are going to feel like you cannot breath at first in this, so that is a normal feeling,” D. said as she zipped the back of the suit up for me. There is a sequence that needs to be followed as to how you get into this suit. Holy crap, this is tight, and I cannot breathe at all!

Once the suit was on, I sat on the bench and put on my booties. Now, for race day, you need to remember in what order you put things on–if you put the booties on first and then the wetsuit, in transition, you need to remember to take the suit of first and then the booties. Apparently, Mooseman has people who help strip the wetsuits off you.

However, if you are doing a triathlon and the water is not 56 degrees, then you don’t even need to worry about wetsuits and hypothermia. I really have no idea why I chose to do a triathlon in New Hamphire at the beginning of the summer when the water temperature is in the 50’s. You know what, I really don’t know why I signed up for a half ironman distance triathlon either. I would strongly advise if you are going to try a triathlon, have your first one be (1) in warm weather so you don’t need to worry about a wetsuit and the feelings of claustraphobia associated with being in a suit that makes you have a better appreciation for batman and catwoman and any other superhero in skintight clothes and (2) don’t do a half IM distance one. Please. Listen to me. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever stop making silly mistakes, like signing up for insane races. Parts of me thinks I’ll have a normal thought process after this. And then there is a small part of me that will never learn. I’ll let you know how it goes in 20 years, if I survive Mooseman.

Back to wetsuit application. Once the booties were on,two caps and goggles, I followed D to the water where I continued to listen to her directions and try not to freak out because I felt like I could not breathe.

“Tie this around your ankle. Just incase,” She handed me the flotation noodle thing. Thank goodness she is prepared for if I possibly drown. The water was not too cold, and the fact I was sweating profusely in the skintight thick wetsuit helped me deal with the water temperature. As I tied the noodle to my ankle, I felt something nibble at my fingers.

“Ahh! I think a fish bit me!” I extracted my hand from the water.

“Ohh no! I should have warned you about the fish,” D. said.

My heart rate tripled. Not only was I going to drown, I was fish bait too.  No wonder I waited so long to enter this non-chlorinated water.

At first, I swam to the middle of the lake and back to my coach, mimicking how we would start the race. Then, my coach had me swim out for 5 minutes and then back to her, just enough to get used to swimming outside.

I started swimming when I heard my coach yell to me, “Molly, put your head under the water.”

I’m not sure it was because I’ve been sick and was afraid I would not be able to breathe under the water, the fact I could not expand my lungs enough to breathe in the wetsuit, my fear of what I would see in the murky darkness that loomed underneath me, or a combination of everything that stopped me from putting my head under the surface.

My wetsuit gear and tri suit

“Okayyyyy” I yelled back at her as I continued to keep my head above the water.

After another couple strokes I finally put my head in the water and began to swim normally. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, breathe. Stroke, look ahead and breathe. It took awhile to get used to the swimming rhythm, and despite the limited movement I had in my arms from the wetsuit (you are somewhat constricted in how you move your body in something really tight), I got back into my rhythm quicker than I thought. Mind you, I have not swam in a couple weeks due to the mystery illness, so it’s what I remember of my rhythm. It helped that the water was murky and I could not see too far ahead of me. When I almost reached the lake’s edge, I heard my coach yelling for me to come back. That’s when I turned around and realized that the breeze was facing me. I usually like breezes, but not when they cause currents in the water which you need to swim against, especially the first time you’ve ever swam in open water. That’s one nice thing about pool swimming–you don’t need to swim against currents. I was pretty sure seeing little waves coming towards me that I would never make it back, get really tired, and drown. But, eventually, I made it back to my coach.

“How was it?”

“Different,” I panted, out of breath.

“Okay, let’s go through what you’ll do at transition.”

I jogged back to the picnic table as I unzipped the back of the suit. Finally, expanded oxygenated lungs! The tri-glide and whatever other body lubricant I used for the inside of the wetsuit helped it slide off my body with more ease than attempting to get each of my large feet into it. My coach and I then continued to talk about transitioning and triathlons until it was time to leave.

I bundled up my two caps, wetsuit, booties and caps and balled them up on a towel in the back of my car.

“So this is it, Moll, you’re big race is in a week! Try to get a couple more OWSs in if you can, it would be best if you did not swim alone (uhh ohh, me having to wait for someone in order to do something?Not sure if that will be happening) and good luck! You’ll do awesome.” My coach stated as she got in her car.

To be honest, I could not be more anxious/scared/nervous about a race than I do now. My training these past couple weeks, as I’ve mentioned in a prior post, has been slacking do to exhaustion from working 12-15hr nights, lack of sleep, and sickness which I seem to be unable to get rid of. This race is freaking me out. Not necessarily the bike and run portions–I know I am capable of running and riding those distances. It’s the swim which terrifies me. Hopefully I’ll be able to breathe through my nose at somepoint before the race. I will keep you posted mid-week about further triathlon plans.

After a much needed nap, the grill was started up by X (yes, I have a grill and do not know how to use it. I do, however, know how to re-start a stopped heart if that makes you feel any better?) and we had a fabulous picnic feast outside in the humidity and heat.courtesy of Ironman events

So, Mooseman, after debating on whether or not I would actually go ahead and face you, it’s hard for me to give up. So, I’ll be seeing NH in a week!

I had this song in my head on the way to the water. It’s actually good for tempo keeping on a bike too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swollen Glands and Mountain Bike Rides

I might be one of the worst people when it comes to taking care of themselves when they are sick. I just refuse to acknowledge that there is a possability of me being ill with something, and continue living my life as if I had a perfect immune system.  Then, after days of ignoring it, feeling like I am on my deathbed, I finally acknowledge the fact I am sick. Of course, this happens when I should be celebrating the fact I made it to the age of 25, and two weeks before the biggest race of my life.

beautiful birthday flowers from L.Geuss, best older sister in the world!

It started Monday when I felt unusually tired. I thought it was just a continuation of my lack of sleep, crazy stress at work, and adding stress to my body with training for Mooseman. Tuesday rolled around and that’s when the fever started. Chills. Vomiting. Gastrointestinal issues. Feeling like someone took a baseball bat and used my body as a baseball. The non-stop rain did not help. There was a new appliance on my face, a faucet, that I had forgotten how to turn off, so constant sniffling and nose blowing was occurring. As well as hot flashes and cold, profuse sweating. Every part of my body, including toe nails, ached. I’ve never felt so close to death before. Perfect timing when my race is so soon.

In retrospect, I should have called in from work both days, but I don’t like calling in. And, the quick ride in the rain on Thursday after work was a stupid idea. Friday morning rolled around at work, and the vomiting and fever started again, and as the shift progressed, so did the size of each gland in my neck.

“Hey V,” I asked my colleague at one point in the morning when we had a breather from non-stop insanity.

“Yes,”

“Come here. Feel my neck.” I took her hands and placed them on the sides of my neck.

“Wow, what’s wrong? You have insanely large glands.”

“I’m not feeling to great.”

“You should check that out.”

I finally took the advice of someone and right after work, barely able to move my body or swallow because I was in so much pain. The doctor had a similar reaction when she took one feel of my neck after I flinched away in pain, actually in tears at this point.

“I think I’m sick,” I told her.

“Yes, I think you’re right. With a 101 fever, and the fact I can see your swollen glands in your neck and shoulders. How long have you been feeling this way?”

“Four days, it wasnt getting better so I came here.”

“Drink plenty of fluids, take the antibiotics, take pain killers for the body aches, and rest.”

“Okay, thank you so much.” I hobbled out of the room hunched over like an old hobbit.

I went home and then slept for 12 hours and woke up for the first time in three days being able to swallow without becoming teary eyed, and walk with a normal gait. I also woke up to blue sky, which I had not seen in a week. After going almost 5 days without doing any physical activity whatsoever, canceling get-togethers with friends, and still “resting” so I will be somewhat alive for my race in TWO weeks, I decided to go for a short spin on my new Scott since I didn’t want to push my body too hard (wow, I think that’s one of the first times I’ve allowed my body to somewhat rest).

Riding a mountain bike on a road is much different than riding a road bike on a road. My Contessa Spark has lock-out suspension in the front, which is perfect for riding on the roads, simply because, well, it locks out the front suspension for you. But, you go slower on a mountain bike than road bike. Then again, I was out to get fresh air, and not push myself so that I’d get sick again.

It was the first time I’ve ridden my mountain bike without my mountain bike buddy. I was a bit hesitant doing it all alone–what if I rode into a tree and broke my neck and no one knew? Or broke a bone somewhere else?Or fell into a ravine and could not get out?–but really wanted to ride it. And we’re far from ravines of any sort. So, I rode the 2.5miles down to Ferncliff Forest since I was (somewhat) familiar with the trails in there.

The beginning of the ride was great. From five days of non-stop rain, there were lots of large puddles, mud up to ankles, and the streams were now rivers. But I maneuvered through mud, puddles, over branches and rocks as I swatted mosquitos away. It was fun, and my heart noticed right away that I was doing some sort of physical activity.

Then, I came to the bridge. It’s not a huge bridge. X, who brought me to F.Forest first to show me the trails, thinks it’s about a yard in diameter, and it’s about 12 feet across. I think it’s much skinnier in diameter, like a foot and a half.

Anyway, my sense of balance and coordination have been slightly off with the fever and whatever infection my body was still battling over. “Just ride over it, don’t get off, you rode over it last time.”

So I rode up a couple of rocks to the wooden planks and did two rotations of my pedals when my faulty sense of balance came into play. “Uh ohh,” I said as I tried to put my foot down.

It was too late. Before I knew it, my bike had toppled over the side of the bridge, with me still on it, into the large stream. “Oopsies,” I stated and tried to get up out of the stream/puddle, but all the wet leaves and mud at the bottom seemed to make getting out a tad more difficult and wanted to keep me stuck to the bottom of the water’s floor. Once I climbed back onto the bridge, covered in leaves that decided to apply themselves to my face, legs, and arms, I pulled out my baby from the water.

I looked around. Please tell me no one saw that.  Infact, only tiny insects were laughing to themselves at my sight. There was no way I was going to attempt to dry off–I had nothing to dry off with–so I decided it would be best to just ride back home and cut the ride short, since I did just recover from a raging fever and was now drenched from head to toe. I did take a picture of my bike still in the stream, but alas, phones do not like being submerged in water, and mine broke, which lead me to purchasing a new iPhone (which is….amazing). So, I cannot post a picture of how large this small body of water that I fell into was.

I rode back home, and arrived to my neighbor who stared at me in shock, “Where did you ride? Was there a storm we missed?”

“Uhh, I fell off a bridge into water….”

Thankfully, she did not judge, even with the small pieces of leaves that were stuck to the sides of my face.

drenched, but still smiling

Even though the ride was cut short, it was fun. And, it gave me the opportunity to go upgrade my phone!

When was the last crazy post written?

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