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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Let’s Du it!

I feel it’s been a while since I wrote my last post. Work has been busy, training has been tough, and life in general has just been busy—you know what I mean.

I can tell you,it IS FINALLY spring here! It only took until May for it to arrive. I’m not going to lie, Mother nature must take pleasuring with messing with our heads: one day, it’s in the 70’s, the next, down to the 40s and downpour for most of the day. I think this year she didn’t get what she wanted for christmas and is taking it out on the residents of the Hudson valley.

Getting my crap together

And it’s official: tri/duathlon season has started! And, I do not think that working night shifts go hand-in-hand with trying to compete in early morning races when your body is telling you that that is in fact not the time to be running races, but rather sleeping. Then again, do you think the lack of sleep ever stops me from putting my body through an hour and a half of imense torture? Pshhh. It never stopped me in the past. Other than that one incident where I set my alarm for 7pm instead of 7am and awoke to find I missed the race? No, I don’t. I  must admit, my body h-a-t-e-s me when I compete in races when it does not want to–you’d think it would learn by now that I’m not that easy going on my poor exhausted limbs.

Today I finished my first duathlon of the season, the 8th Annual Trooper Biathlon in Memory of Mike Kelly, Ken Poormon, and John McKenna, put on by the New York Tri Organization. All my races that I did last year (multi sport races) were through the NYSTri organization, and they  do a great job organizing them–Bravo! Plus, I have a special place in my heart for NY state troopers after they helped me with my cycling mishap, as I wrote in this post about troopers.

8th Annual Trooper Biathlon

Walking to the start

The weather was perfect for the race- warm enough that once you were sprinting (either on your feet or on the bike) it was enough to create small beads of sweat flow down your face, dropping of the tip of your nose and silently hitting the handle bars. There were lots of TT bikes, all of which I was envious of, but my Scott did a fabulous job helping my fatiqued body keep speeding down route 28.

The run was a two mile out-and-back deal, and the same was for the run after the biking portion, and I’m not going to lie, all the 14 and 15 mile long slow runs I’ve done for Mooseman prep have did little to help me with simply running 4 miles.

In retrospect, I should have checked out the route the night before, but I was too busy playing on my new toy to scope out the race scene, so everything was fresh for me. As you probably know from reading my posts, I hate hills. Especially when you are on two wheels having to pedal up them, and running on a basically empty tank of gas because you only got two hours of sleep the night before.  (The amazing moutain bike ride the night before probably didn’t help give my thighs a rest either…but the non-rest was worth it). The bike ride had rolling hills and followed the Ashokan Resevoir for a little ways, which was very picturesque, especially on a crystal clear morning that we had. The route then went down 28 and turned onto Hurley Mountain road, which had more rolling hills and which I was able to gain some speed on. And then, we had to turn and go up Doug hill Road, which was basically, 4 miles of straight uphill, which I was not prepared for. I swore my way up the hill, passing some people who had to get off and walk their bike up (I tend to embarass myself enough when having to hop of my mountain bike with X and walk up short hills on our past mountain bike rides).I was determined this time to go “slow and steady” up this 4miles of not-so-nice race course.

Hill: done!

Alas, I made it to the transition, and the last leg of the race–the same two mile sprint which preceded the bike ride. I must admit, all my training in the past have been for Mooseman, which has a long ride and long run, so I have not really been doing too much speed work (don’t tell my coach, because technically there is speed workouts on my weekly training schedule that I kind of….”tweak” since I hate speed work) and my lungs and legs could feel my lame attempts to sprint. However, my detested hill work in Dutchess county was the one thing that helped me going up dug hill!

Finally, I ran down the finish line, legs burning and intestines regretting the coffee I had that morning.But, I made it! First Duathlon of the season done! I must admit, in the middle of the race, I always find myself asking why I am doing this, especially since my body does not want to cooperate with me in early hours of the morning (damn you night shifts!!!!!). But after all is said and when your foot touches the ground below the finishers banner, you feel this immense sense of achievement. I did it! No, it wasn’t in the time that I was hoping for, but I was able to overcome the mental negative thoughts of “you are too tired to do this….you don’t do speed work….” etc etc and actually make a decent time!

All in all, it was a great organized race, and I totally see myself doing the same one in the future. Perhaps by that time, I’ll be working day shifts so I’ll even be just a tad bit rested before the race!!!

Congratulations to all the participants, and thank you to all NYS troopers, for everything you do for us.

It's over!

Theme song to the race ( i know, I know, I’m a dork. I admit it. But it has the great ability to pump you up prior to race time.)

Yayy!

Inaugural Tri/Du for Suicide Prevention

Sunrise

While my friend was completing his first marathon (and, might I add, did a fabulous job!!!), I fought sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion and finished my third duathlon this morning. It’s true what they say about triathletes/duathletes–or anyone who is serious about racing: they are crazy. And I’ve turned into one of those crazy people.

The race was the Inaugural Triathlon/Duathlon for Suicide Prevention, and took place at Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland, NY, which had a strong resemblance to Davy Crockett Ranch at Eurodisney. I am assuming if there is a Davy Crockett Ranch in Paris, there is an identical location in Florida–just to give you a little information of race location.

inside the ranch

Rocking Horse Ranch

Similar to the last two duathlons I did, the weather was perfect. A crisp, fresh autumn morning. Learning from my mistake with the last race in Pleasant Valley, I wrote down specific directions to get to the ranch (and, it helped that I used to live close to the ranch, so I knew its whereabouts) so there were no issues with getting lost. With this race, I was able to convince my father to actually compete with me. He’s 65– goes to show that not only is it never too late for you to complete your first duathlon, but that my whole family nuts.

Check-in was flawless (how hard is it to hand someone your I.D. and ask for your number?), and you could feel the anticipation and excitement for the race in the air. I know I’ve mentioned triathlons/duathlons are different than road races, and it is true. There is an actual triathlon community, and these races provide opportunities for the members of that community to congregate, catch up, and work their asses off trying to beat each other (all in good friendly fun, ofcourse). You begin to recognize other athletes from previous races, and to my surprise, I was recognized today as I went to pick up my timing chip.

“You were at the Vassar race, weren’t you?”

Yes, I am famous around these parts now.

A.Geuss in his first duathlon at 65--never too old to start racing!

I must admit, I have never been nervous before a race; excited perhaps. This morning, however, was different. I woke up after two hours of sleep actually nervous about the race. In retrospect, I know most of my anxiety had to do with the fact it was the first time I was going to ride in my cleats–meaning transitions would be a bit harder since I would have to switch out of the cycling shoes and into running shoes and vice versa.

Shoes, shoes, shoes

Pro triathletes/duathletes can transition in less than 40 seconds. My attempts at practicing last night on a gravel hilly driveway was unsuccessful to say the least. I realized that the cycling shoes I have are perfect for cycling races, but not meant for tri/duathlons. The type of cycling shoe you want for this type of race is one which only has velcro straps, and a loop at the back, which make taking them on and off a synch. If you notice pro athletes don’t even unclip out of the pedals when they transition–they take their feet out of their shoes and then run barefoot until switching into normal running shoes. I tried that on my gravel driveway last night as well, which is something I urge you NOT to try at home. It’s a little tough on the soles of your feet, especially when barefoot.

Tight squeeze

The course was the same distance as the last race I completed: for the duathlon, a one mile run, then fourteen mile bike ride, ending with a three mile run. The mile sprint was not too bad, and I decided, or rather, my fatigued body decided for me, that this was not going to be a fast sprint. It did go quickly, and the dreaded transition was soon upon me. With my other races, I never had to worry about changing shoes, because I did not have cycling shoes, so I rode in my running sneakers (which saves time in transitions).However, with my new clip in pedals, things were a tad more complicated, as I mentioned above–not to mention the fact that I am still having issues trying to clip into the pedals. Fellow cyclists tell me it will become more second nature as I spend more time clipping in-and-out. Yet, I managed, and the ride went by quickly. I must admit, the course was a lot hillier than in Pleasant Valley. Much hillier.Which meant there was more burning of the thighs. The scenery made up for the hills.

third time's a charm. Yes I have loads of photos of my baby.

The second transition was a tad more complicated than the first, and sure enough my fear of being unable to clip out of my right pedal and fall over happened (everyone needs to fall atleast once, right?). My practice sessions last night were of no help whatsoever, go figure. And the complexity of the straps of my cycling shoe (okay, for me they are complex) only added to the frustration of trying to switch into my running shoes. Ohh, another helpful hint if you are going to take part in a triathlon/duathlon: I strongly suggest having running shoes that have no tie elastic shoe laces. You do not want to waste time tying laces. Zoots actually has specific triathlon running shoes, created to help ease transitioning from cycling to running shoes. (those will be my next purchase). And added bonus: they look cool.

What I like about tri/duathlons, which differs from running races, is, even though there is a fair amount of competition between entrants, people are friendly. Fellow athletes are encouraging when they pass you, especially on the last running leg. “Great job- almost there;” that being said when you still have the three mile run to complete. However, I am not sure if they say that because they think you are about to keel over and die, or if they really mean it.

The support in the race was fabulous, too. The last portion of the race was actually a 1.5mile run up and back (to make a total of 3 miles) and on this course, the turning point was on a hill. There was definitely some internal silent crying deep within me when I saw the hill. I’m really not a hill person, as you’ve probably come to realize if you’ve read other posts. Yes, they are challenging, and I feel good after I’ve completed it. But in the midst of running, or biking, up a hill, I’m not a happy person (hard to imagine, huh?). Almost at the top of this hill, there was a lady–I think her name was Nancy, if not, she looked like a Nancy to me–who was the most incredibly motivating volunteer I have come across in a race, and I’ve completed my fair share of races.

“Keep it up! You look great! You’re one of the top ten females so far, girl! The hill is almost over! Woohoo!” She exclaimed with a huge grin as she gave me a high five, and a strong pat on the back. Despite feelings of fatigue and nausea, you cannot help but smile when someone like that is urging you to keep up the good work. After the race I found out she herself is a triathlete, and knows how motivating volunteers can be. And she did it with every runner. She is my hero.

The best part of the race: the finish

To my pleasant surprise, I managed to finish the race in decent time, but was a minute slower than my last race. Yes, I was aiming for a quicker time than my last race, but when running on an empty tank and lack of sleep, I realized early on that was not going to happen. So, I was pleased.

Still awake!

Here are the race results through the New York Triathlon Oganization

When’s the next one?

When was the last crazy post written?

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