becoming a happy adult in a sunny sustainable world.
You know that midnight train from Georgia? Well, it became a midnight train back to Georgia without a single post being written. I could chalk it up to many things, not the least of which was my laziness. And just general malaise. But also, I needed some time to regroup. To forget about the stress and anxiety…and, well, shocking sheer craziness of my life in Augusta. So, regroup, I did. And I returned to work yesterday morning in pleasant spirits…for about 3 hours.
It was a great vacay…except the one major fail. My first ever DNF.
Yep, folks…this past weekend was my only half ironman of the year. And I did not finish that sucker. I’ve been through many stages of grief. Anger. Denial. White hot self-rage. And, finally, I’ve mostly come to accept it. Because, what else can one do? Not much. But, accept it, learn from it, and move on. An integral part of learning from it, though, is the race report. So here goes nothing.
PreRace: Drove down to Cambridge, MD from Baltimore on Saturday. Picked up the packet, they didn’t have anymore shirts in the size I ordered, so they offered me a W’s S (um, have you met me? I haven’t been a WS since I was in middle school) or a M’s L. Neither work. Boo. Whatever, it’s not like I wear many of those shirts anyway. So, I leave the expo and we head to our motel.
A motel that was 45 minutes away. Because, yes, that was all that was available when I booked the motel 4 days earlier. Because…well…because, I apparantly forgot to book a hotel. I could have sworn I did. At some point. But I couldn’t find an email confirmation last week. And I couldn’t remember what hotel I booked, so I called every hotel in the area asking if they had a reservation for me. Nadda. Oops. This maybe should have been the first clue that the race wasn’t meant to be. The shirt was the second.
The morning of, I stomached half a bagel and PB and a nanner. My swim wave was the last AG wave, so I had an hour and a half to wait around before I got to swim. So, I sipped on water, tried to stay hydrated and in the shade. Mostly I just snuggled.
Swim: At 7, they announced that the start would be delayed 20 minutes. So, my 8:30 swim start became an 8:50 swim start. Which is WAY late in the day. But, I jumped on in and started swimming.
It was not wetsuit legal, which was fine, but did mean that I was going to be a lot slower than planned.
As I swam, I just tried to stretch out and have nice long strokes. And I did. And I sighted well and swam a tight course. But, the swim still felt like an eternity. With about 300m to go, I started feeling nauseaus. Like, OMG, I’m going to puke my brains out from being seasick, nauseaus. At one point I stopped swimming, looked at the shore and thought, about quitting right there. I also wondered if I puked in the water while swimming wheether I might aspirate the vomit and die.
Eventually I kept going and finished.
And then I get out and looked at my time and thought: WTF?! Almost twice as long as my Augusta HIM swim time?! WTF?!
Turns out the course was 1.5 instead of 1.2 miles…which explains the slow time. But, once I saw that time I knew that my goal of sub 5:30 was not gonna happen.
I was still feeling nauseaus, but wanted to move quickly. The transition went relatively well…but that’s it.
I started out the bike with gooey legs. I don’t normally have that after the swim. Usually I start out the bike feeling fine. But, this time, I was nauseated and I still had sea legs. Seasick and sea legs.
But, the race plan called for dropping my HR to 150-155 and sucking down liquids for the first 5 miles. So, I tried to still take in some nutrition. With the seasickness, I didn’t want to stomach anything. So, I forced some GU chomps down my throat and attempted to drink the water out of my aero bottle.
For the first 15 miles, I averaged 19mph. It wasn’t as fast as I wanted, but it was acceptable. And then, at mile 20, the winds started up. And holy winds. My HR was up to 160-165, a whole ten BPM over what I was aiming for. I could have backed off, but then I would have been really slow. And, well, I don’t like going slow. So, I just pushed on hoping that my HR would settle down and I would settle into a fast pace.
The middle chunk of miles were rough. It was windy and flat. Flat meant I was pushing hard to keep going the whole time and the winds were pushing against me. It was then that I missed hills. Because as much as uphills suck on the bike, you can really get your speed up and going on the downhills. And once the speed is up, it’s easier to keep it up. But, at this point, I became resigned to the idea of a 3:00 bike leg and not a 2:45 bike leg like I had planned.
I settled in to a 18mph pace that was still very difficult, far more difficult than any ride that I’ve done this year. I was still not taking in liquids at the rate that I should have because of the seasickness; so, when I hit the second aid station, I made myself grab a Gatorade. And: success of the day: I made it through the bottle exchange without stopping or crashing!
At mile 40, I started considering dropping out mid bike. It felt as though I was riding through quicksand. I had to gear down to my small ring, even on this completely flat course. It was also 95 degrees and i was melting. Melting and dehydrated. My swim was slow, my bike was slow, and I was just giving up. I was frustrated that I could seem to ride like I do at home. And, so then all the mean negative thoughts started popping up in my head.
You are slow. You suck. You are a lard ass cyclist. You will never qualify for Kona. You should never have qualified for Boston. You are a fraud. And a shitty athlete. Your days are over. You will never be as good as you want to be.
Once those thoughts start going, the game is over. When I’m on top of my mental game, I’m unstoppable (see e.g. Chicago Marathon or any random erg test from my college rowing days). When my mental game sucks, I cannot handle endurance events (see e.g. GA ING marathon).
At mile 50, I could barely keep going. I was averaging 15mph, and was barely staying upright. At this point, my head was pounding, I was lightheaded, and was trying not to vomit all over my bike.
When I got to mile 54, I decided that I was not going to run. I wanted this all to be over with. I felt horrible, and not just “I’m competing in a half-ironman horrible.” And, I knew my time was going to be at least an hour slowing than my HIM PR. Without a hope for a PR, I thought, why the fuck go on? Right? So, I gave up.
Sure, I felt horrible. I wanted to vomit. My vision was blurry. My head was throbbing. But, could I have completed a half marathon? Sure. Of course I could have. I could have done that in my sleep. Was it worth landing myself in the hospital? Probs not.
Do I think I made the right decision? Don’t know…still deciding.
T2: As soon as I crossed the line into T2, I saw my dad and Brennan. I ran over to them and gave Bdog a BIG scratch behind the ears.
And then said “Dad, will you be mad at me if I don’t run?” I felt seriously guilty for dragging him down to a race that I wasn’t going to finish…so, I considered finishing it. Because he was there. But, he said he wouldn’t be mad. So…I packed up my stuff in transition. And left.
Run: Yeppers. Didn’t do this.
Lessons Learned: There will be more on this later because I plan to devote an entire post to learning from a DNF. But, biggest lesson learned? Shit happens. Also, I like hilly courses. Also, my brain can fuck me over.
Ok, anyone else ever DNF-ed? What did you learn from it? And, how did you move on?
A public defender super heroine by day, I am a cupcake baker extraordinaire by night. And come weekend, I am an IronPerson. I deal with an NPR addiction daily and I dream of one day having Carl Kasell on my answering machine. I strive to be the best fur-mommy I can be, and when I have time, I'm learning to be a grownup.