Thursday, May 9, 2013

My first DNF

Prior to this weekend, my thoughts on a DNF (did not finish) looked similar to this:

My motto was "Death before DNF!" I mean, I didn't even have a DNF on my bucket list for heaven's sake! So, why would I even consider doing something like that? I considered myself in the same category with greats such as Siam Welch or Wendy Ingraham - someone that would CRAWL across that darn finish line no matter WHAT my condition.

But, my beliefs were totally shattered this past weekend when, after the swim portion of my Olympic-distance race, I was out...with my first DNF.

Being the analytical person that I am, I've been analyzing the crap out of my race and race weekend to see exactly what it was that I did/didn't do that caused my first DNF.

I started the weekend extremely excited. It was the first time I would race with Team Rev3 and I was happy at the chance to get to meet and race with some of my new teammates and proudly wear the Rev3 kit! 

After a 7+ hour drive to Knoxville, I arrived at the race expo and ran into several of my teammates and the "boss man" (Charlie) almost immediately. Although I've never met most of them, I have drawn close to them virtually so it was easier to connect to them than I thought it might be. 
The first night, Rev3 had an amazing event called the Glow Run. The money raised from the Glow Run was
used to benefit former University of Tennessee swimmer Nicole Gross, injured in the Boston bombings. Local news reported over 1500 people attended this race! How amazing that the city of Knoxville came out to support such an amazing cause! 

I was excited to run the Glow run with Celeste. She had seen pictures of the finish line and was just as excited as I was. I was so proud of her for running...and not walking...the entire race! She's my little glow bug!

On Saturday the rain started falling. I knew it was going to be a cold and wet race so I was trying to stay positive about it. But, I wasn't in the right "head space" all weekend long. I needed someone to just smack me up the side of the head and say "GET OUT OF YOUR FUNK!!!" To be honest, I've been in a funk for a long time. I mean, SERIOUSLY's MAY and I'm still wearing a COAT!!!! I need spring, at a minimum, and I'd be REALLY HAPPY with summer!!! 

Saturday afternoon was a TON of fun! Celeste and I registered and raced the Little Rev Adventure Race. OMG! This is the next best thing to racing The Amazing Race (which I've been DYING to do!). I think adventure racing needs to be on my race schedule for next year for SURE! I'm totally lovin' it! Celeste loved it as well! Won't be our last one! Celeste had met a friend (Gabby) while at the race so we brought Gabby along with us to race the Little Rev. This is our post-race pic.

After Little Rev I decided it was time to test out the waters in the practice swim. So, I geared up (well, almost...thanks to Jill Poon for lending me her swim cap AND goggles) into my blueseventy wetsuit and headed down to the river. It was cold outside so I knew the water was going to be cold, too. And, rumor had it the temps were below 60 degrees (Did I say I hate the cold??). When I first jumped in, the water literally took my breath away! But, as I stood there doing a doggy paddle it became "bearable." 

All this great fun was leading up to what I had hoped would be a great race. Even though I felt really out of sorts most of the weekend, I figured once race time arrived I'd be ready to rock! 

My roomies and I drove down to the race venue early and parked at transition. We got transition set up and then decided to go to the start line (about 1/2 mile away) to watch the 70.3 swim start. I made the mistake of not bringing flip flops to the race start so I stood around (like many others) in the cold and walked through lots of puddles (because it rained all weekend) of water just waiting for my start time. Huge major props to SimplyStu Triathlon for literally giving me the shoes and socks off his own feet to keep mine warm for just a few minutes.

Once it was time for my wave to start, I went down to the river and jumped in, hand-in-hand, with my Rev3 teammate Jaime Dix into what I was told was 58 degree water! After our heads came up from out of the water, we just sat there looking at each other, encouraging each other to breathe. Jaime said "we're doing this together as a team" and she would never realize the power her words had on me that day. Throughout my toughest swim ever her words would continue to ring through my mind.

The horn blew for our swim to start and off we went! Going to the first buoy was against the current but it wasn't that far so I knew it wouldn't be an issue. I tried hard to get into Zone 2 for my swim as my wonderful  Team Z coaches had always taught me. But, my heart was racing like crazy. So, within minutes I decided I should roll over on my back and do the backstroke. However, rolling on my back wasn't helping a BIT and my heart was actually racing even faster. So, I rolled back over, tried a little breast stroke, tried a little doggy paddle, and tried to continue on. But, the current seemed to actually be moving me backwards rather than forward. I kept thinking "I just need to make it to the first buoy and then just a bit to the second buoy and then my swim would be with the current the rest of the way and I could potentially set a PR on this course." But, I literally could not get my heart rate to slow down. I tried everything I could but nothing seemed to be working. It took me a long time to get to the first buoy and I watched as everyone swam past me. Never in my life have I had such personal one-on-one conversations with the kayakers and lifeguards than in this race. When I finally made it back to shore (about twice as long as it would have normally taken me) I was wiped out both physically and mentally.

As I tried to move from swim to transition (about 1/4 mile) I knew I was in trouble. I was cold...REALLY cold. I knew I needed to run to transition (I always do!) but I could barely get my body to walk, let alone run. Then it emotional breakdown!

Looking back over my entire weekend I tried to figure out what this emotional breakdown was all about. It wasn't until I went to see my counselor days later that I figured it out. See, I have a problem understanding the FEELINGS that are underneath all the logic that goes on in my mind. So, as she asked me questions about those moments of emotional breakdown I was able to identify the feelings. See, as a mom of two and a coach to youth triathletes, I never want them to think of me as a quitter. The moment I came out of the water and struggled to transition, I knew I needed to pull out of this race. But, I didn't want to be labeled as a quitter because that label meant I was inadequate and unimportant (FEELINGS!). When I reached the transition area, I found several teammates and some others who said "it's okay." I remember specifically telling them "I don't want to stop but I know I need to stop." It was a mental game I have never experienced in my life. I kept thinking about my friend, Patti Jackson, who kept going in her Full Rev last year at Cedar Point. Patti had a ton of things going against her but she kept going and finished the race. Why couldn't I keep going? Again, those feelings came rushing back into my mind. But, you know what, I don't have to have those feelings - those are just lies I'm being told by the devil himself. And, I came to that realization days later (darn it, why did it take so long!).

As I think about the lessons I learned from this race a few things stood out to me:
1. I'm not a failure
2. Understanding a DNF on a personal level will help me be a better coach
3. "Did not finish" is better than "did not start" which trumps "did not try."
4. Patti Jackson is a rock star!
5. People that completed this race are rock stars!
6. I love my Rev3 teammates - particularly those who had heart-to-heart conversations with me about my experience - Pam, Jill and Jaime in particular!
4. Never, EVER, EVER swim in 58 degree water EVER again!


Lzlhe said...

Tracy, this reminds me of my one DNF to date. I travelled all the way to Chicago for the Chicago Tri (oly) in 2011. I went for a practice swim in Lake Michigan the day before, and was subsequently completely freaked out by the 2-3 foot seas. Race morning, the lake was slightly less choppy, but I absolutely underestimated the churn generated by 8000 triathletes in the water (I was in wave 35), coupled by reverb from the seawall. 200 yards in, I was mentally exhausted and asked a boat to bail me out. I felt horrible. I turned in my chip and decided "screw this," then hopped on my bike and finished the race. It was still a DNF because I did not complete the swim, but sometimes you just do what you've gotta do. You can train the mental muscle all you like, but some days are just not THERE. It's not only how we push through obstacles, but how we recover from our stumbles that matters most.

Nicolas Nouvel said...

There is no shame in DNF, nor in DNS. They rate the same... DNT is a whole other debate, as I will agree with you. There are many reasons why we end up DNS or DNF. It is all about rolling with the punches, just like in training, when we have days with and days without. I have had these, where I was supposed to have a long run or bike or swim and packed it up 10-15 minutes into it, because the day was not an in-day... We have to learn how to listen to our bodies and interpret true fatigue, stress or whether it's just the CG (Central Governor) telling you to quit...
I firmly believe the head is 3/4 of the preparation for a race. Well done for trying, starting, pushing on and understanding this was not your day... and then putting you out there!
Heads-up, look forward and onward to better days!!

Donna Sumption said...

I agree with Nicolas. I DNF'd at Rumpass a couple of years ago in similar weather. I made it to transition, but I knew that I was not well. I could not get warmed up. I have had hypothermia and I could feel that was where I was headed. At first, I was upset like you. I never quit anything. But I know I made the smart decision. It took about an hour to get warmed up. Our faithful Team Z mates stayed by me and made sure I was ok. I will probably never do that race again. I know I am not a cold weather person. I feel no shame and you should not either. It sounds as if your other events were a success. Keep the faith girl Now you will be able to provide good sound coaching to tell your kids to listen to your body.

Pamela McGowan said...

You are amazing just for trying that day lady! You made the right call for you at that moment as did I. On to the next one! Keep that chin up!


Pam :)

Ann said...

I think you are awesome! I have a DNF and I hated it. Same thing happened to me in the swim. I just couldn't slow the heart rate and then I had to call it. You will get back out there and kill it!

Janet said...

Plenty of DNF's over here. Welcome to the club. Happens to all of us!

Maggie said...

I'm so sorry to hear that your day didn't turn out like you expected but glad that you are wise/brave enough to know when to call it quits! Sounds like last weekend was tough for everyone - hopefully now that we've gotten the bad race conditions out of the way, the rest of the year will be spectacular in comparison!! :)