DNF - nothing good can really be said about those letters. From an academic perspective, I've always lived in fear of getting a "D" or an "F" in school and never liked seeing an "N" (category for: needs improvement) on my elementary school report card. Unfortunately, I was a talker and always got "N's" for "listens to class instruction" and "self-control." Anyway, in my entire 5ish years of racing triathlon, I have prided myself in always finishing a race.This past month, however, I have DNF'd two races in a row and have learned more then I ever really wanted to learn about NOT finishing a race.
Consumed by the Kona Points Ranking (KPR) system and the siren call of Kona, I made an idiot decision to race Boulder 70.3 as there were more points to be gained by racing there. (Quick aside here: I liken the KPR and the whole giant Kona points chase to the power of that lame ring in Lord of the Rings...or even the horcruxes and their hold over Harry Potter. Don't judge my movie selections. The closer and more involved you get with the ring, and the horcruxes, and the freaking kona points chase, THE CRAZIER YOU GET.) ANYWAY - apparently, I thought I was above science, like many of our current GOP candidates, and clearly the altitude at Boulder would not affect sealevel lauren. After hyperventilating in the water and not being able to crack 100 watts on the bike and subsequently blacking out, I knew this race was not meant to be and pulled the plug.
I came home, regrouped, and then put together two excellent training weeks. My swim was improving, I was seeing good numbers in my run and on the bike. I was ready for Ironman Canada. I had unfinished business there, and I had an OUTSIDE chance of amassing enough points to qualify for Kona by only doing three ironmans and thus preserving my body provided everything went according to my spreadsheeted plan. Canada race week was good. I was chill. I was focused. I was ready to execute my plan. The sherpa was ready and had my bike dialed into perfection. My back and glutes were 95.5% and I was happy.
Race morning I was ON and FOCUSED. I did my pre race deal and got down to the water for the swim start. I lined up next to girls and away from the men, so as to avoid my typical face kick by male pros at the swim start. The gun went off and so did I. I felt strong swimming in the water and found some feet about halfway through the swim. These feet tended to swim crooked so I stayed on them only when they held the line. The swim was over quickly and per my plan, I decided NOT to look at the clock. I heard an excited Pataky scream that I was 5th out of the water. what? FIFTH? Did he really say 15th?? This was uncharted territory for me, so I decided I better use this to my advantage and get cracking. Loeffler passed me in transition and we started the bike together. I kept her in sight and tried to use her to mentally move me down the course. After the first few miles I started to pick up the pace and power and really felt good. Things were coming together and I was rolling along - HAPPY to be racing.
I stayed in this euphoric state through the bottom of Richter pass..somewhere over 40ish miles into the race. As we started climbing Richter the 2 people ahead of me dropped me quickly. I couldn't seem to get my bike to move. After what seemed like forever, I made it to the top of the pass. Something felt wobbly on the back of the bike and indeed, my tire was flat. At that point, I threw out about a million F bombs in my mind. This had never happened to me before and WHY in the MOST IMPORTANT RACE OF MY YEAR, did this have to happen?
After 12 minutes of battle with a new and stubborn tire, I finally changed the tube and extricated a large staple/tack from the wheel. Off I went....with the knowledge that almost every pro girl had passed me while I was sitting on the side of the road. I spent a few minutes feeling sorry for myself and cursing in my mind, and then I heard Pataky yell that I was "only" 7 minutes out of 5th. Avoiding a group of age group men sucking each other's wheels and passing me on the right down the descent, I made my way down Richter and into the first of the 7 bitches (for you non tri people, the 7 bitches are 7 big rolling hills after Richter pass). Unfortunately, I felt wobbly on the descent on the first bitch, and when I looked behind me, I saw yet another flat tire. I pulled over and found another tack/staple in my tire. At that moment, I became the 8th bitch on the IMC course. It took all of my energy not to pull a Stadler and throw my bike into the field. I waited for tech support as I only had one tube, but they were helping all of the other people who had flatted farther back on the course. At this point, I knew my race was over. While I completely respect the age groupers who waited patiently by the side of the road for over an hour and then got back on their bikes and continued on, I knew that I was not going to do that. My back only has so many marathons in it, and I decided to save it for another day. I called up Pataky from the phone of a very nice spectator and then just sat down and cried.
To be honest, I feel like the idiots who sabotaged this course really robbed me of a race*. Last time I felt this way was when my back blew up in 2008 and I felt like my L4/L5 discs had robbed me of part of my season. I could take the DNF from Boulder, because that was just stupidity on my part, but this second DNF was painful. Rather than sit in our depressing motel room, Matt and I went to the finish line and cheered for our friends who had put so much time and energy into preparing for this race. Watching Nina, Matt, and Jen finish despite their own flat tires, nutritional issues, and off course swimming made me happy to be part of this sport. And that is where I found my motivation to carry on......
A few weeks ago I decided to sign up for IM Wisconsin, which happens to be two weeks after Canada. Now that I DNF'd IMC, my body is still prepared to race an Ironman....SO RACE IT I WILL. In order to be successful there, I realize that I have no time to feel sorry for myself. So, rather than tubing down the river with an aching body the day after the race, I did a long run on the course. I did, however, feel like scratching out my race number on my calf and putting a big DNF to wear like a scarlet letter. While these past 2 races have been less than ideal, I have learned much, including the notion that I should focus more on racing and less on trying to qualify for Kona as a pro. If I focus on racing, the qualifying will come when I'm good enough to legitimately qualify. Most important, I have rediscovered my passion for this sport of triathlon and am ready to do what it takes to make it to the finish line next Sunday. And, to borrow a phrase from LJ's mom, when I cross that line I will get down on my knees and thank God.
* this is LJ hijacking Lauren's post--I view the course saboteurs as intervention by the merciful hand of fate, as Lauren will race Wisconsin fully marinated and rested.