DNF… Did not finish…or Did not fail? You be the judge

i didn’t write the day before the “big day” not for any particular reason other than it was pretty boring overall and not much to say. so i’ll start there. i woke up saturday morning early and took my bike out. i was to ride for 10 minutes – easy peasy. and it was. it felt great. i returned my bike to the hotel room and gathered my things to head down to yoga. i dropped my stuff on the beach and went for a 10 minute run. another great time. then i set up on the beach for another fabulous yoga experience with jess. as i was waiting my tribe arrived on the beach. it was nice for everyone to be there and to be doing yoga with me. yoga was gentle and mindful and my emotions started to bubble over. i wasn’t sad, i wasn’t nervous, things were just appearing and i let it happen. IMG_8371

after yoga we all chatted a bit with jess and i felt good. she is so positive and supportive.

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after yoga we piled into a car and headed to the green goddess to eat some breakfast. i ate some delish food and felt so loved with all of my friends surrounding me. they dropped me back off at the hotel and i checked my bags again to make sure things were ready. i laid around a bit waiting for the magic time to be able to drop stuff off. then i walked down to transition. i was fully expecting a wave of emotion or nerves as i walked in or as i dropped things off or as i racked my bike. but none of those things came. it was actually quite unremarkable. i saw everyone volunteering, said hello. dropped stuff off and left. ho-hum.

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then i returned to my room where i sat with my legs up all day. we watched movies and i spent waaaayyyy too much time on my phone looking at silly things. i was quite bored. but i drank my coconut water and had lunch and was a good triathlete.

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boring. after their volunteer shift, folks came up to visit and wish me luck. it was lovely to have everyone around.

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after they left, i ate my dinner and filled my bottles and checked to make sure everything was ready for the morning. i was still not nervous. it was weird. but wonderful. then at 7:30 i climbed into bed and turned my music on and put my eye mask over my face. i didn’t have too much trouble falling asleep but wasn’t completely out when s said, “hey, i think we have to leave the hotel, i think that’s the fire alarm.” so i got up quickly, grabbed my purse and a sweatshirt and left the hotel. i knew there had been a fire across the street before i went to bed but i was startled awake. we went down to the parking lot where everyone in the hotel was and i found a rock to sit on. s went to see what was happening and the fire was much bigger. i was watching folks freak out, those who had “worked so hard” or “had to do well tomorrow”, none of these things seemed to matter as i thought of the people who’s homes and businesses were burnt and filling with water. some people had brought all their race stuff and all their stuff stuff out of the hotel. it dawned on me, was i supposed to have done that? people were in an alarmist state. there’s not going to be a swim tomorrow. they’ll cancel the race altogether. blah blah blah. i just sat on my rock and tried to sleep sitting. the hotel brought out chairs and communicated well with us. i sat in a chair and tried to stay calm, not wasting any energy on things i can’t control. eventually close to 11 we were allowed back into the hotel to sleep.

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so back to bed i went and shortly thereafter my alarm went off. it was 3:15. ready to rock. i got up and went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. i felt good. no stomach flips, nothing. i decided to jump at this opportunity and start eating before my body realized what was going to be happening shortly. i put a bowl of quinoa and half a yogurt into my body, 2 applesauces, an applesauce with quinoa, half a bowl of oatmeal. then my stomach went WHAT?! and i returned to the bathroom and threw everything i had just eaten up and into the toilet. oh crap. i couldn’t start my day with nothing. i got a little nervous about that. but drank some water. took some deep breaths and sat back down and ate again. this time a little slower. and everything stayed down. and still no stomach flips. i sat for awhile and stretched and took some deep breaths. i felt good. i was shockingly ready. i wasn’t scared at all at what was about to occur. i was actually excited.

i grabbed my bag and went down to the oval. i met with jas who body marked me exquisitely. and i went into transition to pack my bike with fuel. as i was putting things on, i heard one of my favorite songs by ryan montbleau and actually lightened up a bit more. i knew today was going to be magnificent. a girl came in and started freaking out because her bike wasn’t there, i couldn’t be of much help because it was so shocking that her bike wouldn’t be where she left it and also because i couldn’t imagine being in her position in that moment. but a race official came over and brought her to her bike – she had mis-racked it. whew.

i put my fuel bottles in my gear bags and returned out to the street. s was waiting there and as we chatted a bit, i realized i had forgotten my tri-slide. i had used it before dressing and left it in the bathroom. he was happy to go back and get it. although i did have a momentary thought that i could go without, i was glad he went and got it because my wetsuit loves to eat the back of my neck up. i went and dropped my special needs bags off at those locations and returned back to our meeting place. i felt so oddly great. i could feel the nervous energy coming from so many people but blocked it from coming into my head. i had put the work in, i was ready. s returned shortly and i went over to chat with jas some more. about nothing in particular. i started to put my wetsuit on and get race ready. i wasn’t entirely sure how much of a warm up swim i would do but coach k said, “just touch the water”. so i went over to the lake. and that was filled with so many people. i got my wetsuit pulled up and ready. i sprayed my goggles and went into the warm up area. i got in, i let my wetsuit fill and i felt good. i paddled a bit but realized how long i would have to wait after “warming up” would probably freeze my muscles. so i opted to get out. i lined up with the corral that i planned to – the 1:11-1:20 group. i decided that i would just smile. i would listen to folks chatter on but my only mood would be happy and filled with gratitude. i mean hell! i was about to do an ironman!

and we waited. mike reilly (the voice of ironman) talked and cheered and told stories. none of which i remember now. there was music playing and we all began to dance a bit. there was this incredibly nice woman standing next to me and she started chatting about how the day was going to go. she was so positive and uplifting (not that i needed to be lifted up much more). she looked at as we started to move towards to waters edge and said “what’s your name? we need to know each other’s names so when we see each other today we can say hello to each other.” it was so lovely. and as the first swimmers went in i thought to myself, “today is going to be the best day”. and we continued to inch closer until goggles were pulled down, i walked under the archway and started the watch and dove into the water.

the swim was great. coach k had said that i needed to burn it up in the swim – but i wasn’t quite sure how to do that over 2.4 miles, so i decided to do what i know how to do, settle in and find consistency. i wanted to negative split the swim. so i just swam. i focused on my catch and my technique. i focused on breathing and trying to not be a jerk. swimming with 2500 other people is complicated and i find that most people don’t pay any attention to other swimmers until they are directly on top of them. and the traffic was congested. i eventually ended up on the line (there’s a line that goes along the bottom of the lake which means you don’t have to sight) and quickly realized i didn’t really want to be here because people were quite brutal along the line. so as i came to the turn i just pulled myself to the left of the line and settled in there. the way back to the shore felt so much quicker even though it felt like there were motorized boats creating large waves in the water. as i approached the shore, the buoys looked different and it was hard to know exactly where i was headed. so i just followed the crowd. eventually i hit the sand and swam in as far as i could and pulled myself up, ran along the beach, gave my watch a quick glance (yup, i’m right on target) and dove back into the water. i wanted to swim faster this loop. i felt great. this loop i felt was more congested than the first. i was beginning to hit folks who were still on their first loop so that was difficult to get around them with all the other swimmers who were with me. but i just focused on moving and how much fun i was having. the water near the hotel was smoky tasting and the air still had the lingering effects of the fire the night before. i struggled to breath in that area but knew i just needed to pull myself through a couple hundred feet before the air would be clear again. i made the turn to go back to the beach. i was actually a bit disappointed, it was almost over. i reminded myself to stay “here”, truly here. in this moment. and i came back to the lake. i ended up squished in between two guys. two guys who definitely could not swim straight and kept bumping into me. i pulled forward and figure they could use some drafting off of me in the final moments. again the beach came up to greet me and i pulled myself up and ran to the wetsuit strippers. i pulled my wetsuit to my waist and the nice gentleman ripped my wetsuit off my legs. i checked to make sure my timing chip was still there and found the carpet where i headed towards transition.

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this was overwhelming but i just stayed with myself. i walked up the hill towards the road and then jogged down the hill. i saw sunshine and then HEARD everyone else as i went by. i felt so happy. i was actually most excited to find out about these transition tents. i had heard “there are things you can never un-see” so i was excited to find out what that meant. i know it sounds weird… but hey, it’s the little things.

so i found my gear bag and carried it into the tent. i found a chair and took a deep breath. the tent was hopping. there were athletes in almost every chair and volunteers helping. a nice volunteer came over and started helping me. she took out the ziplock bags and asked me what i needed. she helped me pull on the arm sleeves. she had my jersey ready. i lubed up well and took a look around. the girl across from me said that this was her first triathlon EVER. i told her that normally theres not such exceptional service. haha. the nice volunteer took my wetsuit and my bag and said she would return them. awesome. as i left the tent and went to find my bike there were more volunteers with sunscreen. i asked them to hit every place that wasn’t covered. i had made a last minute decision to NOT wear a rain coat even thought the skies were menacing and the forecast was for thunder storms. i was hoping that by sunscreening i would keep the t-storms away. i continued around the oval and heard bullhorns yelling out numbers. more volunteers. this was incredible. i finally found my rack and another amazing volunteer had my bike ready. i took a sip of water and walked my bike to the line. everyone was getting on and just going. but i knew there was two hair pin turns so i walked a bit further so i wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. i climbed on and off i went. shit. here it was. the bike part. but i was happy. as i went down the hill in the neighborhood i heard my tribe. i saw jas taking pictures and i knew again that it was going to be amazing.

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as i made my way i took a deep breath and reminded myself that i needed to take it all in. i wasn’t there hoping to qualify for kona or do a best time, i was there to experience it all. so i rode. and i climbed. and i was passed…by what seemed like everyone. but i was complimented by what seemed like everyone. “i love your jersey” “i love the carrot” “i love your socks” “your outfit is so bright and cheery” things were good. so fueled and i pedaled. i was breathing and smiling and feeling good.

i made my way to the first water stop and didn’t stop or get anything. i thought i was ok fuel wise and kept going. i descended to keene and it wasn’t even a bit scary this time. i didn’t cry or feel any fear at all. i just stayed focused and was actually able to look around at the beautiful scenery surrounding me. i noticed the water on the lake or river and i remembered that jas told me to notice if there was wind and which direction it was headed. i also remembered that i had forgotten to find out why this information was important. haha. i made the turn to head towards jay and felt great. i was fueling and down in aero and comfortable. i eventually passed another water stop and debated stopping but figured i could stop at the next one. the out and back to ausable forks was fun and nice due to being able to see so many athletes. some were killing themselves already, some were having fun – but i really felt like i was one of the only folks who were obviously having a nice time due to my perma-smile plastered across my face. i had assumed (stupidly) that would be a water stop at the turnaround and there wasn’t. i got a little panicked because i was out of water in my aero bottle and my electrolytes were gone. i precariously balanced as i rode and filled my aero bottle and figured i could do electrolytes at the next stop. no biggie. i was making great time and felt great.

as i turned to begin the climb towards wilmington i picked up walter (figuratively of course) and he reminded me to be the bike and breathe. i took off the gears and spun my legs. i also heard jess and her visualization of the course and “let them go” as folks stood and climbed ferociously up the hill. i knew i would need my legs for the next loop. and then i saw a water stop. it was in between two climbs but i knew i needed to refill more than i needed to worry about the climbs. so i stopped and again a fabulous volunteer helped me refill all my bottles. i lubed up again, ate a little bit and continued on my way. i knew that my favorite spot was coming. so i climbed and smiled and breathed and took it all in. and then finally, it opened up and was breathtaking. i smiled, i teared up a bit and was filled with gratitude and peace. i had made it this far without much effort. this was pure joy.

i thought of how jas said the out and backs are just annoying and i thought they were so fun to be able to see so many people. i hit the one in haselback and the road was just a huge party. music. cheering. it was so fun. i got a water at the stop and tapped my feet out because they were beginning to go numb. the rain had held off and the sun was shining and it was heating up. i turned right out onto the route and knew i was on my way back. i came down the hill and saw more spectators cheering everyone on. it was so nice. then the climbing began. i knew i could make my way up. i knew that all i needed to do was smile and breathe. and that’s what i did. i felt good. and finally i saw momma bear and thought of my mom holding me as i climbed (which would be hard to do if it was real) and then i climbed baby bear which isn’t even a climb and then papa bear loomed ahead. i dismissed the thought that it was so big. and i climbed. everyone had said that papa bear had crowds that were insane and loud and created a small path to go through. i was most nervous about that small path and falling over. but the crowds were small but mighty. there were guys in speedos which made me laugh. and i made my way to the top and i saw s. my first thought was wow! he found me here! and then gosh i love him. as i turned and climbed a bit more, i thought wow i did this. i can do it again for sure. i made my way towards special needs and saw jess on the run course and she screamed some amazing positive things that i can’t remember now. and i kept looking for my tribe. i knew i wouldn’t see them until i was by them but i still was looking. i hit special needs and got off my bike. i refilled my ucan bottle but there was no other water. the volunteer was kind and a little shocked at all the stuff i had in my bag. she was more shocked by the fact that i was ready to re-lube and not use something to wipe my hands. haha. at this point the leader of the race passed me and i thought, well at least i made it halfway!

but off i went. as i went by the oval i was a little disappointed that no one other than s made his way to see me. but i reminded myself that i didn’t do it to see anyone and i would see them later when i really needed them.

i came out of town and saw the crowds and felt good. i was so happy. i actually thought to myself, maybe i’ll do another one of these because this is so much fun. and then i came towards the horse farms and heard them. my tribe!!

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i pulled over and stopped and was so happy to see everyone. i said to them, “guess what? i’m doing this effing thing.” and off i went. i knew i didn’t have enough water in my bottles to make it the entire loop so i put a mental note in to stop at the first water stop. i also knew i needed to fuel a bit more but the climbs were coming up and my feet were a little numb. so i just figured i’d stop at some point and pull over and fuel up, tap my feet out and get things together for the 2nd loop. and i climbed. i felt good. i was happy. it was definitely a bit harder than the first time but not torturous. i was more alone this climb than last time. on one of the climbs i passed a few guys and one of them said to me “giddy up”. he didn’t look so great but i kept on. finally i came upon a semi-flat area that was open. i looked around and no one was behind me. i pulled way off to the side of the right hand. i put my feet down, took a deep breath, went through my mental checklist of what needed to get done here, tapped my feet and leaned over to get my ucan bottle out.

then. SLAM. that cyclist i had past earlier who said “giddy up” had rear ended me. i screamed. he and his bike fell. my bike fell between my legs. a car pulled over on the other side of the road and a lady came across to check things out. she asked if she should call 911. the other cyclist said “i’m not leaving this race right now” in kind of a gruff way. he asked if i was ok and i didn’t really have an answer so he left. the lady helped me pick up my bike and i got off of it. i was sad and hurt. a state trooper stopped to check on me as well. i told him i thought i was ok. and he went to check on another cyclist. i asked before he went how far a waterstop with ice was. he said “just up that hill”. the lady was so kind. she reminded me to breathe and that everything was going to hurt at this point in the day. she reminded me to persevere and that i could do this. in that moment, she was exactly what i needed.

so i climbed back on and clipped in and sat. ouch. so i stood. ugh. i’m not a very good cyclist and i’m even worse when i’m trying to stand and ride. so i perched. ugh. my legs were screaming at me. i made my way to the aid station a few miles up the hill. the volunteer at that station was so nice (of course) and we had actually worked out together at greendale ymca a few times (i can’t remember his name for the life of me thought). he was kind and caring. he asked if  i thought i should stop. i dumped some ice down my pants and said i just have to get to keene.

i hit the descent and finally peed – which was making me nervous of course with all that i had drank. and my brain was saying, now you can make up the time you’ve lost with this descent. you can just zoom down. my body was saying you can’t sit on the seat. so i perched and stood. and sloooooowly made my way down. it was painful and frustrating but i wasn’t going to quit. i heard jess saying “pain isn’t real”, i heard coach k saying “you keep moving”. but it hurt. i turned left to head towards jay and there was the flat. now going downhill is pretty easy when you’re perched but riding the flats when you can’t sit…holy shit it sucks. i was moving at a snails pace and having trouble fueling because i couldn’t sit. i heard vehicles behind me and refused to turn around. no one had passed me in a long time and i couldn’t allow my brain to start to beat me. i just needed the next aid station with ice.

and there is was. 15 miles from the last one, 5 miles from where i got hit…so 20 miles or so past where i was hit. i got off the bike to get some ice. and the ambulance and sag wagon were behind me. they asked how i was feeling. they looked at my ass (the medics only! ha). they thought it might be a broken or bruised tailbone. i asked what time it was in the real world. it was 2:20. shit. i took me 2 hours to get down that descent. shit. that’s not good at all. i had 3 hours to get the rest of the bike done. and it was uphill. how was i going to climb 2500 feet (or more) out of the saddle the entire time? i could i fuel appropriately? shit. shit. shit. shit. coach k said it “if i get off my bike, i may not get back on” shit. shit. shit. lots of tears. more ice down my pants. shit. the head volunteer came over and asked me what i was going to do. i told him i didn’t know and if it was ok that i waited. he said of course and could he pray for me. i was a little taken aback by that request but i said sure. he put his hand on my shoulder and began to pray out loud. “Dear heavenly father…..” i don’t really remember all he said but i know he mentioned knowing the difference in what i needed to do in this moment.

i took a deep breath. walked a bit away from folks. looked down at this small creek going by. i knew what i needed to do. i had to stop. i couldn’t’ risk doing more damage. not that i even knew what more damage was. and i certainly didn’t need to find out. shit. shit shit. and i started sobbing. fuck. fuck. fuck. lots of apologies for all the profanity. more ice. then another ambulance came and checked me out again. i asked if i was the last rider. and they said no. there were 6 or so more behind me.

i was heartbroken and in pain. i talked to the medic and she said she could take me to the ER and they could do X-rays but they would just send me home with ibuprofen and ice. so i figured i didn’t need to do all of that. i just needed to get back to town. so they called for a sag wagon. and the guy came and picked me up and i was dropped off at another water stop in haselton. another medic looked at me there. more ice. i couldn’t sit. it hurt too much. so i stood. in my bike shoes. in my jersey. with my bento box in my hands. and i watched as folks came in and out of the aid station. folks didn’t look great. it was hot. and sunny. a couple of guys came in and sat down. they looked awful. they were dumping water on their heads and drinking.

finally after what seemed like an eternity i asked if someone was coming to get us. they called again and another sag came and got me and another guy, gary. we got into the large van and i leaned way over towards gary who was shivering and glassy eyed. i looked in the seat behind us and found a space blanket and put it around him. i asked the driver to put the heat on. gary and i chatted a bit and i offered him some food. he was shocked at how many options i had in my bento and he happily ate my chips. we made our way along the course both gary and i trying not to express to many emotions, although i was so sad as we entered the transition area.

a volunteer helped bring my bike in and i came in through the “bike in”. as i entered a volunteer helped me take off my shoes and i entered the medical tent. they finally took off my chip. i kept thinking, no one knows where i am. everyone thinks i’m doing so well. it had taken almost 3 hours to finally get back to transition. i talked to medical to get my emergency contact number and called s on someone’s phone. we spoke very briefly and i left to go where “regular folks” can get to the medical area. s had managed to get into the real medical tent. but then was kicked out by security. i was nervous. i was standing still, shoes in hand, in socks, exhausted and in pain. i managed to get back into medical and call again. finally s and i met up and we made our way to the hotel.

i kept thinking about everyone who was there. shit. they came all this way. shit. oh shit! then i remembered coach k. she was coming that afternoon from vermont. ugh. maybe we could catch her before she made the trek. i got into the hotel room and don’t remember much. somehow s had loads of ice ready and i was laying on the bed with ice. and coach k appeared. i felt so bad. i didn’t want to stop. she was so kind. she knew i had made the right decision. but even now typing this, a week later, it’s still sad. it’s still disappointing. folks came up to visit and give hugs. i was sad and frustrated. but not overwhelmingly so. i didn’t’ quit because it was hard or i couldn’t do it, i quit because of the goddamn injury.

s reminded me that i might need to tell folks in a public way (Facebook) so i posted and was surprised by all the love. s also pushed me to call my parents which i did. i wasn’t really thinking about how many people were following me. it was so amazing how much love i was receiving. i was able to eat dinner with kerin, cheryl and jas and we ate in the room. i was in surprising spirits – no anger towards the cyclist. everyone else seemed ready for action but it was completely unnecessary.

i had had the best day i’ve ever had in this journey. i was happy. i wasn’t afraid. and those were my goals.

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