I have 16 days until I am scheduled to enter a 5k swim race in Hazleton. As with all races, I am not going to win. My kids have learned the phrase “win for me.” That’s great and all, but there are still cutoff times. Back when I entered Annapolis TriRock there was a cutoff time, and I made it. I was somewhat worried, but doing the math I figured it would work out.

This time I am not so sure.

Everything is going to have to go perfect for this to work, this time.

There is a 2.5 hour cutoff for this event. That’s 30 minutes per km. I did just over 2km this afternoon. The first was just about 28m, and the second was the same. That’s a bit too close for comfort. It means I have to do several things:

1. maintain the same pace for 5k, not just 2k.

2. not veer off course at all.

3. swim the same pace in open water that I can in the pool.

#1 is probably not the problem. I’ve always been steady with my pacing, except my first lap which is always too fast. I settle in for dozens at the same pace right after that.

#2 won’t be too bad, I hope. Flatwater sighting is much easier than surf, but it’s still something to be concerned with.

#3 is the unknown. I was a wreck in the surf this past weekend, but we’re not talking surf. Still, I’m taking a swim pace from ideal conditions and trying to translate it to completely other conditions. That is unwise.

I am seriously worried about a legitimate DNF. And in a way, this bothers me more than the two DNS I had this summer. Nothing risked, no embarrassment. I had reasons/excuses for not doing those so I couldn’t fail.

As I look at personality traits I want to mold and adapt as I go through this fitness quest, this is one of them: fear of failure. I can honestly say that for most of my life, I have followed the path of least resistance. My friends say otherwise, since I am always involved in new ventures and things they wouldn’t try, so I can appear to the casual observer as a real risk taker. But really, I only pursue what I believe I will probably be good at. On a deeper level, I can admit this now, years later: I interviewed for a change of call once, and I knew there was another candidate being interviewed at the time. I ended the process early, convincing myself I wasn’t ready to move. When  I looked back at the situation later, I realized that a big part of me did that so that I wouldn’t have to hear that they chose the other candidate over me. I never made that option possible.

So now I’m faced with a situation where I am under-prepared, and all proper analysis says that failure is a real risk here. I have decided that the next two weeks will be focused on fine tuning my preparations, but even with everything going as well as I can expect, my pace hasn’t gotten faster in months, so why should I expect it can in 2 weeks? Being off most of July did not help, but here we are.

The truth is, no one would fault me for not going. My family all have other commitments that day, no one I know will be there. It’s just something I decided I had to do, so I want to do it. And if I decide to run scared, I may be the only one who cares or at least, the only one who will hold it against me in any way. But that is the only person’s opinion that should matter right now. This whole process has been one of building my respect for myself.

I’m reading Dean Karnazes book Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss  right now. I just finished the chapter about his failure to complete the Western States Ultra two years in a row. Here’s a guy known as the Ultramarathon Man, and he DNF’ed twice. He writes about Michael Jordan who could cite all the points he missed, games he lost, and 26 game winning shots specifically that he missed.

Part of me says I allowed myself to be unprepared here, so I shouldn’t go. The rest of me realizes that is a convenient excuse for not following up with what I started. I’m not going to be that guy anymore. I am putting it online here, so that anyone who reads it can call me out if August 27th comes and I am not in the water at Eagle Rock Resort. Especially since I had this exchange in an online forum:

poster put up a question about getting bad info about cutoff times in a race, and didn’t think he’d make the run in time, but they kept the course open longer. He was mad that he would have made a different decision with the right information. the forum was unsympathetic especially since he didn’t even begin the run at all, based on a comment from one person who wasn’t the final word and was on the course. So in the middle of a long response, I said this:

And I have no idea what I would do in your situation. but I would like to think that I would get on the course, and say “if they pull me, they pull me, but I’ll make them catch my slow fat ass to do it.”

I feel for you man, I really do. I can picture the times I just gave up on stuff because I didn’t think I could do it. I’d be delusional if I said that didn’t contribute to me knowing what 360 pounds felt like at one time in my life. I’m over that. And so are you. Finish the race, or make them drag you away forcefully.

So now I have to read that thread and my own words, and say that I need to do it. I need to show up. If they enforce the cutoff and I didn’t make it, then they can pull me out. But until that happens, I am going to go hit the water. I’m the guy who finishes things now, even if he might just fail.

And hell, if Diana Nyad can take to the ocean over age 60 and try to go from Cuba to Florida, well then there’s no reason  I can’t man up for 3 measly miles and push a little harder.



5 thoughts on “Failure May Have To Be An Option

  1. Just for the record, I believe whole heartedly that DNF is not a failure. Starting and not finishing shows moral and physical fortitude much more than a DNS! Here’s my story if you’re interested. http://mydogshoba.blogspot.com/2011/07/tour-de-kirkwood.html . I DQ’d myself rather than risk the medics doing it. But still a DNF. And while I felt a little embarassment at the time, and great disappointment at the time, I realize now that the only real failure would have been not to try. You swim like a fish, and can do this. I’ve got my last tri of the season on the 28th, and I’m hoping to finish better than I did last year at the same tri. It was my very first. One DNF is not going to stop me from working hard and improving and continuing to tri and even start doing some open water distance swims. To quote a wise man, “Finish the race, or make them drag you away forcefully.” Don’t give up before you start. You are an inspiration to lots of us. GO DOUGHBOY, GO!!!

    • thanks John. I read your RR. Sounds like it was a tough one for a lot of people with that extreme heat. The old ladies at my YMCA make sure our pool is always hotter than blazes, so swimming in warm water is one thing I’ve actually done., I am definitely training hard from now until then, and showing up.

    • yeah well, it may be a brittle old iron fist. I am glad they get out and active and all, but stay in the slow lane. We only have four to begin with. If you’re going to sit in the pool and do absolutely nothing during lap swim, do it behind the steps.

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