I think I can, I think I can. – The Little Engine Who Could

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford

There’s no such thing as a failure who keeps trying. – Just Wait, Blues Traveler

OK, so enough arm chair self-affirming pyschological mumbo jumbo.

I DNF’ed the 5k swim.

I was beat before I got in the water. Whether or not I had trained enough is still debatable. Whether or not I should have worn the wetsuit is still a mystery to me. One thing, however, is certain. I went into the water defeated. I was unsure of so much in the last two weeks, and with no confidence at all, I had lost before I had a chance to start.

I arrived and saw the course, and on one hand, it was all within a small lake, four loops around buoys. It looked long. It is long. 1.25km is a long way to swim once. It’s a longer way to swim four times.

I got halfway to the first of three buoys and knew I was done. I won’t say I was struggling already, but I was not on target. I was off track, poorly sighting, adding lots of unnecessary distance to my swim. I wasn’t pushing the pace, I knew to take it easy. Even so, by the time I got to yellow buoy number one, I just wanted to make it to shore. I realized that for whatever reason, I simply didn’t want to do this anymore today. I gave up. I just did my best to stay on course (which I failed at all the way around).

When I arrived at the shoreline, I got out of the water. There was a drink station, and some racers took lap breaks, so they didn’t think this meant anything, especially since I was last around. I asked for my time, and it was 36something. That would be right on track to make the cutoff if I did all four loops in the same time. But I was already fatigued, and knew I would never maintain the same pace that long, not today. I said “I don’t have four of these in me today” and dropped out of the race. I didn’t even want to try for two laps, or drop the wetsuit and go for it. I had already quit in my head.

If I had come around with possibilities in my mind, the kind that would encourage continuing, it’s likely I would have. I could have told myself “this wetsuit is more harm than good today. You’re still fighting it. Get in one lap, check your time, drop it and move more comfortably.” I could have done that. I didn’t. I fell into the old demon of binary thinking, which said “if you’re not sure you’ll finish, don’t continue.”

As I walked out on the beach, my daughter said “Daddy are you ok?” and I am not even sure how I answered her. I sat down and watched some racers, and suddenly got very very dizzy. This just reinforced my belief that I didn’t have it in me to do the full distance, but previous experience tells me I would have gotten dizzy when out of the water and upright, even if it were an hour and a half later.

I felt horrible for a time, but I did a real self-check. The old me would be kicking over garbage cans and cursing, and hating on myself to the point of saying it’s all pointless, I suck, I can’t do this, who was I kidding?

But I had none of that. I am disappointed for many reasons, but I am not reacting with self-destruction or self-loathing. I’m simply acknowledging the realities of how I let this happen, and adapting my plans for future events so I can avoid a repeat. You can never guarantee a finish in endurance events, but you can be prepared at your best. I simply wasn’t this time. I can point to many factors, but bottom line, each one was either under my control. My lack of mental preparation and apprehension coming in proved the opposite maxim: while you can’t guarantee a finish, you can guarantee a DNF.

So now I have a score to settle. This event will likely take place a week earlier in 2012. That conflicts with the Lewisburg Triathlon. As much as I would like to do that course again and shrink my time significantly, if I have to choose, I am going back to the Beware of Barracuda 5k OWS. By then, if my crazy plans get matched with proper training, I will have done an even longer OWS as part of an official event, but I need to get back to this course. I put my tshirt from the event back in the box there and said “I’ll be back to get this next year.”

Every success story needs some failures along the way. This one didn’t involve a wreck, or injury, or terrible tragedy. This was just an over-reach. It happened. It won’t happen again.


2 thoughts on “DNF

  1. Been there and done that with the DNF. Remember the Philosophy of the Duck. Let it roll off your back and let it go. You are doing things most people can’t. Even most triathletes. And you are succeeding. Setbacks are a natural part of doing hard things. If it was easy, everybody would do it. I had my first event since my DNF yesterday, a triathlon that turned into a duathlon thatnks to goose poo bringing too much e coli in the water. And swimming is my strong event. But I ran, I biked and I ran again. While my run times were about average, I improved on the bike, adding over 1 mph to my last practice ride, and over 2 mph from my time the year before. Keep it up. You are doing great. When I have a bad event or bad training day, I ask myself the following question. If you had tried to do this exact thing the day before you began training for anything, how would you have done?

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