It’s only a mistake if you make it again. – My dear bride, Meghan
I’m already impressed. – Also my dear bride, Meghan, after T2
I did not finish Eagleman.
I have no excuses, no reasons, other than one: I was undertrained. I can, and will, point out that I was hardly alone in my DNF status, and that better trained athletes than I, also succumbed to 93 degree heat, including last year’s women’s champion Miranda Carfrae. From my reading of the results, it looks like 20 dropped out on the bike, 80 on the run. No idea how many DNF’ed the swim (if any), and a huge number of registered athletes did not even start.
But the bottom line is, this didn’t have to be a DNF, and I need to simultaneously deal with that truth and what it means, and forgive myself so I can move on. (For you Lutherans checking in, this is a premium LAW and GOSPEL moment.)
So now what?
Well, now I commit to more consistent training. Inconsistency has been the thorn in my side through my entire life. This is hard. I chose it for that reason. Too many pursuits in my life have been frankly, too easy for me. But I can’t fake this. I’m going to have to actually work hard for it. A lot harder than I am now.
OK, so the Good the Bad, the Ugly, and the Next Step
1. My wife was absolutely my rock and support that day. She watched the swim start and exit, and was there when I got off the bike.
2. My kids were at the finish and were happy to see me.
3. I went 66 miles in one day under my own power. I had a swim time under 51 minutes, when I predicted 55 minutes.
4. I saw people out there rooting for me, some I knew, some not. Eric Grimes seems to always be stalking me, Tor Christensen was there to cheer on the Annapolis Tri Club and spotted me at T1, and a few people saw the shirt and mentioned BT or this blog. One person on the run read the doughboy shirt and said “you most certainly are NOT.”
But the craziest moment came in the swim. I had rounded the second turn buoy, and was maybe 1/3 of that leg back to the finish, when I caught my first mouthful of water. I paused to compose myself, preferring to wait, rather than to try to press on and vomit in the process. I popped my head up and looked at the many white capped swimmers from the wave behind me who had passed me, and out of the blue, one of them in front of me looks back and says “hey man are you TheClaaaw?” It was Grnfsh from BT. Unreal. That really pepped me up.
3. I got my picture with TJ and Crowie.
A very shy Jack finally posed with Crowie.
And I have this magnet signed by all four pros from the forum, which means both 2011 winners and both 2012 winners.
4. I have a sweet tan.
5. They let me get a post-race massage, even without a finisher’s medal.
6. A bad day racing is always better than any day in the ground.
7. An angel with an exotic accent and a name I couldn’t make out, so she said “just call me PJ” stopped on the road to check on me around mile 8. She walked with me a bit and after the race, found me in the park to see if I was surviving.
1. I launched two polar water bottles. At $10 each, that was unfortunate.
2. I had to stop a number of times during the bike leg, with severe foot pain.
3. I now have a beautiful bag I can’t use, in addition to another race shirt I can’t wear.
4. I discovered that “I don’t mind the heat” was complete and utter nonsense.
5. I experienced GI distress for possibly the first time ever.
6. Once the run started, I don’t believe I was ever able to take a full breath.
1. I knew by mile 5 that I was in serious trouble. From there to the turn-around I started to go through the worst emotions. I sat down at an aid station just before the turn-around, and thought about how I would hate myself for dropping out now. It just wasn’t an option. I thought if I could get to the turnaround, I would get a second wind.
2. I may have pysched myself out with self-doubt. I was determined to finish, just under the cutoff. My illusions of an official cutoff of 8:30 were long gone, but with my extra 1:04 from an early swim wave, 9:34 would still have counted. It still wasn’t going to be enough. When I realized that, I lost what little energy I had left.
3. I spent some time really considering not just giving up for the day, but for good. Delete the BT account, delete/abandon this blog, sneak away into the corner to sulk and hope no one asks me how I did. Virtually disappear in a cloud of shame.
4. Looking at the video that Meg shot, I still have trouble seeing myself as someone who has been losing weight and making progress. All I can see is how insanely fat I still am. Wetsuits and lycra will do that, especially if you’re in a sea of fit people. I thought I got used to standing out in an obvious way, but the truth is, I still can’t believe how far I have to go yet. (I know: patience, grasshopper. And this is not me saying I’m giving up, that is old pre-12step all-or-nothing addict behavior. But I have to be honest about what I’ve been going through with this if I want to move on.)
5. At mile 9, it happened. I shut down. More than physically, I broke down emotionally. I sat in a chair and wept. I knew it wasn’t happening. I was not dehydrated, I did not need salt. I was done. For whatever reason, I was done. I cried like someone died.
I had to make a decision. Continue to walk/limp at a 23 minute/mile pace, which would possibly take me across the finish around 5:20-5:30 which would be a DNF anyway, or drop out now. Neither was appealing. I thought about what message I would send my kids if I quit. There’s part of me that says it doesn’t matter if you’re not official, you finish. That’s the lesson – finish what you started. I didn’t come out here today to do 66, I came out here to do 70.3. Part of me wants to be that total bad-ass who doesn’t know how to quit.
But another part of me had enough sense to know that this was not my last chance, and the lesson to teach them could be that you may not succeed the first time, but there can be a next time. Do not put your health in jeopardy over a race. At that point I didn’t know if I would have been. Truthfully, later I felt like I still had the miles in me, and I felt way too good on Monday for someone DNFing a race. That hasn’t helped the feelings of guilt shame and failure.
My justification/rationalization/excuse came down to this: I’m not leaving Maryland as a finisher of this race. I could drag myself in and make them wait another 2 hours to see me completely broken, and they will worry. Or, I can call them now and get the ride from the policeman, and we’ll get home at a reasonable hour tonight. At that point, the desire to continue seemed somewhat selfish.
I got in the police car a somewhat broken man. At least he let me ride up front.
THE NEXT STEP
By the time I was done with my post-race massage, I had made a decision. While I will be back for the same course in 2013, I am not waiting a year for redemption. I will be competing in the Skipjack this September. It’s a bit longer than the HIM, with a longer bike, but shorter run. It’s 75 miles total.
To get from here to there, I need to bike bike bike and bike. Then bike some more. I can’t ignore the running, or consistent swim training either. In other words, solid triathlon training. I have three and a half months to get this right. I have some smaller races along the way, including attempts at 5k and 1/2 marathon PRs.
So two final thoughts from others more poetic than myself. The first is a quote I see often from Teddy Roosevelt. Now I am sure he was referring to struggles of much greater importance and consequence than a middle-class middle-aged crisis hobby, but I will take it anyway.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
The second is from a more modern source.
The first band I really got into on a personal level was Blues Traveler. I had seen them 20 times before the breakthrough album “Four” came out in 1994, that everyone has. There is a song on the album that I knew from John Popper’s solo shows, and loved so much I learned it on 12-string and played at my wedding reception for some friends I wouldn’t see for a long time.
The lyrics to that song have been running through my head for about a day now. I found this youtube version with a few misspellings, but it will do.