DNF Nightmare: Ironman Lake Placid Do Not Finish

ironman lake placid DNF

Do you ever have pre-race triathlon nightmares? You know, the ones in which you are late to the race start or better yet ones where Ironman begins with the run and you run the opposite direction?  How about the one where you are in the middle of the race but for the life of you, you somehow get off course and can’t find your way back?  The running in the wrong direction one happened to me while training for my first Ironman.

I woke up sweating this morning. Sad, angry, and let down.  This morning it happened. My first nightmare since I’ve been training for Ironman Lake Placid 2015.  I honestly did not think it would happen this time around heading into my third Ironman.   Before you read further, two disclosures.  #1: The thoughts that went through my mind while training today were very bizarre (also known by some Ironman athletes as the mind-fucks) and might be unbearable to read. #2: I swear in this post so if swearing offends you, please read no further. Sometimes training or racing an Ironman requires bad words here and there. Think of it like men watching the Superbowl. But worse.

The DNF Dream:  It was a beautiful venue, of course. I was so happy to be out there and the swim started out according to plan. With 2 hours and 2 minutes to cut off, just like in reality, I was in and out of the water in 1 hour and 20 minutes.  I was racing with a friend who was a first timer afraid she would not make the swim cut off.  I decided to wait for her before heading into transition. 2 hours and 15 minutes and she made it with just 5 minutes to spare. We run up a slope and just as I headed into transition I was handed a clip board with a piece of paper.  The man instructed me to head to the DNF tent to fill out DNF paperwork.  (this tent and paperwork does not really exist.) Confused, I begged him to let me continue explaining that I exited the water with an entire hour to spare. He informed me that the “swim sweepers” informed them that even though I made the swim cut off I had idled too long between swim to bike!  I begged, I pleaded, I explained that this was THE MOST IMPORTANT Ironman race for me yet.  I asked the first official guy, the next official guy, and so on until I exhausted all chances of continuing on to the bike. Unfortunately, that was where the fun ended and the Ironman nightmare began…waking up sweaty, exhausted, and disappointed. It was confirmed. I had officially DNF-ed Ironman Lake Placid.  Except I hadn’t. It was only a dream. Phew…

ironman lake placid training

Mile 5-9: The hardest stretch of today’s run

The DNF Training Day Saturday, April 11: Type: Run Planned Distance: 13.0 miles Description: Easy pace. The past three days have been a back to back struggle.  I talk often about the importance of developing mind strength and how it plays an essential roll in training and racing, although this week the mind has certainly challenged me. Thursday and Friday I blamed the gloomy cold weather but today it was 65 degrees, sunny and beautiful… our first perfect day in a long time. Less than 1 mile into my run I simply did not want to run.  I don’t know why because this weather is exactly what I’ve been asking for.  I was frustrated and as I felt my gaze soften I envisioned myself DNF-ing Ironman Lake Placid. Except this time I wasn’t sleeping.  Wide awake, running down the street in daylight, I imagined myself DNF-ing the most important race of 2015.  I felt a lot of built up anger. I had no idea where this anger was coming from. I started thinking about some of the reasons I am racing on Team for Cures and got more and more frustrated that I was having a hard time running. What an awesome opportunity that’s ahead of me, why am I allowing myself to complain?  I soon reminded myself that this is not the first time for me to imagine these thoughts. I remembered envisioning DNF-ing IMLC and IMMD at one time too.  You see… for me, I have to visualize all possible outcomes. I understand the importance of focusing on my desired outcome but at one time or another during each of my trainings for Ironman I vividly picture DNF-ing each of my races. It is very difficult but very real in my mind.  I picture it in such detail that I even play out the emotion in my mind and see myself in tears as I do not finish the race.

As I continued to mile 2 the DNF vision was still going through my mind. I asked myself what else DNF could represent besides Do Not Finish. The first thing that came to mind was Do Not Fail. Perfect. I had a choice today. Do not finish or do not fail.  I repeated in my mind “do not fail, do not fail, do not fail…mind tells the body what to do….mind tells the body what to do….run!!!”  3.5 miles I stopped to walk already. Is it weird that I confess this on my blog? Should I be embarrassed that I was walking already? Whatever, it is what it is.  I bought water and asked the girl behind me if she’s starting or finishing her run.  She was 3 miles into her run too and out for 20 miles. That put things in perspective as I realized I had less than 10 miles to go.  ”Think Broad Street Run” I told myself.  This should be no problem.  It occurred to me that this is my third 13 miler this year. If I could manage the half marathon and this run, why was I making today so difficult?  Eventually I told myself “shut the fuck up…shut the fuckkkk up… don’t be a baby, runnnn!” along with many other not so kind thoughts.  I was fully aware of my negative self talk and knew how much it contradicted The Power of Language that I so strongly believe in. I reverted to yoga and told myself in order to go any further I must bring awareness to my breath, work on breath control and let the thoughts go. Breathe and run.  4 miles in things clicked and I was settling in. By mile 6 I felt happy and remember thinkings yesssss, this is great!!! Except that only lasted a few minutes until I started thinking of the numbers. 6 miles down means I still have 7 miles to go.  That’s still over half way left. I thought about that whole glass being half full (optimist) or half empty (pessimist) and asked myself to pick one.  Oh, fuck the glass.  Just drink the water (opportunist) and keep going… Mile 8 negative self talk appeared again as I flashed back to mile 121.4 (mile 7 of the marathon) of IMMD, although not quite as bad. I had to go to the bathroom somewhere along mile 8 too which also frustrated me because if I was preparing well before leaving for these longer runs I should not have to go by mile 8.  So the image above shows the hardest and slowest stretch of today’s run from mile 5-9. As I am blogging I ask myself how is it possible to have this many thoughts in just 8 miles! This run was nuts. Fast forward because your head is probably spinning reading this.  Reading what was happening inside my brain today can not be pleasant. Once I went to the bathrom I was pretty much good to go for the rest of the run. At mile 9.5 I finally felt like I had this and could pick things up again.  It was around this point that I played the audio of this Ironman video and I could feel myself moving quicker. I have watched this video enough times that I know what is happening as I listen to it. My feet felt funny towards the end. I calculated the approximate milage these shoes have ran and it turns out I am due for new shoes.  Cool, something to look forward to. I’d like to find orange ones.  I finally reach home at mile 12.5 and although I was ready to stop I was not going to stop short of the goal.  As I passed my place my IMMD Finish Line Song.  Sweet timing with just a half mile left. Music motivates me and lately the right songs come on at the right time.  I have no idea why I made it so difficult physically and mentally to get through just 13 miles today. I pushed through and eventually 13 miles were over and done. I realize that this is probably one of the weirder training blogs I’ve written but I am writing anyways because blogging helps me process training.  My body feels tired tonight from the past week of training but my mind feels right once again. Phew. I really looking forward to tomorrow’s group ride, run and brunch. I had a choice today to DNF do not finish or DNF do not fail. I chose do not fail.  Isn’t running fun on days like today?  See you at the Ironman Lake Placid finish line in 105 days.  Do Not Fail.

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