Sunday, July 20, 2008

DNF

Stunned?

Yeah, me too.

And during my 90-minute-but-felt-like-90-hour drive home, I beat myself up good and plenty, but I had some time to think about what happened.

And honestly, I really don't know what to say.

I have never quit a race before. In fact, I don't quit ever (well, except for the random workout here and there during IM training when my body was just exhausted, and a recent run because I did it at noon when it was Africa hot - but again, those were physical and I made those workouts later).

I mean, fuck, I broke my back training for IM once, and turned around and did trained again. So right now, I am stunned. Stunned and disappointed.

So here's the thing- there is no question that physically, I was prepared. As much as I talked shit about it, I got my workouts in.

I toed shore of Lake Michigan today physically ready.

But mentally, I never showed up.

The warnings about the water temperature psyched me out, and the first time I stepped into the water to test it out, I let quitting enter my mind.

And it was pretty much over from there.

I made it about 200-300 yards, stopped, started, stopped again, started again. But I panicked – I literally couldn’t breath.

The cold literally took my breath away, and never gave it back.

Erin pulled up to me about 100 yards in, and told me that we would do this, we would swim together.

And Erin, if your reading this – I am so very grateful for that.

I just couldn’t do it.

I swam the 100 yards back to shore, and the second my foot hit the sand, the regret, second-guessing and sobs started. I made a mistake.

I could have swam on my back, doggy paddled – anything – just to regulate myself, but in that moment in that frigid water, I didn’t think of any other those things.

The only thing I thought was, “I can’t breath – I can’t do this.”

As I started back into shore, a guy on a surf board asked me if I needed help.

The tears welled up and I said, “I’m an Ironman – I should be able to do this – so no, I don’t need help.”

But who fucking cares about an Ironman three months ago? Seriously – who really gives a shit? Today was a new race, a new challenge. Ironman was the past, and this was the present.

The walk back to transition along the shore, I sobbed – I pussed out, and had no legitimate excuse. It’s not like I broke a leg, or crashed on the bike. I quit in my mind. I was, and am, so horribly ashamed.

I stood in transition and waited until everyone cleared out. I saw Ali and Chris, and Larry all come in, turned in my chip and left.

And as I walked my bike out of transition, there was this lady who screamed, “Yay 462!!! Way to go 462! You can do it!”

I smiled and turned to her and choked out, “No, I can’t. I just quit. I’m going home.”

In my whole life, nothing felt so humiliating as walking my bike up that hill, having hundreds of strangers stare at you and know you quit.

That said – let me say this – this is my first and last post about a DNF.

Why?

Because DNF will never happen again. No pain in the water would have ever compared to the shame I feel right now. And having felt it, I never want to feel it again.

So I will file this away in my mind-box of experiences, and the next time I want to puss out, I am going to pull up the image of me walking the mile back to transition. And then I will put my face back in that water and finish.

I don’t want to end this post in a shitty way, despite how I feel. So before I sign off, I wanted to say that yesterday I had the amazing experience of meeting and having dinner with Erin and Ali and xt4, and then hanging out with Clyde after my bike check. These are four of the nicest, fucking hysterical and most genuine people. This morning, I also met Jen of Madison Duo, who introduced herself as I stood in line waiting to take a poop (that never came). Man, did she provide some comic relief!

I can’t tell you what a privilege it was to meet and hang with all of them – for 20 minutes at a porta-potty, 30 minutes in the Kids Cove, or two hours at the Olive Garden. Both Jen and Clyde are doing Madison, and I can’t wait to scream my off for them in September. Ali will be completing Steelhead in two weeks, as well, so make sure to check out their blogs as they head into the final weeks and give them lots of good thoughts!

Thanks to all you guys for making the trip worth it.

And thanks to everyone that left supportive words in the last few days. This blogging community is something else, and it's an honest-to-god honor to be part of it.

Alright - time to wrap up this pity party and get some work done.

And by work, I mean nap.

35 comments:

Andra Sue said...

OH, MEGAN!!! I'm not going to let you beat yourself up about this. No freaking way. 56-degree water is no joke, and at that one moment in time when you decided to turn back, you had no other choice. It was a physical response to a physical and mental stimulus and you couldn't ignore it. So, Ironman badass or not, you did what you had to do. PLEASE don't feel bad or humiliated. Please, please, please. You're not a quitter--sometimes, there are things we simply can't get through, and for you, today was one of them. As much as it may suck, you're human just like the rest of us. :)

Tea said...

I met a guy at a race once, and he told me "Somtimes a finish just isn't in the cards. He did 15 Ironman races but only finished 9 of them."

Things happen that are outside our control. You have to know when to call it a day. That's when your true strength shows.

Amy said...

That's EXACTLY what happened to me when I DNF'd at Worlds in June. The water was 10C (um... 50F) and the air was a little cooler then that. I had warmed up (deshocked) and thought I could handle it but it suddenly got colder about 100m off shore and I had an asthma attack. It was brutal. The DNF will sting for a few days and then the pain will lessen. And you will start to see what you learned from this. This can happen to anyone. I saw them pull out one of the pro's from the water at the elite worlds a few days after. Please don't beat yourself up. Take a day or two to process it. It will be ok. And you will finish a race again. It's like falling off the bike. You are shaken but you have to get back up and get on again so that you don't start to fear it. Big Hugs for the west coast even though I don't really know you but I know what you are feeling right now and the best thing I can offer is a hug. So hugs.

Anonymous said...

You are still an IronMan finisher. That has not changed!!!!!!!!

Jenny Davidson said...

I am so sorry...

My old swimming teacher Doug Stern, who was a very talented triathlete also, had a story he told about stopping, once, in the middle of a race. Just because. He didn't feel like finishing. He STRONGLY didn't feel like finishing! And the officials raced over to see if he'd injured himself, and were perplexed when he said he'd hadn't.

The point of his story was that there are times when it is right not to finish, and we do not even always understand why that should be so. I find, myself, that how I do when I race has a lot more to do with previous weeks and months of stress and strain than I can usually see from the worm's eye view. Don't underrate, maybe, how much that surgery - and the mental agony of worrying about recuperation and missed workouts! - took out of you?

A DNF is a DNF. You probably won't ever feel great about it. But it happens, and it is not a failure in any significant sense!...

Prin said...

"You have to know when to call it a day. That's when your true strength shows."

I agree with tea. When you're in the game of pushing your body like you do, you have to respect it. You have to listen to it. Listening now means more races later.

And seriously, who swims in water that cold aside from crazies or people who lost a bet?

Sometimes it takes more courage to say no than it does to keep going.

Michelle J said...

Aww, sweetie...
Big hugs to you...

This doesn't mean anything except IT JUST WASN'T YOUR DAY... that's it... doesn't mean anything else.

You will absolutely get out there another day and kick ass.

The Young Family said...

Megan -

"Any given day, anything can happen" the best part of this is, you will learn something from this that will catapult you to the next level.


Believe that!!

Em

KrissyGo! said...

The DNF is one fact of this one day, not who you are as an athlete and certainly not who you are as a person. But wait, you already knew that. For a second while I was reading this post, I thought you might have forgotten.

Hugs, hugs, hugs for the disappointment and the tears.

Team Brazo said...

You are still a FREAKEN IRONMAN -- one race means nothing. If fact, that is part of the fun of all this. I feel like I don't have any business being out on the course -- but you know what I'm also a FREAKEN IRONMAN.

Just a matter of time before we all end up with a DNF -- much much better than a DNS.

Enjoy your day...

Wipaddler said...

Megan! I don't know what to say except I'm sorry and I put my feet in that lake this morning and thanked god I didn't have to get in it. That OW swim would have scared the crap out of me but as Team B said I was the one that did not start. I could have done the aquabike but I chose not to. YOU actually made the effort. This DNF only means that you will be hungry to prove you still have it at the next race. Your going to train hard and make sure your prepared mentally and you are going to over come this. Just from reading your blog I know you are an amazing strong person and you will try again and get through that swim no matter how cold it is.

J-Wim said...

Dont beat yourself up- that was a TOUGH swim.
I saw you in transition but was a ways away from you by the time the nickel dropped that it was you.
Hold your head up high, there will always be another day.

Tri-Angle said...

It's ok.

Now.....
Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get over it.
You will fight again another day.
A.

xt4 said...

Wow. Erin told me what happened out there. I swore I saw you on the run (even shouted out to your doppleganger), so had hoped it had turned itself around somehow.

I'm sorry about today. You don't need that from me, but there you have it. Sorry for how it happened, that it happened at all, that you are subject to whatever harsh lessons you're finding in it. You may be proof of the maxim, "it happens to be the best of us."

But you are Ironman, and it does matter, and not even you get to take that away from you, and certainly not for what happened today. The great thing about this game is that there is always a chance for redemption. There really never is a finish line, just a pause between starting guns. If this be a dragon to slay, then you'll get to fight again soon enough.

Thoroughly enjoyed meeting you. Can't wait wait to toe the line with you at IMWI in '09.

Kathy said...

I'm not gonna say anything much as everybody else has said lots, but here's my 2 cents worth...

I would feel sucky too, and no amount of nice words would probably make me feel better... it's human nature!!!

Enjoy your nap - we'll be back to check on you later

Molly said...

Hang in there...we all know what an amazing athlete, and person, you are.
Take Care

RunBubbaRun said...

Don't worry about it, sometimes it is not meant to be..

We learn from our past and makes us better..

Your still and IronMan(lady), we can also have a bad day.. Sorry things did not work, it was pretty dang cold out there.

ps. It was nice metting you out there..

The Clyde said...

Meg, from one DNF'er to another....we'll get this race next year, don't dwell on it. We'll blame the phantom poop, it's always the phantom poop's fault.

I'm buying you arm floaties, and I'm going to ride a big wheel or tricycle, but damn it, we are going to finish it in 2009.

Hang in there Kiddo, it was great to finally be at the same race with you and shoot the shit for a while.

J told me to tell you she hope you feels better too.

Tiger Lily said...

Megan, you have had lots of words of wisdom. I just wanted to say be kind to yourself. You did the right thing by listening to that little voice. It takes a lot of courage to make the decision that you did!

Alili said...

It was so great to finally meet you-the comic relief at dinner helped me get over myself a bit before the race!

You are not a quitter--you said it when I saw you, it just wasn't your day. There is no shame in that.

Rest up, regroup. Big hugs friend:)

Flatman said...

You'll be back. You are a tough woman. Don't beat yourself up too bad. Just look forward to the next race. Focus. Concentrate.


You can't change the past...

Sorry you had a rough day.

Brent Buckner said...

As you note, no need to take a DNF as defining.

the fire said...

Call me a jerk...I have known you long enough to be able to share this and I think that you will get it. No pity party here, no apologies, and no hugs...you work hard at everything you do..sometimes things just don't go as planned..the bigger picture is this...great shape, great health, great family and friends, and IM finsiher...those are things that regardless of performance never change...much like lennie and george...your performances do not define you, and that is what you should take from this!!! You have defined yourself long ago, and you should be proud of that...!!!!

Greg said...

You are fun to read, keep it up! -- Greg (someone you don't know)

Fave said...

you have the right POV.
stash this feeling away and next time the negative thoughts come crawling back put them away with this. we all knwo the cliche - everything happens for a reason - jsut think maybe you have gotten in a big bike wreck if you went out there! you simply weren;t meant to be out there on that course. and besides you are not only an ironman finihser - you're an organ donor, too! so tell that to your DNF!

Stef said...

So sorry that this happened. However, speaking from prior DNF experience, please do not be so hard on yourself.

A DNF is not such a grand failure. It is a setback, nothing more nothing less. To say it happens to everyone sounds like a cliche but I think it does. Eventually.

For someone with your athletic achievements, I can imagine how much it must have SUCKED.

Still though, you were out there. You started. It wasn't your day, whatever the reason. To say you will move on from this is probably a huge understatement.

But you will!

stronger said...

but what about the other suckers who kept swimming??

What do you have to prove out there? Not a damn thing. If it is insanely cold...get the eff out. I don't see the problem.

Maybe there is another lesson in here. If it were an IM, you wouldn't have bailed...you fought too hard to get there. But why be miserable for something you haven't put your heart into?

I admire a person who can change course and say I don't need to do this. It shows nothing as far as your mental fortitude.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I feel wierd posting a response to your blog as I have never met you and am usually just a lurker. I consider myself a newbie in the athlete world although I have been involved in sports, running, etc. since I was able to walk. I just started "competing" a year ago. Since then I have completed my very first triathlon, a half marathon, and three duathlons amongst a handful of mini races. My biggest accomplishment is a six day running race in Costa Rica which tested my mental and physical strength. I have felt that cold ass water suck every last breath from you and send you into panic mode. I know what it is like to be stuck in a wave of humility and embarrassment at not finishing something you knew you could physically handle. I think we have all been there and cried our biggest wettest cries.
I am wowed at your blogs- they are hilarious, witty, and portray a very strong independent woman. Do not let this DNF even dampen your fire- you have one hell of a race under your belt to prove you aren't a puss.

Michael Tragic said...

56 degree water is no joke. However, water that cold can't be any worse then being married?

Captain Cactus said...

Megan, I wish that I had the same good sense as you. The swim at Worlds was so cold that the mild hypothermia left me sick and run down for weeks afterwards. I wish that I had had the good sense to turn for the shore as you did. Keep your chin up. You may have lost the battle, but you'll still win the war!

Kickstand Pam said...

You learn from everything you do. You had the courage to put it into words. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Hope I can meet you someday. You should come swimming or biking with us sometime -Chris comes out every now and then :). We would love to have you with our group :)

K.Michele said...

I've been in water that cold and described it as physically offensive. I had a kayaker convince me to keep going, but if she hadn't been there I was headed back to the beach. Water that cold isn't fun and if you're not having fun in this sport its not worth it.

jessica said...

Awww man, I wish I could say I know how you feel or give some gleaming bit of wisdom, but I'm not even to that point yet in the tri world where I know what I'm talking about.

And maybe that is the point: I haven't even started entering races, clearly for fear of failing, and isn't that worse than a DNF? A "Did Not Even Attempt?" Sure, you may not ever be excited to have exited the race, but you're out there doing things, learning from the low points, picking new goals pretty much immediately after achieving old ones.

You'll be OK -- you have it in you.

Danielle in Iowa said...

Just catching up on blogs - sorry to hear about your day :-(

Donald said...

So I read the most current post before this one, and immediately thought to myself, "She's swimming sleeveless?" Then I scrolled down to this post. Ugh.

Two thoughts: 1) obviously, a full suit would have helped a bit, and 2) that initial cold-water panic is automatic, no matter how many times you get in the water. That immediate freak-out reaction is usually the toughest part to overcome, but I wouldn't beat yourself up over backing off this time. Live and learn, and move ahead.

Good luck with the next one.