My First DNF

I knew it was bound to happen one day.  Billy always says, if you enter enough difficult events you’re likely to not finish some of them.  And so it was today.  I began the Rage Triathlon at Lake Mead in Nevada, hoping to break the time of my two previous half-ironman distance triathons of 7:45 (yes, I’m slow…and steady) and I finished instead by missing the bike cut off by 25 minutes.  Next to my name in some official time sheet it will say DNF–Did Not Finish.

So, what happened?  Here’s my race report:  We all woke up (Billy was doing the event with me and Ann was joyfully offering her supportive smile & sense of eternal goodness) at 4:00, got our things together and headed towards the starting area at 5:00.  It was dark, but well marked.  I set up everything in my transition area with precision.  It was very strange and exciting to me that I didn’t feel the anticipatory dread and inferiority that I’ve felt in other races.  I felt like I belonged with the group of people gathered to do this race.  I knew that I belonged at this event, even if I was slightly under trained, especially for the swim.

My swimming wave started at 6:40 and even though the water was a chilly 59 degrees, I jumped in without hesitation.  This is completely unlike me, the chicken when it comes to cold water.  I keep telling myself that I’m becoming a great swimmer. Perhaps that’s true in the pool, but in open water it’s a different story.  I struggled to finish the swim, but came out of the water in 55 minutes.

With the wetsuit stripped off, I transitioned to the bike with ease and set out on the most grueling course I’ve ever attempted.  As an out and back, I climbed a cumulative 6200 feet.  This all might have been well and good if it hadn’t been for the cross winds like I’ve never experienced.  There were moments I had to struggle to keep my bike upright.  I mistakenly thought that the winds were a headwind on the way out…imagine my surprise when they didn’t turn into a fabulous tailwind on the way back!    Once I noticed I was going to time out I enjoyed the scenic ride through Lake Mead Recreational Area in the Mohave desert. The desert was lovely, but also completely exposed.  I can definitely tell the few parts of my arms that didn’t quite receive enough 70 spf sunscreen. Beet red!!

Billy came off the bike a little while after me.  Two others who came in after me started the run and I didn’t see them come back into transition so I assume the race officials let them run.  I think if I had started the run I could have finished…that’s easy to say without having done it, huh?  But I definitely did the right thing by stopping when I did.  I was completely wasted after the swim & ride.  I had nothing left in the tank.

So, what did I learn in my first DNF? I learned that it’s ok to not finish.  It doesn’t speak to my character or even my fitness level.  It just wasn’t my day…wasn’t my course.  It’s not about the event, it’s about the training…which is to say it’s not about the destination…it’s about the journey.  I can still say I had a great day and a wonderful experience testing my body.  I got to hang out with good friends doing what we love to do.  God’s creation is marvelous and I’m thankful that I got to experience it in this way.

Would I do another triathlon?  Now that I’m the much wiser age of 40, I realize that I have the opportunity to do what I absolutely love to do with my body and that’s trail running.  I also like riding my bike.  I do not enjoy swimming in open water.  Why would I do something that I don’t enjoy doing?  Someone might be able to convince me in the future to throw my hat into the world of triathlons again, but it would take some convincing.  I think it’s safe to say you can see me on the trails from now on…so, happy trails to you!

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