Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to DNF at an Ironman

Experience I gained at Ironman Arizona, November 2008:

Rule # 1: Don’t reach out to your friends before the race.
Sure, a number of my friends knew I was doing the race, but I found myself apologizing for toeing the start line. I didn’t really want to engage in any type of formal discussion about how I might execute the race and what different scenarios might look like on race day. I know I am ready for a race if I can talk about it with others with relative ease. This was not the case for IMAZ.

Rule # 2: Let your equipment take care of itself.
I got a new bike this summer…from Barb Lindquist. I was excited to have a bike with the ju-ju of Barb. She’s an incredible person and I admire her in so many ways. However, I have learned that just because an Olympian has ridden your bike, it doesn’t mean the bike will push to Olympic speeds without the right manpower and preparation. I didn’t equip the bike with aerobars, which is sheer idiocy on the IMAZ course. In fact, I only saw two other athletes among the field of 2,600+ people without aerobars.

Rule # 3: Leave visualization for another day.
Prior to the race, I failed to envision myself emerging from the lake, getting off the bike and ultimately wrapping myself in tinfoil to the tune of “You are an Ironman”. I am convinced I cannot finish another race until I can rehearse the race and finish in my head before the gun goes off.

Rule # 4: Homework? That was something I did in high school.
I have never been noticed as an adult athlete with a gift for speed or finesse, but on occasion I have been called out for my ability to study a race with fierce dedication. In fact, I have known my physical training to suffer because of this type of research. Sure, my research has been a way to avoid training, but it has also been extremely valuable. It has allowed me to understand a great deal about physiology and to glean important facts about particular races and training techniques. I didn’t do any research before this year’s race.

Rule # 5: Don’t train.
I can come clean here and share that I gained some encouragement from the knowledge of success attained by a group of athletes from my adopted hometown of Driggs that call themselves the ROTC (as in “Right Off the Couch”) group. They ripped it up at the Grand Teton Trail Marathon a few summers ago, claiming to have achieved their success without any training. I secretly wanted to emulate this example, but the truth is that while these guys don’t follow say, Hal Higdon’s marathon training plan, they live at altitude, work jobs that require physical stamina, and in my estimation they are plain, fierce athletes. It was sheer hubris to try to join this club. I will admire them from afar going forward!

Rule # 6: Eat like there’s no tomorrow.
This is a point that I really struggle with as I try to hold on to an identity as an endurance athlete. I recently read Olga’s Blog and saw her come clean about some numbers, including her weight. I am far too vain, and quite frankly embarrassed to own up to my weight at the moment, but I will share that I weighed 30 pounds more for this race versus IMAZ 2007. I recognize this type of weight gain is detrimental to my athletic goals, as well as my general health. Not to mention that it limits my wardrobe! During the race, I couldn’t help but think in terms of this race and the Marathon des Sables. I started to equate the extra weight I am carrying to the idea that I was carrying a pack through the Ironman. Not very motivating thoughts! I am determined to lose this extra weight and improve my health. Pray for me – I need it!

That’s it for my “rules”, but read on if you’re not asleep and are vaguely interested in my triathlon background…

In 2005, I trained for and completed my first Ironman, Ironman Lake Placid. I trained with a NYC based group called TriLife and had access to two incredible coaches, Ross Galitsky and Scott Willett. My official training for this race lasted ten months and was blessed with a number of friendships that endure to this day. I must admit that I experienced a great deal of anxiety during my training, including a persistent concern that I would not complete the biking portion of the race in the allotted time (Ironman race regulations state that all athletes needed to be off their bikes and on the running course no later than 5:30pm – ten and a half hours into the race – to avoid disqualification). Unlike many of my teammates, I did not face my demons out on the race course. Instead, the demons appeared early on and chased me through most of my training that season. Race day was joyous, a smile spreading across my face the minute I realized I would indeed make the bike cut-off time, as well as the run cut-off time – bar any unforeseen injury. My finishing time was 15 hours and 17 minutes and I couldn’t have been happier.

In 2007, I did my second Ironman. By this time, I had moved from Manhattan to Driggs, Idaho – a beautiful ski town in the shadow of the Teton Mountain range. I moved to Driggs to work for a company called Dreamchasers and had the good fortune to study under Lisa and Jay Batchen, both of whom have endurance racing résumés that run long and deep. Their patience and knowledge, as well as my growing commitment to training, made preparation for this second Ironman a wholly new experience. Despite the fact that Lisa has qualified and competed in the Hawaii Ironman numerous times and can claim a marathon personal record of 2 hours and 48 minutes, she patiently trained with me for hours. I was slowly progressing from a goal of completing an Ironman, to competing at an Ironman. I took advantage of the tools – and finally used my bike trainer, a piece of equipment that did little more than cause clutter in my 250 square foot apartment back when I lived in Manhattan. I finished Ironman Arizona in 13 hours and 30 minutes. I was so grateful for the improvement and was excited about attaining a new level of fitness.

But life – or should I say “I” – I somehow got in my own way. Instead of capitalizing on this achievement and gaining momentum, I found myself slacking. Taking it easy. Kicking back.

Trying to snap back into a regular training regimen, I have grasped at a number of ways to get back on the bus. I feel like the best restaurants in town are still making reservations for me…friends keep agreeing to do events with me and train with me…but I keep falling short of showing up to the meal with the attitude that will help me savour it.

Above, I shared with you a bit about a personal experience I recently had at the November 2008 Ironman in Tempe, Arizona. I didn’t finish the race and I am trying to gain insight from this DNF (Did Not Finish). I’m not sure I have the distance or perspective on it all just yet, but I hope some of my observations may help you when you prepare for your next race. I must thank Earl Walton for this idea, as he sent out an outrageously hilarious list following a triathlon where he earned a DNF. I don’t have Earl’s gift for humor, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Have a great day!



olga said...

Welcome to the blog land. DNFs are good - an oxymoron, but true. Gives us something to process and learn from. Good luck!

Bob from said...

Coll good insights...

your smart you will be ready for the next adventure and hey you also figured out you can't stumble into Tri's or endurance events which you already knew before you toe'd the line...

Happy Holidays and YOU will have an awesome 2009' race season!!

Lora said...

Yay! A blog!! Welcome!!

Life is quite the journey. I'm sure you will learn much from this experience and go where you need to go next.

You thinking of returning to Rocky Raccoon?? I'd love to run with you there again.


Tess said...

DNF's make you tougher for the next race. Looks like you already figured out all the lessons, so now you know how NOT to DNF at MDS.
You will rock next year!
Chin up and keep on running!