I arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii late on the 7th of November, 2011. I had thought that I would never make this trip this year due to the economy etc yet here I was soaking in the humidity of Hawaii and my good friend Chett Glenn was picking me up and letting me stay in his home in Kailua Kona.
DNF…Knowing our limits
Well what can I say those 3 dreaded letters appeared after my name, what was worse was it was my A race of the season Hawaii Ultraman World Championships. And it was my own calling too! No I was not injured, no I was not biting off more than I could chew in signing up, but quite simply the realization that mentally I could not ride my bike in 55 mile per hour side winds without some sort of consequence, despite only 12 miles to go and mostly downhill the decision was to get into the crew car and drive to the finish line.
It had been a long two days; I had started the 6.2 mile swim never thinking I would possibly DNF on Day 2! I had done a descent swim despite being sick one mile into the swim; I had coped with the unpleasantness by focusing on the fishes and singing to myself! After exiting the Ocean to begin the 90 mile bike journey to the Volcano I felt nauseated which is very rare for me but I quickly changed and began the ride I had a few issues with my toes and fingers going numb but was elated to eventually make it to Day 1 finish line. Day 2 was a 171.4 mile bike ride, it began with a few flat tires in the pouring rain and downhill, which meant I ended up playing chase to find the other athletes, it was pretty lonely out there but eventually I had company. The Red Road is always spectacular scenery and the Hamakua Coast line is amazing, but the fun began on the climb up the Kohalas I was so close to the finish yet so far away, less than 20 miles and I was walking in my Brooks running shoes Al came over to walk with me and my bike was like a kite as it went airborne! I looked at my monitor and thought I can do this, I have time I would try to get on my bike and would be blown across the road so would walk again, my toes were going numb and I was sad, I knew deep down inside I would need to run pretty fast with the bike to be inside the cutoff.
Mother Nature or the Hawaiian Gods were amazing as cruel the winds of the Kohalas, the late afternoon sky was amazing, hues of orange and reds with big black fluffy clouds, the ocean with white tips, and me with my bike, we were so close to the top of the climb…………………..
Initially getting into the car was devastating but deep down inside I knew I had made the correct choice as I do rarely ride in winds that bad and I thought I quite liked living so the joint call was made with my crew chief Al who also happens to be my husband!
I am quite an accomplished athlete with well over 380 plus multi-sport events to my name and yes if you race enough one or two DNFs will appear on your resume, but what exactly does that mean? Does it mean you are a failure? A bad athlete; under trained; you should choose another hobby? Were you injured? Did you run out of time the list goes on and it affects different athletes in different ways.
I personally think a bad race be it Mother Nature performing her wrath of the elements or getting injured is exactly that a DNF is a bad race gone South! Yet it should not define who you are as an athlete, in fact I find I can reflect on the race and see what I might have done differently and it will deepen my resolve to train smarter and bounce back stronger!
As an athlete I really want to finish the races I begin and visualize the race/event ahead of time, never thinking I may DNF which thankfully is quite a rarity. I cannot lie it does feel awful, I felt sad & extremely disappointed in myself, I felt as if I had let everyone down who believed in me, what would I say to sponsors, friends and family? After getting into the crew van that late afternoon and crossing Day 2 on 4 wheels instead of 2! I knew I made the correct choice as the van was tossed around by the wind and daylight was waning, but that did not help much in knowing that, but my resolve was to wake up the next day and finish the 52.4 mile run and keep a smile fresh across my face!
Day 3 of Ultraman Hawaii began at 6am; I started the final journey as a participant of the event. Ironically I had a good run! I was happy and upbeat, I kept to my nutrition plan of Hammer gels and perpetuem plus Hammer bars, had no stomach issues and had the most amazing and friendly pacers come out to support my efforts! There was a lot of time for reflections while running a double marathon in Hawaii, first I was happy to be in Hawaii that was the reason why I had signed up for my 14th consecutive Ultraman, because I love the Ohana of Ultraman, love the island and really enjoy Ultraman Hawaii event! I enjoy the challenge of pushing the mind and body through 3 days of doing what I love finding my limits and to concentrate on the things I could control and forget about the rest!
Day 3 finish line was bitter sweet, un official finisher but a happy participant never the less!
Doing Ultra events really is a mixture of mental and psychological toughness as well as training. A DNF is most difficult to process by the athlete, life goes on and my grand baby Abbey and my dog Hammer were just happy to have me home! The event/race is the goal but the journey to the start line can be as amazing as you allow. I had had some great training rides, swims and runs met some great athletes made new friends and reconnected with old friends. I had spent time in Hawaii swam with dolphins drank 100% Kona coffee, enjoyed a few scuba dives; ….now that DNF…mmmm 2012 November is unfinished business!