I swam, I biked, I...DNF'd
Did Not Finish.
I have been going over everything for the past 3 days trying to figure out what went wrong.
You see, the day was going quite well in spite of some major hiccups 24 hours before the race. Even in spite of the conditions on race day.
But let's start before the race even began.
The week before any race is hectic, and this was no different. Trying to make sure I had everything packed...and then making sure everyone else had packed what they needed for a weekend away.
My nephew lives about 45 minutes from the race venue. We have stayed here before, so the family can kick back and hang with family, while I race. Then I come back, and we enjoy the weekend together.
About 3 hours before we were about to leave Friday afternoon, my nephew called and told me that his future mother-in-law passed away that morning. I told him to not worry, take care of his fiancée, and we will visit him later this summer. We would figure out somewhere else to stay the night. He was quite upset, and very apologetic.
I was at work. I texted my husband quickly to let him know what's up. He said he'd look into hotel rooms. Thank you hubby!!!
I got home from work, we loaded the van. Hubby found a motel about 20 minutes away, so that was one thing I could stop worrying about.
But being in a hotel room, and not in a house is a different mindset. I had access to a small fridge in the room, but no kitchen. Plus, I had forgotten to bring food for breakfast. It's important to eat a good breakfast before a race, but more importantly, to eat something you are familiar with and know will sit well in your stomach.
Never try something new on race day!
This did not happen. And I would leave the hotel before the hotel breakfast buffet even opened. I didn't even think about running to the store. I was frazzled.
I got up, I got some coffee, and I ate some of my food that I had brought for the race. I had brought extra so I wasn't worried about not having it for the race.
It didn't sit well.
My husband drove me down to the race, and left the boys asleep in the hotel. He'd be gone about a 1/2 hour, so they would be fine. Also, who wants to wake up teenagers at 4am?
We made a quick stop at a Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru and grabbed a bagel with cream cheese. I had 2 bites, and that was it.
My husband dropped me off, and I headed to transition. I got all set up and realized I may have made a big mistake...all my water bottles (5 of them) were all filled with my nutrition drink. I did not have any filled with just water. Oh well, there will be water available on course, so I could grab a bottle at the first aid station about 12 miles into the bike.
Everything was ok. I felt really good. I was happy with my training so far, and felt strong. I didn't like the looks of the breeze blowing through the trees...I knew the swim may be a little choppy, but it would be ok. It was partly cloudy, so that was a bonus...keep the heat of the sun away.
At 6:45 all racers were to be in the transition area for last minute instructions, the playing of the National Anthem, and to line up in your "wave" to walk over to the swim start.
At 7am, the first wave (those going for the prize money), hit the water. I finally got in the water about 25 minutes later, as the organizers used a "time trial start", where 2 people would start every 10 seconds, in hopes to not only have the swim start less congested but also to keep people a little more separated due to Covid.
The swim was rough...down right choppy, with a 10-15mph wind and those partly cloudy skies. The swim was in a bigger lake than I practice in, so maybe that had something to do with how the waves reacted. Regardless, I just swam through it. And even though I had to stop a couple of times for people who cut in front of me, swam into me, or just wouldn't get out of my way. 1.2 miles of bobbing heads, waves, and water.
I had my fastest swim on this course. Woo hoo!
Transition was good. It is a little way from the swim exit, and the promoters enlarged it to provide more social distancing between racers. I quickly found my area, got my wetsuit off (easily this time since I used my "Body Glide" anti-chafe stick), and got ready to bike. Then the long run out of transition, with my bike, to the mount/dismount line to start the bike leg.
Not super fast, but it was a good transition.
This year was a new bike course. The first few miles were the same, but then they cut a few turns, before heading east for a two loop route then back to the transition area.
They said they changed the course, because the past course was deemed "too rough". It was. The roads were pretty rough, with lots of pot holes, and even train tracks to go over.
In my opinion the new course was better, but not by much. It was also just a touch shorter, about 55 miles instead of 56.
I knew that I needed to start getting food in my body ASAP. The race was less than an hour old, and I knew I needed to start fueling so I would not "bonk" during the end of the bike or the run. Calories and hydration are important, but so are electrolytes and sodium. Even though the clouds were keeping the sun and heat at bay (for now), the wind was making it tough, and that mean using more energy to keep the bike going forward.
Eat, eat, eat, my brain told me.
The first 20 minutes or so of the bike are hectic. Lots of people passing riders, trying to get comfortable, and find a rhythm. It's tough to eat at that point, since you are still trying to catch your breath from the swim and exit from transition.
I waited a short time before I ate, but I immediately started drinking my hydration fuel mix.
This year I am trying a new brand of liquid fuel. It has a higher calorie and sodium count than what I have used in the past. During my long practice rides, it has seemed to work well--keeping me feeling good and not bonking. I decided to supplement that with some potato cakes that I had made to give me the extra sodium I would need, as well as some extra calories.
I had 3 bottles of the fuel on the bike, and 3 potato cakes--one for each hour I expected to be out on the bike (give or take 15-20 minutes).
I did not have any water.
I knew at Mile 12 there was an aid station, and they would have water. I would drink all of one bottle, toss it, and grab a water. Easy peasy.
I grabbed the bottle of water, gulped down a bunch of it, and placed it in my holder located under my saddle.
It was a Poland Spring sport bottle of water, not a typical water bottle you'd find on a bike. These are a little more slender, and more easily crushed.
At mile 20, during a bumpy section of road, the water bottle went flying.
I had drank about half, and was feeling better, and I was flying--averaging 18mph for the first hour of the bike leg. Significantly faster than I had gone before.
Mile 30 had another aid station. I'll grab another water.
I ejected that one about the same spot as the first one. And I did not drink as much as the first time.
The wind was still blowing pretty good, and every turn seemed to put me into a head wind. I was still averaging a pretty quick time, and I knew that at mile 50 was the last aid station before transition. I also knew I needed to eat!!!
I tried to get some more solid food in me, but my stomach revolted. I didn't throw up, but I knew I could not try again.
At mile 45, I began to cramp.
Mile 50 came, and I decided to just get to transition. Just get off the bike, and start the run, and I'll feel better.
I should have grabbed another bottle of water.
Transition came, and I hopped off the bike. I tried to run into transition, but my cramping side would not allow it. I slowly walked my bike to my area, racked it, and got ready to venture out to the run course.
After changing my shoes, putting on sunscreen (the sun had come out about in force about 15 minutes before I entered transition), a hat, and grabbing my bottle full of liquid fuel, I walked out of transition. I made it to the end of the road before I knew my day was done.
There was a) no way I was going to walk 13.1 miles, and b) this cramp would not let me walk 13.1 miles. It hurt that much.
I slowly walked over to the finish area, turned in my timing chip, and called it a day. The volunteers asked several times, was I sure? Did I think I could walk it off? Did I need to go to the first aid tent? I said I would be fine. They gave me a water bottle and ice cold towel (which you receive with your medal when you finish), and wished me well, and encouraged me to seek medical aid if I didn't feel any better.
I downed the water as I headed back to transition and packed up.
Five years ago, the same thing happened. I cramped up on the bike leg. But in that race, I was kicked squarely in the side during the swim, and the cramping started within the first 10 miles of the bike.
Also, when I turned in my chip 5 years ago, I cried like a baby. It was my first DNF. And all I could hear in my head was my father telling me I was a quitter.
This time, I did not hear his voice at all. I knew I made the right decision, even though a part of me feels like I should have started walking.
When you DNF, you always spend time thinking through what when wrong, what you could've done differently, etc. I have done that. And I have taken away the things I need to, to make the next race better.
A lot of things were out of my control. A lot of them I could. But the biggest take away was my change in attitude. The fact that I didn't beat myself up for not finishing, or at least try to finish.
That in itself is a huge win.
I will talk things over with my coach and use this race as a training/learning tool. It will all be ok.
And IM Mont Tremblant -- the BHAG -- is still in play for August 22.