Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why I decided to DNF Ironman Arizona

Do not being afraid to take a chance, don't be afraid to fail...Don't be afraid to try!  I constantly preach this to my kids!

I wasn't going to post this blog because race experiences can be so personal. I read this today and its true. 

Some races you prefer to just forget about.  But I wrote it and thought I would share my thoughts of the build, my weaknesses, expectations and other things that ultimately led to me not finishing!

 For those of you that are not into reading long blogs I am going to start at the end because the rest is all fluff! 
Why did I DNF Ironman Arizona?

"I gave myself  100 reasons to keep going! I knew I could finish! I knew my back could hold up with some pain for another 13 miles, but as I neared the second loop my DESIRE to finish waned. It just wasn't enough for me, that day, to finish because I could.  I became protective of my body as I knew how much I was forcing it.  Not just in the race but the whole build up to the race. It was my 4th Ironman of the year and I was more tired going in both mentally and physically than in previous races.
Around mile 10 it became clear to me a finish was not the right answer and that I would be ok with that. The strange thing is I have never been ok with not finishing a race.  Earlier this season before I started racing I posted a blog on "Desperatly seeking willpower!" Wandering if there would be a time where I couldn't will my self to finish. I have pushed through many an Ironman. This was the 30th Ironman I have entered. The only other race I have ever DNF'd was Couer D Alene at mile 16 of the run where I had the will to finish, but back issues forced me to stop. So officially I have now only finished 28 of now 30 Ironman races.

I know through all the issues that I have dealt with racing that
I am mentally tough! I have dealt with hypothermia, hyperthermia, asthma, travel issues, stomach issues,no sleep, mechanicals. I know what it takes to push through and finish!   Normally pride and proving my mental strength to myself and others would make me finish but that day for the first time I felt like I was stopping for me and me alone. I did not care what anyone thought. This was my decision to make based on perhaps a smarter me looking to conserve my body. I knew I was capable more and was disappointed in myself  and feeling like my body was letting me down. 
In retrospect perhaps it was I that had let my body down!

Back to the build!

 Everything leading up to IM Arizona was a bit of an uphill battle but I knew I wanted to attempt to have a solid race and an improvement there from 2008.

After a good 3 weeks after IM Sweden and a trip to South Africa I slowly got back into a routine of building back my base.  One thing was very clear to me. My body was taking a long time to adjust back to training. My body still did not feel rested and my heart rates remained high which meant lots of easier training days. Coach Jesse assured me my body would come around but it would take a solid 6 weeks of training as I had completely stopped everything while visiting my parents in SA. I only had 10 weeks before Ironman so I was cutting it close. 

 Once I got into the bulk of training I seemed to develop some bad headaches and my neck just stiffened up on all my 3 hour plus rides.   Art, massage and even the Eastern Philosophy approach of neck pulling and walking on my back did not help. I started at times to worry about what the headaches could be and would often cut workouts short if the pain in my neck was not tolerable.

One of my many days spent lying on my bedroom floor!

My build weeks were all cut short as I switched my workouts around to try accommodate both a busy family schedule and my stressed body.

At week 7 with virtually hardly any speed work we decided to go ahead with the planned Miami 70.3 to get a hard training day in to boost the fitness. I knew it was going to be ugly and it sure was!  Going 4hr46min on a tough windy day!

My swim was a bit slower than expected due to currents. 
The bike was slower than expected due to a huge headwind, a seat that was set a touch to high, some dehydration going into the race and worst of all the hairy Miami traffic that almost made me crash a few times. 
The run I knew was not going to be super fast as I was not acclimated to the heat and my times going into the race were still slow.  Everything seemed to be in Ironman pace which was all I could really expect of my body.

Miami did not give me any confidence going into Arizona but I did feel like the mission was accomplished of pushing the body hard in prep for an Ironman. 

With three weeks to go I knew their was not too much more fitness I could build and I could only hope for a solid day.

I knew I was forcing this race and I did not feel my preparation was good but I wanted to give it a go.
So off I headed to Arizona. 

My goals for this race would be to improve on my 2008 time, to enjoy the race experience and if all went well to secure a top 8 finish. 

Those were big goals based on how I was feeling, but you never really know how the body will react race day! 

Onto the race. 
The Swim: 

 My biggest concern at the start was that it was still dark and difficult to sight. The sun did not peak out behind from the clouds until just before the turn around so that was not an issue as far as navigating.  I managed to surround myself with a few girls and swam on their feet the majority of the way. I was happy with a 1 hour flat swim as the effort had seemed quite comfortable. My main issue on the swim was some very apparent tight muscles between my shoulder blades. 

Big thanks as always goes out to Blue Seventy for their awesome Speedsuits and Wetsuits!

The Bike: 

For race day I had heard rumors of the wind picking up.  I was not too worried about this as I felt prepared for it as NJ is always windy in the fall. The first lap was windy but tolerable going out and really fast on the return.  My neck muscles however were so tight and making the aerobar and looking up annoying. The second and third laps, the wind was testy for sure! I was tempted already to call it a day going into the 3rd loop as I was riding slower and slower and spending a lot of it out of my aero bars. Calling it quits is easier said than done in an Ironman or anything in life.  I stuck it out  and as I rolled into T2 my back and neck was so locked up I could barely run.  
Three special sponsors that have been great all year Quintana Roo/Pearl Izumi/ Rudy Project! 

The Run!

 I entered the change tent and instead of the usual fast transition I sat down. I warned everyone that I didn't think I was going to proceed but I would lie on the grass, stretch my back and contemplate! After maybe 5 minutes I decided to give it a go! I left the tent to rows of cheering people. My back again locked up and I stopped at the top of the first little hill to once again contemplate turning around. But the amazing crowd urged me to keep going! So off I went. For the next 13 miles I would run, stop and stretching every few miles. I was quite far back from the race leaders and admired how strong they looked. My mind went back and forth between my goals for the race and wanting to race well to how i was actually feeling...

Which brings me back to the beginning of the blog. I gave myself 100 reasons to keep going! I knew I could finish, I wanted to finish, but as I neared the second loop my desire to finish waned. It wasn't just enough for me that day to just finish because I could. 

Why did I DNF Ironman Arizona? 
 "Excuses are for people who don't want it bad enough!" Perhaps I never should have started it! 

If I can learn anything from this race it will be to listen and to take care of my body. Respect the training process and the race.  After 30 Ironman I have started to treat Ironman like just another training day. When I raced Ironman Mont Tremblant I decided 3 days before the race that I would do it. But often the result will be just that..a training day result. There is nothing wrong with that...Its fun and exciting to race. 

But I will be saving my 29th and 30th Ironman Finishes for 2015. In the hopes of really nailing a solid build , getting the speed work in and ultimately standing on the start line knowing I am strong enough to race hard and giving it my all! 

I want to say a BIG thank you as always to my Coach Jesse Kropelnicki of QT2 Systems who has got me through season after season, race after race healthy. Jesse does not advise me to race more than 2 Ironman a year but has always understood my need and love to race alot...

Thanks to NormaTec recovery Boots for forcing me to sit down for 30 minutes at a time and actually recover! I love my boots! 


John said...

Great post! Thank you! I think my favorite so far!

Bre said...

Sorry this comment is weeks late, I'm finally getting caught up on my reading! Thanks for posting this recap- I know how hard it must have been but I appreciate it. I hope you know how many times I've raced and pulled something from one of your recaps that has helped me through a race-something like never missing an aid station or something more important like this. Reading your recaps gives me insight and inspiration and motivation for my own training and racing so thank your for always writing about everything with honesty. Your passion, tenacity, and love of the sport comes through in every race or post- even without a finish time, and sometimes I think it takes more mental fortitude to make a decision to DNF than to slog through just to finish.
I can't wait to watch you finish 29 and 30 in 2015.
Happy New Year and hope that your holidays were fantastic with the family!

Unknown said...

Bre!!!!! Just read this! Thank you so much for reading and giving me some feedback on this post! Sometimes its hard to write a post when you have a bad race as your are mentally still caught up in the race. Hoping that we both have great 2015 seasons!!!