Are you “Competing or Completing” are you a “Professional or and Age Grouper” these are the questions you need to ask yourself, when you enter in a race.
On race day one of the organizes assignments is athlete pick up on the bike or run course. This means responsiblity for taking the athletes back to transition, making sure they take off their chip, and then calling the “DNF”.
Regardless of why an athlete has to end the race early: medical, injury, mechanical, missed time cut-off, etc.-it hurts, and no athlete wants to see those three letters followed by their name in results.
The array of emotions displayed by the athletes on those day’s included anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and even, to my surprise, ambivalence. In many ways I could relate to how they were feeling because as an athlete myself I know the sacrifices made for those final 140.6 miles (in an Ironman) or any race for that matter, and I also know the stinging feel of a “DNF”.
It is hard for me not share my emotion with the athletes when those who ride, as some athlete’s referred to it as the ” Cart of Shame or Sag Wagon”, but in seeing that moment all I wanted for them was for their day to go as they had planned during all their endless hours of training. The ride back to transition always felt like an eternity and eventually a silence settled in as they accepted the fact that the goals for that day would not be achieved…a feeling that only another athlete can really understand.
Whether our goal is to qualify for Kona, Boston, PR, podium or finish, as athletes we all face setbacks and temporary failures as we work towards achieving our goals. The key is not in judging ourselves on our first attempt and subsequently throwing in the towel if it does not go as planned, but rather, in giving it our best effort time and time again. Every setback makes us more determined. We are not defined as athletes by our fall, but rather, by the actions we take after the fall. Staying the course takes patience and discipline but the rewards give life to new goals and adventures.
However outside of unseen events e.g.: medical, injury, mechanical, etc. I have sent many on numerous occasions, DNF’s that should not have occurred. Collapse though fatigue, Hypothermia, Blisters, Vomiting, and manly self-DNF, the list goes on. These DNF’s (most often it is during the Run Leg) generally did not occur due to missed time cut-off’s, but with 4 to 5 hours until cut-off, (in a Ironman event). This I can only see as No Plan “B”. Remember the original Question? did you ask yourself. Are you “Competing or Completing?” are you a “Professional or and Age Grouper?”. If you answer a Completing Age Grouper then Plan “B” has to be invoked prior to Melt Down not when it happens. This then lets you get your head clear and around the situation. Better to have a 15hr Finish with Plan”B”, than trying to maintain the Plan “A” Goal only to DNF.
Don’t consider a walk or Jog to the finish, as a failure. Any finish is an achievement to be worked on and bettered on another occasion. A DNF stings, even if it is unavoidable, but at it’s worst the next day, when you analyse, it could easily been avoided.