Sometimes everything comes together and the race that you’ve been gunning for goes off without a hitch. And it’s beautiful. Other times the weather goes from 90 degrees to 39 and the percent chance of rain goes from 3 to 100*. And it’s freaking miserable.
That was the reality this past weekend at Ironman St. George 70.3. Now it’s well documented that I don’t do very well in the cold . Ok, that might be a bit of an understatement. Really. But on this day, a level of cold so deep, so overcoming found its way into my core, that I found my way into the arms of a police officer under a bridge.
I’ve always said a DNF (Did Not Finish) wasn’t an option for me unless means outside of my control truly prevented me from crossing the finish line. And at times, I’ve even projected that stance on the decisions of others not to finish. Just being honest. But here I found myself pulling the chord for the first time in a race, while guys I train and race with finished – and finished well!
So I thought I’d dive into The Anatomy of a DNF** to give some color on how things played out and why I felt I made the right decision…perhaps for my own benefit as much (or more ) than for a good blog post.
Here in this super scientific chart, you can see how for most of the race (#s 1-4), I was feeling pretty good, all things considered. Even when things got tough at Red Hill and its descent (#5) and really tough in Ivins (#6), I was focused on ignoring all discomfort and riding hard. Shortly after a scare with a negligent car (#7), I turned into Snow Canyon (#8).
The worst five miles in my life, that’s how I would describe climbing this desolate, baron canyon (#9). I distinctly remembering sweating profusely last year because the 90 degree air was still and smothering. This year, I felt the most bitter cold I’ve ever experience – 39 degrees and with the windchill it must have been freezing, all with an incessant rain. My pace slowed to a crawl (120 Watts below my average), all while trying to ride harder to warm up (#10) and I could not respond as guys passed me. For the first time in my adult memory, I fought back tears of pain.
Finally the climb was over and it was onto the descent. Whatever pain and discomfort I experienced in the canyon paled in comparison to those three miles at 35mph, arms locked, unable to move from my aero bars and onto my breaks, as the rain pounded my visor blurring my visibility. As guys I’d passed miles ago went by me, I ignored the first police officer I saw thinking, “If I can just get to transition and start running, I can warm up. Don’t quit.” But the fast speeds only made my body colder and completely prevented me from controlling my bike.
I arrived to a bridge and somehow stopped my bike at a policeman on a motorcycle. He realized quickly I was in bad shape, unable to stop shaking, and radioed to the policeman in a vehicle that I’d ridden by. He asked if I was quitting for the day. I hesitated for a moment only because I didn’t want to hear myself say it, and through the severe shivering, nodded my hung head yes (#11) as he radioed my bib number in as a DNF.
After the other policeman arrived, they told me that I could sit in the back of his car to warm up, but I legitimately couldn’t get off my bike. My body was frozen and as they lifted and pried me from the bike, all I could think of was:
In that moment, as I shivered violently in the back of that police car, in my Rudy Project Wing57 aero helmet because I couldn’t take it off, I knew this was the right decision. I wasn’t quitting, my race was done. My body went as far as it could. And I have zero regrets.
I was soon joined by Christine, a pro that had also dropped. We shared a blanket and her parents were kind enough to come out and get us. Walking back into town with my bike, I heard my name being called from a store front. There, teammates Ryan Linden and Mark Graham stood in mylar blankets, having made it out a half mile into the run before the shivering became too much to handle. We watched as the brave souls headed out onto the run to continue facing the elements. All I could think was, “What a bunch of BAMFs.”
While I’m certainly disappointed to have been so ready to race at St. George only to drop, I’ve moved forward. It’s weather and last time I checked they don’t do triathlons in domes. I’m looking forward to my next race and know Purplepatch and Team EMJ will have me ready to rock. I just need to figure out what that is, as I would like to put some of this training to use before Vineman in July.
Thanks to my teammates, sponsors, friends and family. Appreciate your support leading up to and concern through the race. Live to fight another day!
*Aside: I forecast business things for a living and can I just say that I wish I could be wrong by a spread of 97 points on something and keep my job? Weathermen, man…
**Per me, on May 7, 2016, in St. George, Utah