It’s not true that I never DNS (Did Not Start) a race before. It happened a long time ago for the Philly Tri. I woke up and realized quickly that it wasn’t race day nerves but rather a virus that had me unable to race. Other than that, to the best of my recollection, I have toed the line for just about every race I signed up for.
Until the past few months.
My plan was:
Devilman half -lite Early May
Queen of the Hill Olympic in June
Ironman Lake Placid in July
A death in the family and in impromptu trip to Trinidad for the funeral removed the first race from my calendar. The race was my early season check point to keep me focused during the winter/early spring on my way to Lake Placid. The woman who’s life I traveled to celebrate was the embodiment of health, selflessness, family and love.
My DNS seemed trivial.
After that, my training focused on Ironman Lake Placid and after a great weekend training with friends over Memorial Day and some more great training in early June, I was excited to really race Queen of the Hill. And even though I was nervous about Lake Placid, I was also starting to feel ready and excited.
But apparently, this is not my year to race.
I had a virus that kept me down in between key training events and then I ended up in the hospital for 6 very long days. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with viral meningitis and as I sit and type this, I am not 100% healed. I missed Queen of the Hill and quickly realized two things.
1- I was missing key weeks of training in my Ironman training and by the time I was likely to be able to train again, it would be time to taper
2- After experiencing so much pain, suffering for the race was something I no longer wanted to do.
So even though Ironman Lake Placid has not occurred, I await the day knowing I will not start the race.
As an athlete, I’m deflated.
3 DNS in a row.
Months of Ironman training not being put to use.
Accumulated fitness slipping away, and I still haven’t even attempted anything more than a 30 min walk.
What’s worse is that as a coach, I realize I have been insensitive. I’ve been the one to say “Better DNF than DNS”. What would I say to an athlete, like me, who is devastated not to start; that fully planned and prepared myself to push my body to its limits. Would I say “It’s better to start and go as far as you can before you pull out of the race than not even show up a the starting line”? Of course I wouldn’t.
I also realize that what I am new to (in addition to not starting a race) is also allowing space to slow down — to heal. Allowing space to not be pressured into returning to training or racing until my mind and body recovers. I don’t rest well – I don’t even sit still very well. And yet I’m learning and practicing patience and reminded that I need to ask for more help.
If I were to claim a silver lining, it would be the hope that I am now more understanding, more compassionate and better equipped to coach athletes who, for whatever reason, are not able to complete their races as planned. And that maybe I can also show compassion and understanding towards myself.
Maybe I’ll sign up for another race this year or maybe this is my year to support others. Either way, I’m OK with the outcome and thankful that I even have the choice.