Monday, January 26, 2015

Ironman 70.3, Ungracious in Defeat

Gary says everytime I write another bitter & twisted FB update I am simply prolonging the recovery of my disappointment.  48 hours ago I was still nervously eating breakfast in a room full of like minded athletes about to go off and do what my 6 month training had prepared me for.  This is so new and so fresh I need the time to process it.

I am going to try and explain how this feels.  I might make reference to situations that you have been in and you might think how dare I compare this pain to yours.  I mean no disrespect, it is simply to try and covey how I feel.  I am also going to swear.

When I decided I was going to do a triathlon before I turned 45 it was for many reasons.  Firstly I thrive on challenges and secondly after my brain op I felt like I wanted to live my life large, extra large.  I have had too many friends die and I just wanted to honour them by living my life so fully.  I also didn't want the fear of failure to hinder me trying big brave things.   I wanted to do something where I am in charge of my body.  I control my movements and how much pain I am prepared to take.  My Dystonia which is life long is incredibly hard to handle sometimes.  I wish I had a date that it would end so I knew I only had to endure it for x amount of months or years.  I cannot make it stop, I cannot escape.  It has me in its twisty painful grip and I can only try and live my life as best as I can with some adjustments.  The desire for 1 triathlon turned into an addiction for the mad sport and I continued improving and learning.

Training this hard for 6 months this hard has been very tough.  My bike accident set me back and every time I cycle I feel nervous.  As you know I am also not very good at all.  The slowest in my bunch so I had to try extra hard.  I knew the route was tough.  This particular ironman 70.3 is the second toughest in the world.  The bike course is endless rolling hills with wind on a bad day.  I had calculated my swim time and knew the extra 25 minutes saved that I could add to my 4 hours on the bike would mean it would be tight but I would probably make it.   The alternative was impossible.  To take so much time from my kids and friends and life and work that hard only to return empty handed was simply not an option.  I believed my strong mind and determination and my faith in God would get me there.   I also believed if I trained 100% I would make it so I cycled hundreds of kms and I swam and I ran and ran and ran.  The times on my alarm clock are 4.00am, 4.30, 5.00am.  6 days a week, 9 sessions a week for 6 months.  Even on holiday.

Fast-forward to race day and I am on the beach ready for this.  I had prayed for calm and warm sea and little wind.  6 days prior the sea had been 24 degrees and the wind calm.  On the day before the sea was so rough they were considering a duathlon and canceling the swim.  The rough choppy sea did not phase me.  I had trained in big waves.  The ocean is my place although I did not know it was 15 degrees.  I had drawn a cross on my hand, my bike and my helmet.  My God was my partner and I had many people praying for me.

We were the last wave of 8, the women over 40 and the teams.  Out of 3000 athletes only 780 are women.  The gun goes off and I get through the waves and I swim.  Towards the end my hands and feet are numb and looking for the final red buoy had me see so many other red landmarks but I was still good to go.  As I run up the ramp towards the bike area my legs turn to cooked spaghetti and I walk like I am totally pissed.  The official tells me I have hypothermia and pulls my arm towards medical.  No, no I am fine, I need all the time on my bike I slur in my drunk voice.  Thanks but I am fine. No choice and then I am on the bed and too cold to get a reading under my arm.  Under my tongue is a joke as my dystonia means my tongue is doing its usual spastic dance and the thermometer won't stay still.  Time is ticking and I am frantic to get on my bike.  Rectum she says, sorry but I have to put this up your rectum to get a reading.  At that point I am so desperate to get on my bike I don't care.  I am finally shivering which is a good sign.  34 point something.  Fuck.  I have to wait till 35 before I am allowed to go.  After 30 minutes in the tent I am released although still cold and confused.  The bike section that had 3000 bikes is now a graveyard.  I get changed and I can't read my watch as my vision is still screwy and I start my bike.  The last person of 3000 to start the course.  the LAST.  I have 3 hours and 56 minutes to complete 90 kms.  With the wind and hills and my cycling being so week it is a big ask but not impossible.  I trust God to intervene for me.  For the 1st 7km I am alone on the road which has been closed off.  Its a ghost town, the end of the world.   After a wrong turn I correct myself and I start.  I fight harder than ever and I pass the slow people at the back although I see I am still too slow.  My chain comes off 3 times but I calmly put it back on.  I hope when I get to the 45km mark that somehow the wind blows me back and the 1 hour and 36 minutes is miraculously enough.  I think about contestants on Survivor who never quit a challenge even when they cannot win.  I think about so many things and I cycle through the pain and wind and hills and when I look at my watch knowing it is now impossible I cycle anyway.  They have a truck that comes round and they put you and your bike on that sad truck and drive you back.  I see people on the side of the road crying, knowing they have missed it.  Well fuck that, I am not going on that truck.  I want to see how far I can get by the 1:15pm time so I pedal with my legs and feet so sore.  85kms the time stops for the race.  I had 5km to go.  30 minutes spent in medical would have been enough.  A girl asks me if we will still make the run and I hate that I have to tell her no.  No, we haven't made it.  We will not make that run.   I don't cry and I cycle that last crap windy hill to get back and then I cross the finish line to see Gary and then I cry but I am marched off immediately as she yells: DNF, DNF.  Did Not Finish.  I am another DNF.   

It really happened.  What I feared but what I fought because I trained so damn hard.  On the other side of the road are the runners with the awesome crowd cheering.  This is the part they said makes it all worth it.  I feel traumatized.  I walk amongst jubilant finishers with their medals and finishers t-shirt.  6 months of my life and I couldn't do it.  Knowing I would have just made it had I not got hypothermia makes it worse actually because I felt so deserted by God at this point.  We were meant to be a team.  I did my bit, all the parts I could control.   It was not enough.

Will I come back and try again?  I don't think so.  I suck at disappointment.  I simply couldn't handle it again if I didn't finish and the variables are too great.  I feel like that jilted bride and I have called off a wedding by a cheating spouse just a few short months before so I know what that feels like.  Not moving to Singapore after so much prep and hope and excitement was killer.  This feels like this.  Disbelief that it is all over and trying to process just how traumatic that was for me.

I know many cannot relate.  I am not a drama queen though and this is real for me.  I will get over it.  I need some time.  My faith has been broken, my trust.  I have to start my studies and do my kids but I want to sleep rather so I don't have to feel like this.  Crushing defeat, ah, that's what they mean.  I am crushed in my defeat.  Time to wake them up, make school lunch, carry on my life.  How do I do this???


  1. My heart is sore for you. I am not gracious in defeat either. I do the ugly face cry. xxx

  2. My darling Mel...
    I wish that my telling you how proud I am of you, and how much I admire you could make you feel better.
    You are in my prayers every day.

  3. I can only begin to imagine your disappointment.
    I am a "new athlete" and sometimes the fear of failure is enough to make me want to quit, so huge kudos to you for trying and giving it your all.
    Much respect!

  4. Oh my heart breaks for you. And I admire you endlessly for trying and doing all those practice runs. I bow down to someone way braver than I am.On a sidenote - so glad I found you again. I used to read your baby charity blog years ago

  5. I wish I could hug you. You are allowed to be bitterly disappointed. You have put In so much to your training.

    The utter sadness will diminish. I promise.

  6. I can so completely relate to this post. I DNF'd an IM in 2013 (broken thumb, poor training, blah, blah) and I was so sure I wouldn't make the bike cut off I pulled myself off the course. That's right - I quit. Last year I trained and trained and trained and went back. I had roughly the same performance and spent the entire bike and run chasing the cut offs. I made it but not by much. I was very disappointed - until I thought it through.

    You started your day totally hypotermic and yet you fought back. You staggered to the bike and rode as hard as you could. You are strong and resilient and determined - you are an athlete.

    I know racing triathlon and raising kids are somewhat incompatible (single Mom, raced my first marathon when the kids were 10,12 and 15 and felt endlessly guilty) but you will want to stay in shape anyhow so consider doing an Olympic distance race just for fun. You'll kill it with your determination.

    I mostly hope you find a better place for your disappointment and come to place where you appreciate your performance and admire the fight you put up as much as any athlete does (I am 100% certain of that), You deserve that.

  7. PS - the other thing I can relate to is being disappointed in your race and having everyone say 'YOU'RE AMAZING! YOU'RE GREAT!" V. annoying.

    Also very good because you made a huge effort and you put up a big fight and you will hopefully come to a place where you give yourself enough credit for that and put the things that were out of your control in their place.

  8. Did you write your 'So it didn't work out but you still OK' letter? Read it but also remember that this is it's own kind of grief and takes time to get over. I think what you did is amazing but of course I know that doesn't help right now. {{{HUGS}}}

  9. {{hugs}} I understand. Give yourself time, be gentle with yourself in your grieving. I am sorry. It is so incredibly tough when we work so hard for something that does not work out, when we through our entire selves into it ... {{hugs}}