Making Lemonade: A Great Example of How to Use a DNF to Your and Other’s Benefit – TriCoachGeorgia

Introduction

Mrs. Taylor Lewis, aka HFT and one of Coach Slayer‘s (Dr. Harvey Gayer) long term athletes, is an Ironman already. She’s run ultra marathons. More importantly, she’s a great mother with three children, wife, and works full time as a registered nurse. Taylor values balance and we all know how hard that can be to find in endurance sports.

Taylor knows how to grit out the hardest workouts in the worst of conditions living in the Florida Panhandle. Unfortunately, the race selection of and build for Ironman (IM) Boulder were plagued with some challenges. However, she had a good swim, smashed the bike, and did not finish (DNF) by fainting just past 12 miles into the marathon run. Medical personnel ended her day as she struggle to regain her sensibilities. This led to some valuable introspection that we thought would be useful for others.

List of HFT’s 15 Takeaways from her IM DNF

What follows is a list of what she learned from her DNF. Taylor was kind of enough to allow us to share her thoughts:

I am very fortunate in so many ways. I have a great support system. I strive to have a positive attitude even when the chips are down. Even though it hurt to not finish the race, I choose to view it as a win in the process of my athletic development. There are so many take-aways from this race. I learned so much about IM and about myself.

  1. I still love IM.  There is no doubt that I want to do another. I’ve had a very hard time finding motivation for this. I was sick to death of 3:30am wake-ups, always being tired, and feeling bad about myself when I didn’t complete a workout.  I started this race with the fear that this might be my last IM.  But it’s not.  I love this lifestyle, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  There will be more IMs and that idea thrills me.
  2. I will never again underestimate an IM swim. I got through this swim, but it was a miserable experience. I don’t want to feel that way again.  I realize part of this had to do with location. I think the same swim at sea-level and I would’ve been okay.  But I also wonder if I had done more swim training if I would’ve been better prepared.
  3. I fell in love with cycling again. Riding indoors all the time is mind-numbingly boring, but it’s safe and it’s convenient.  After seeing that accident where one of my fellow competitors died, I don’t have any desire to ride outside. That could’ve been anyone. My understanding is that the rider swerved into the car lane, but if I had been 10 minutes ahead of where I was, I could’ve been involved. That scares me. Also, indoor training prepared me very well for this course. There was approx. 4400 feet of climbing on this course and I feel like I handled this was confidence and grace. Indoor riding is what’s best for me.
  4. The mental game is as tough as the physical aspect of a race. I almost psyched myself out about the bike course before the race even started. I didn’t trust in my training as I should have and the truth is, Coach Slayer had done his job and I was well prepared for this bike course. Trust in your training.
  5. Don’t underestimate the effects of altitude.  Enough said.
  6. Don’t underestimate ‘dry heat’ and lack of humidity. I didn’t hydrate enough in the weeks leading up to this race and during the race. I also underestimated what it would feel like being a mile closer to the sun.
  7. Always face IM one piece at a time. It’s overwhelming to think about the entire distance. Buoy to buoy. Aid station to aid station. It’s not impossible. How do you eat an elephant?
  8. I should’ve spent more time practicing nutrition. I didn’t do well with keeping up with water, electrolytes, and nutrition and I couldn’t remember when I had taken what last.
  9. Lose weight. This would be easier if I were 10+ # lighter! Duh!
  10. People care about me and support me and I don’t always recognize that. This event brought a lot of that to my attention and I’m grateful for all of them.
  11. Sunscreen is my friend. The arm coolers saved me, but my hands were so sunburned. So were two small spots on each side of my back between the tri top and the edge of the arm coolers.  My lips were sunburned too.
  12. This course is one of the best I’ve ever raced on at any distance. This was hands-down the best marked course I’ve ever seen. The volunteers were all incredible.  And the course was breathtakingly beautiful.
  13. My coach and team are phenomenal. I am blessed to have Coach Slayer as a coach and to be part of this incredible group of people. I know I’ve been difficult to coach for this, but he’s hung with me and supported me throughout it all.
  14. My husband makes a great Sherpa.
  15. IM is not a family event. It’s a selfish athlete event that my family goes to. I find that it’s difficult to make an IM trip a true family vacation. I’m stressed already about the race and then worrying about making sure they have a great vacation adds another layer of stress that isn’t fun for anyone. I don’t know that I’ll drag my kids and mom and sister to another one. Family support cannot be taken for granted and that support happens throughout the IM journey. From the first time that IM crosses my mind, I have to have buy-in from those who are going to be most impacted. IM is a very long day for spectators and it’s just not a place for kids to hang out. Once they’ve seen me race it’s not so much fun for them to watch over and over again. They were there when I did IMFL in 2014. They’ve seen the finish line and they understand what it is about. They don’t need to keep doing it. I’ve already talked to my husband and kids about IMFL in 2017 and they are behind me all the way. But the kids won’t be there for all of that one. Maybe for the finish line, maybe not. They cheer for me in training sessions and all the time already.

Conclusion

As I finish writing this on Thursday morning following the race I’ve had a lot of time to reflect.  I watched the IM Boulder race video recap that Ironman makes for all the races and I felt sad watching people cross the finish line. I really wish I had been able to do that. But that has been the only time I felt bad about what happened. I have NEVER pushed myself to that point before and I know that I gave everything I had to give in this race.

Swelling in my hands and feet is going down and sunburns are fading. I am ready to go again! Thanks for reading.