By, Wendy B., Fleet Feet Sports Madison & Sun Prairie
If you know me, you know I am not a quitter. I face adversity head on--physical, emotional, mental--gritting my way through as needed….often defying some pretty great odds against me. And on top of that, I take pride in doing it all with a smile on my face. Just because life is too short NOT to smile at any given opportunity. I am stubborn, I am determined. I do not admit defeat.
And yet recently, that was exactly what I did. I hit the big D……DNF, that is. Did Not Finish. Did not finish the race, which was a goal I had set for myself. At first I was really worried for me…how was I going to take this news? Not finishing something is quite out of character for me. Would I forgive myself eventually? Would it ruin my weekend? Would it ruin my next goal? All questions I internalized and agonized over. So, what happened? Here are the highlights, after I signed up for the Galena Triathlon with a dear friend, as a part of her quest to claim her September title of Ironman.
A couple weeks before the race I had actually switched to Duathlon, fearing those early spring water temps. The day began with rain; which quickly turned into a downpour. Yes, transition quickly became a mud hole. And then my first leg—a two-mile run. Easy-peasy, right? Turns out, this was a mile down an Edgewood Hill Equivalent….which can only mean the last mile is UP that Edgewood-like hell. I mean, hill. Yet I did good! Better than good! I conquered that @#%$%.
Then, down a very steep hill to the mud pit called T1. Which means….the start of the bike leg was going UP that steep hill. Bike seat and pedals were wet & slippery. But I did it! I grinded through, and put another “win” mark in my mind. But, what I soon became to realize, is that there would be no good end to the bike portion. “Interesting terrain” equals out-of-control hills. I wasn’t sure which was worse…..grinding it out to get to the top, or the fear I felt flying down on wet roads.
At the top of one such hill, I just called it. I. Was. Done.
I pulled over to hang with the county sheriff until the Sag Wagon came up to get me. In my heart, I just didn’t think it was going to end well…..meaning primarily injury free…and would rather go out on my terms, then anyway else. You see, next weekend, I have a marathon, and in the end that meant more to me than risking road rash—or worse—or burned out quads. I let the hills win.
I truly showed up and tried. But I could not finish.
And…I was okay with that. I put as much of myself into that race as I could allow. I quit on MY terms. And, as a bonus, I got to spend time in the sag van with a local biker pointing things out to me along with way….different roads, history, direction to the winery, etc. And, it almost had a bit of a parade feel to it as we followed the last biker in, waving to the farmers who were out cheering for these last athletes. Turns out the driver and his wife head up a local Bike Group….G.O.A.T.S., and I even got invited down for their Wednesday night paddles on the Galena River & brews! An offer I most certainly hope I can take up.
And my friend? She had an excellent race! I am so proud of her, and do not regret one minute going down to attempt this along-side (ok…behind) her. Her joy more than made up for my defeat. Normal, I do not wear a race shirt prior to doing the event. Just my own little quirk. So for a second, I was stymied….does this mean I couldn’t ever wear this particular shirt? The judge (me) and jury (me) ruled that I absolutely WILL wear this shirt. Because at the end of this day, DNF did not mean Did Not Finish. This day’s DNF meant Did Not FAIL.
And the absolute BEST part of the day? Before the swim start, before I headed to my leg one run, there was the playing of the National Anthem. But, as can be typical when there is technology mixed with downpours, the audio tape of the National Anthem would not play. The race director apologized for the delay, as he continued to work on getting it to play.
But then this happened: slowly one voice, then a few, then many, then all of the athletes and spectators broke in song, singing our National Anthem with no music or single person to follow. We all just were one voice. One voice, overcoming an obstacle; one voice united. That is what it is all about. And that is what will keep me coming back, because that it is what I want to belong to.