As my friend NSQ always says, "when you put on a race number, you sure as [heck] better race your [buttocks] off" (or something like that). To Ms. SQ, there isn't an excuse good enough to justify not leaving everything on the course (see: NYRR Sprint Tri where she crashed hard on her bike, only to get right back up and bleed her way to a 1st place finish). Well Nicole, you were the first person I thought of as I pulled out of Timberman last weekend.
Let's flashback to the start of the race though. I was feeling loose and focused, with a ton of excitement as I prepared to race my first half-Ironman in two years. I had done Timberman twice before and was confident in my training, so I was sure to have a great race. I'd never actually had a bad race in my life. Sure, there have been some that didn't go exactly as planned, but overall, I couldn't legitimately label them as "bad" races.
So after a decent swim at Timberman and a fast first half of the bike, I was feeling pretty strong and in control. Around mile 30, I switched water bottles to the second of two I had with me. After the first sip of bottle number two, I knew something didn't taste quite right. Seeing as it was my only remaining source of calories, fluid and electrolytes, I figured I might as well drink it. My stomach began to tighten just ten miles and half of the bottle later. The remaining 16 miles became increasingly painful, and by the first half mile in on the run, I was reminded of the color of Gatorade that I was drinking before the race (orange).
After 2 miles of shuffling (see pictoral evidence of blistering pace above) and vomiting, I stopped moving and walked off of the side of the course. Stopping never felt so awkward. I hadn't yet finished the race, but I knew my race was finished. When I race, there's always a bubling sense of urgency that keeps me focused and driven to the finish. But as soon as I stopped, it was like someone turned off the burner and that frothy boil was calmed. It was a weird sensation of simultaneous peace and disappointment. Usually I feel that my mind and body are mutually thankful for being able to push and be pushed to their limits when I finish a race. It's that feeling of utter drainage that is so wildly appealing. That feeling would have to wait.
The first thing that I did was take off my race number. It would've been unfair to everyone who was racing to walk my way back to transition with it still on. And had NSQ seen me, she would've definitely smacked me around. Most of my walk to transition was spent feeling sorry for myself, but it wasn't long before I was able to start spinning this into something positive. Was it a lack of training or preparation that prevented me from finishing? No. It was neglect to thoroughly clean one of my water bottles. While on one hand it's extremely frustrating that something like a dirty bottle ruined my race, the solution is to spend $5 on a new one and keep the damn thing clean.
So now with the indelible stain of DNF on my race resume, I'm moving forward with a lot of positive energy toward my last race of the year, the long course national championship in Myrtle Beach, SC on October 2. I have about four and a half weeks to keep my water bottles clean.