Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The end of the day at Ironman Florida

I'm going to write my race report all backwards, since the DNF was what most people are curious about and have written me so many very kind comments and emails concerning.

I haven't quite fully processed the whole experience, and yes, I'm already second-guessing and wondering if there was something I could have done to go on. That's normal. But still I truly think in my heart that I should not have continued.

The race officials didn't pull me out of the race. I was still ahead of all the cutoffs on the race course.

But the last few miles (9 to 13 on the marathon course) while I was contemplating withdrawing, I was walking along with my mouth hanging open, stumbling and weaving in the pitch darkness on the course.

At the time I was quite sure I'd end up in the medical tent for an extended stay if I went on. I tried everything that I could think of for a few miles before I stopped - walking for the last 3 or 4 miles while thinking it through, drinking Gatorade, Coke, chicken broth, taking salt, eating some of every food they had at the aid stations (oranges, bananas, cookies, gel) - but nothing was helping. At the halfway point of the run I got my special needs bags, ate my baggie of M&Ms out of it, sat for a while to see if they would fix things, and they didn't.

I thought of my daughters. Could I let their mother go back out on that inky-black course with a fairly high probability of stumbling, getting injured, lying out there on the ground in the dark by herself, or ending up in one of the ambulances? Was this still healthy? The answers were all no.

I was simply exhausted. Even though there were nearly four hours remaining to the midnight finish line cutoff, my walking pace was slow enough that I would have certainly had to run some of the last half marathon lap to make it over the line in time, and I was sure I couldn't run any more and probably not even walk the 13.1-mile distance. (Later, looking at my lap times and the times of other people who walked the last lap, I think that calculation was correct).

I dragged myself up to the finish area a hundred yards away from the marathon halfway point and turned in my timing chip.

At the time I was quite sure I'd end up in the medical tent for an extended stay if I went on, and as it was I was shivering uncontrollably (even though wrapped in Mylar blankets), coughing up phlegm, and throwing up my stomach contents within 20 minutes of when I stopped. That convinced me that my decision was correct.

I don't know if I'm ever going to make another attempt. I have to say that I did not have a lot of fun out there on the course while the race was in progress, although I did enjoy all the peripheral festivities of the event. Maybe I'm not cut out for events lasting more than 6-8 hours. If I make another attempt at the Ironman distance, it won't be for at least three years (2009) until my daughters are in school and I can train without disrupting my family time with them.

Fortunately I did NOT buy any Ironman gear before the race, not a bit! I won't wear it without the title.

I'm already signed up for an Olympic distance and a half Ironman next year. I'll be concentrating on bringing down my times on my shorter distance triathlons.

All the kind comments that I have received have been incredibly helpful and very much appreciated. Thank you all so much!

42 comments:

triathlonmom said...

Nancy,
You totally made the right decision. Don't doubt it for a second!
I can really relate to your situation with having to train around the kids and disrupting your family. I'm a teamleader on a team where 8 members just signed up for IMFL. It was really hard to watch them do it, secretly having the desire to join them. But I know, the time training is so hard on families with young kids...and it makes so much more sense to wait when you can do it without that consequence. My 2-year-old and 5-year-old thank me for sticking to the 70.3 distance this year. And your twins will thank you too.

Jeremy said...

You have the heart of a champion. All you can do in life is give it your best shot. You did indeed do that and should incredibly proud of your monumental effort!

TxSkatemom said...

Nancy -- I can't say anything here that hasn't already been said, except to re-iterate that you are a champion. Truly.

IM Able said...

"Was this still healthy?"

That question says so much...it is too easy to have such a large endeavor convert from 'pushing my limits' to 'ignoring my limits.'

Nancy, you clearly did the right thing. If all your bloggy friends were reading a horrific tale of medical tents and bloddy falls, I think we *all* would have missed the point. You should be extraordinarily proud of your efforts -- I know we are!

IM Able said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bunnygirl said...

Wow, you definitely made the right decision. I know it would've meant a lot to you to cross the line, but it means a lot more that you're SANE.

ShirleyPerly said...

Nancy,

It was wonderful meeting you if only for a brief moment. I believe that you made the right decision for yourself. There is no glory in being carried out on a stretcher, and both you and your family would have certainly been much worse off if that had happened.

Be proud of all that you accomplished in your training and during the race (I am, even though my race was much shorter). When the time is right and you get the desire to do one again, there'll be more ironman races.

Best wishes! -- Shirley

Fe-lady said...

Sounds as if you made the right decisions under the circumstances. It's a crap shoot as to what kind of day waits for us...
There are times when I have been training and racing and have felt so miserable that I say out loud to myself "this is really stupid"-
there are other things so much more important, and you, and I, my friend, know all about what those things are....
(Your kids will help upi build all kinds of patience and endurance I can promise you that!) :-)

Mr Steve said...

You are still a champion in my book! I felt like I was going to crash the server since I was constantly refreshing my screen when I was logged on to see where you were...

Helen said...

You made a smart and brave decision. It's hard to walk away from something you worked so hard for but it sounds like you did the right thing.

You've also gained a lot of experience for the next time (if there is a next time) and you know you didn't shy away from the challenge.

All I can think of is the famous quote from Rooselvet:

"It is not the critic who counts; nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Bike Chick said...

Second guessing, third guessing. It is normal. As the day fades a little and what you were experiencing fades a little, it's natural to wonder if you could have gone on. You made the right decision. Even knowing that though, you'll probably run the gamut of emotions about that day and the Iron distance itself. All of which is normal too. I think you did great that day. You pushed yourself, you challenged yourself, you set a goal and went for it. That takes guts and you got plenty of those.

21st Century Mom said...

Nancy you are still my hero in just as big a way as you were before you got to the start. More so. You absolutely made the right decision. There are IMs every year but your babies only have one Mom and babies come first over athletic goals. You did a great job out there and the fact that you managed to train for this event while raising twins amazes me every single day. You amaze me.

Goooooooooooooo Nancy!

jbmmommy said...

You most definitely made the right decision and I'm glad you know it. Good luck with whatever you decide to do, for whatever reasons. You've got plenty of things to consider and I know for me, training for an IM will wait until my kids are more on their own. Races will wait, but our kids will grow up fast. Take care.

mipper said...

you made the right choice. your whole goal was to finish without ending up in the medical tent for an extended stay. it was clear that wouldn't happen. i am so proud of you. you went further than most people could ever dream. excellent job Nancy. Ironman will always be there. time with your girls will not. in the midst of ego and bravado, you thought of them and for that it proves your heart is stronger than iron. lots of love to you girl. maybe you and i can finish our first ironman together (it will be at least 3 years before i attempt one as well... maybe 4 or 5). if you still want to down the road, i'm game to go the distance with you. good job girl. you are a rockstar in my book.

Laurie said...

It sounds like you still had enough wits about you to make a good decision. I am glad about that, glad you made the hard decision to stop instead of sacrificing your body at its detriment. I am unbelievably proud of what you accomplished. You are an amazing and strong woman.

Steph Cooke said...

Nancy, you gave it more than your best shot, to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then cover 13 miles is still an amazing acheivement, especially with your family commitments; you are such an inspiration to so many people! xx

Mojo said...

I certainly think you made the right decision. You listened to yourself and your body. You went with your "gut", and that is always the best! The times I have ignored my gut feelings always got me into trouble.

You know what? Maybe you'll never decide to do another Ironman and have that title. I still look at you with respect and admiration. You are good mother, which is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

I toy with the idea of doing an Ironman one day. I have my doubts though. You have always been around to remind me to "have fun" even after a bad race. I don't know if that type of self-abuse would be fun(Ironman distance).

I think it's awesome you are going to spend time with your little fairies and not jump back into Ironman training again. I'm sure they are thrilled Mommy's home!

Cliff said...

Nancy,

You did the right thing. Our mind can push beyond what our body can handle. You thought about your role as a mom and your daugther's sake. Good stuff.

Besides, if you don't even enjoy it, what's the point.

Vickie said...

Nancy, you made a very hard decision out there, especially after the almost year-long training. Its so easy to read about others' accomplishments and want the same for yourself. I'm there myself, so I know the struggle trying to not jump to a conclusion about my abilities when others say you can do it. No one ever knows what they can do until they try. And while it may seem as if you failed, you did not. You won a battle that many will never win--getting to the starting line of a monumental athletic event. You did the training and had the desire. Things just didn't go entirely your way, and that's something that can't be controlled. Don't second guess yourself about what may have been. Its past history already, and your goals for the upcoming year sound reasonable and should put you ahead of the game for the following year, no matter what you do. You've already accomplished far more than most people in the sport will ever do.

KLN said...

Knowledge is power, and you are one powerful amazing lady. Be proud, you've accomplished so much!

RS11215 said...

Everything you've done takes a lot of guts. I admire your fortitude and I know that you did the right thing.

Chris said...

Just getting to that start line and having the guts to toe up puts you far ahead of everyone else that doesn't have the balls to even try.

Even the best of athletes have their struggles. I'm glad to see that you're not taking things too hard. As I've said before, it's not the finish time that matters, IMO. It's everything else that happens to the point where that cannon goes off...

tribound said...

Hey Nancy,
I've been following your blog for a while. I'm so impressed with you. Reading your last entry it sounds like you're thinking clearly and responsibly. It's so hard to not fall into a low after such anticipation, but you've got the presence of mind to do that - you've already set goals for next season and aren't succumbing to the need to rush into another Ironman. Life is short, but it's not that short. You've competed in an Ironman and that's a hell of an acheivement. I hope you can see all the great things that come out of striving so high and can carry those with you. Good luck next year, I hope you achieve all your goals!

Kylie said...

Your girls are lucky. They have a strong, smart mom with great priorities.

Iron Pol said...

Just signing up for and completing the training for an Ironman was the major accomplishment. You did far more than most Americans ever consider just getting to the start line.

The longest distance of any endurance event is usually right on the border between sensible and downright looney. And doing half IMs is just as big an accomplishment. Do the ones you will have fun doing. If you aren't having fun, you shouldn't be out there. (Big picture, obviously there are always tough moments)

You did awesome. You did the full IM on the swim and bike, and still completed a half marathon. Not a lot of people do that.

TreyAlter said...

Nancy,
I was there and it was a brutal day. You have achieved a lot this year and many people need to take a couple cracks at the impossible Ironman apple. I am proud of you and you can have any of my finisher gear you want, because your blog really helped me a lot along the way. I believe you had a tough day because you used up all of your energy helping the rest of us on our way. Thanks for everything.

Bigun said...

I ditto everyone's comment - and since you've already mastered the distances, you're sure to have a blast and really kick butt at your 1/2 and Olympic races!

LBTEPA said...

*everything they all said*
I was tearing up reading of you suffering so much out there in the dark - and then thinking of your family to decide what to do. Your priorities are EXACTLY where they should be. There's only one shot at being your kids' Mum; Ironman will still be there if you want to do it again later.
Having clear priorities makes things easier doesn't it?
Maybe I'll join you and Mipper for that Ironman in a few years...

Steven said...

Very brave and very smart of you to pull the plug when you did, Nancy.

And at the end of the day...you did all the hard work that you needed to do to even think about taking on the Ironman.

And you did something that 99% of the people in this world won't or can't do...you toe'd the line and gave it your all.

Congrats!

tri-mama said...

you had a great swim and bike in pretty tough conditions, and while that has to be the toughest of calls, you still had a great day. It was fun meeting you. albeit briefly, look forward to ongoing virtual training together

Heather said...

Nancy -- you're amazing. I thought about you all day and you did make the right choice. It might not be the ending you planned on, but it's what you had on that day and, for that, you should be PROUD. You rocked that bike course, too, lady. I salute you.

runr53 said...

With every effort we all have to make decisions. Your kids are more important than all the sports stuff in the world, good choice! And as Dwayne Wade (I think!) said, "fall down seven times, get up eight!" Run Good!

Habeela said...

I think it's harder to make the decision to quit than it is to forge ahead into unsafe territory. You definitely made the right and harder decision. Can't wait to see how fast you get in 2007.

Lisa said...

Nancy, you made the best choice for you. Congratulations on getting out there. You are a hero and an inspiration to your girls!

You did an amazing job!!

Charles said...

Nancy, I know it has all been said already, but the one place that I disagree with you is with the Ironman gear. Ironman is about heart, courage, and braving the impossible. To me, you have earned the right to wear it.

jeanne said...

I can't think of one single original thing to add, so I'll just repeat what others have said: BRAVO for making a very tough choice, but for being BRAVE enough to call it quits when you did, and for the reasons you did. You're not an Ironman? My ass!

Please bask in the glow of what you accomplished. Cuz we're all in awe. AWE.

*jeanne* said...

Life is all about choices.

Your head is in the right place, and so is your heart.

I'm so glad to read all the wonderful supportive things your Blog-world friends have said here.

Awesome job, Ms. Toby.

I'm proud of all you've done, and know whatever comes next will be just as awesome.

Lana said...

I would say that it probably took more guts to call it quits than to just keep going until you collapsed was carried off in an ambulance. But you have it in perspective, and did the right thing for yourself and your family. Good for you!! Don't second guess yourself...not at all. Congrats on the swim, the bike and 1/2 mary though - those are more than I have done. I have yet to find the courage to say I will attempt an IronMan...so you are a hero to me!

Lisa said...

Nancy - I think we all view you as a winner for all your hard work and support your decision.

Also, tt would be easy to get caught up with the notion of trying again because you think that is what others expect of you, but when it comes down to it, you really must let your priorities and goals make sense for YOU.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us through the blog and for the reality check. :)

TriBoomer said...

Nancy,

I'm sitting here hardly able to type. OMG, what strength and diginity you have. I look forward to following you as you work towards you goals.

Stay tuned...

Geek Girl said...

Don't ever forget that you were brave enough to go for something that most people won't even THINK of going for. Sounds like you were really suffering - you made the right decision.

Siren said...

I think I'm more proud of you for pulling out than if you'd tried to continue. That must have been a tough decision and you did the right thing (but you already know that!).

I was watching your number online Saturday and was concerned when yours was the only one I hadn't seen finish. I'd been wondering how it turned out and am glad to hear you're ok and that the decision to stop wasn't made for you.