Columbia Triathlon: Lessons from a DNF


It’s been a long time since have DNF’d a race. I have some “drama” filled races in my tri life, but not a DNF before I even got really started.


Sunday was just not my day. Hind sight is a mofo; however, I am blessed to have a coach that refuses to hear the negative before I can rattle off some positive. I don’t know if I can say anything positive; but I did learn some valuable lessons…


1. Respect the Weather & Water

Mother Nature is a straight up BYOTCH and she will kill you if she can in the midst of creating such beauty. It was going to be cold the morning of the race (45 degrees and slowly rising) and to add insult to injury, the water temp was 62. Brrrrrrrr.


I came prepared. I had my neoprene cap, ear plugs, neoprene booties, wet suit, change of shirt & jacket for the bike. DO NOT think that you are even remotely prepared to endure a race of any distance without the proper gear for the air/water temp. YOU ARE NOT. Unless you get 10 bags of ice and put them in your swim spa, practice in an ice bath or swim regularly in a frigid body of water ALL THE TIME ( and NO, your pool is not that cold), then you best bring the gear. IJS.

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Unfortunately, they did not let anyone get in the water before wave starts. No acclimation. The race start was different than I’ve ever done. It was a timed start, run in 2 at a time in your wave and start swimming. I didn’t even think much about it. – BIG MISTAKE. HUGE. I am accustomed to in water starts (or jumping off a ferry and treading water for a min as I move away from someone jumping on my head). With an in water start, yes, it is crowded, but I get to tread water for a few minutes, get used to the water, center my self and start swimming when I get good and damn ready.


Naw – this knuckled head, just ran in the water and started swimming. HOLY COW! THAT WATER WAS SO DAMN COLD. My breath was just sucked from my body. But I can do this…I swam in Lake Michigan for gawd sakes at the Chicago Tri…but OMG!!! I started panting. I tried to get my breath. I grabbed a kayak and tried to get my breathing under control. I knew the longer I messed around, the colder I was getting, so get going. I’m shivering and I tried a few strokes, but my heart was pounding…I couldn’t catch my breath. Kayak #2…I was so cold…BUT I CAN DO THIS. I’VE DONE IT BEFORE. DA HELL IS HAPPENING. I try again…and I just can’t. I can’t breath, my heart is going to come out the top of my head and I’m flailing in the water…OMG I’m gonna drown.


Another swimmer grabs me and holds me up (can I really sink in a wet suit?) I had no more energy, I’m shivering, panting, my chest hurt. Next thing I know, I’m in a boat…and then there are 5 others in the boat. Me and 4 men. I’m bawling. How did this happen to me? What went wrong. The man sitting in front of me starts talking to me – he was 71 years old and done 60 triathlons. He says, don’t be upset. This was not our day – this won’t be the first setback and it won’t be the last.


2. Listen to your body – Live to Race Another Day

Okay. Something was wrong. My body was reacting. I needed to get out of that water…and THANK GOD I did.

I get to the med tent and my blood pressure was 189/90. I was in hypertensive crisis. What might have happened if I had not asked for help? I sat in the med tent for almost 30 min until my blood pressure was at least high normal.


It is not worth it to push on (SHUT UP – I’ve done it – I know – DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO), especially if this is not your A race. Is it worth getting injured to the point of not being able to race at all for a long while…or getting DEAD. NOPE.




3. Remember your WHY.

Why do you do all of this swim, bike and run madness? My why is I do it for me. It is my personal accomplishment that is all mine – my challenge to be a better me each and every day. AND I do it because it is fun and to collect BLING. I’m a BLING Ho! PERIOD. DEAL WITH IT.


I wiped my tears and pulled myself together because THERE ARE NO TEARS IN FUN!


4. Transfer the negative energy into POSITIVE.

I had over 30 MMTC members and almost 10+ BTA members out on the course. My race was over. I could have pack it up and went home. NOPE. I can stand and wait and cheer then home. So many of them have been there for me, in training and in races. The least I can do I stand at that finish and wait and cheer. To get to see my Coach win – OUTSTANDING! To see all my friends make it, through tears, fears and struggle (some less, some more than others) and hug them at the end was the best, most rewarding use of my time…and FEELZ



5. Every setback is the setup to the comeback!

When I got a little down in the dumps about my DNF, I took a look at my racks of bling. My confidence was restored. I CAN! I HAVE! I WILL! I didn’t get them by not living, learning and toeing the line again and again.