I have only quit one race. It was the Miami marathon in Jan 2007. For some reason my heel of my right foot started bothering me around mile 16. It became so unbearable that I had to walk. With an awkward walk so that I wouldn't put any pressure on my foot, I made my way 2 miles with my head down low. Karel went to the race with me and although we started in the pouring rain, Karel had his bike to watch the race. He saw me walking at mile 18 and he walked his bike next to me until I reached an aid station. I was so upset at myself for pulling out of the race but I physically could not make it to the finish line. The walk became so painful that I just sat on the ground and well, teared up a bit.
Since that race, and before, I have been fortunate to finish ever race I have started. Now, before I sound too arrogant or that I always have good races, I must confess that I think I have wanted to quit about 90% of the races I start. There is always a moment (or two, or three) that I tell myself to just get to the next mile and then I will stop. I can't recall an injury (except for Kona) for the cause of wanting to stop, it was just pure pain or bodily discomfort.
However, in my multisport journey I have found ways to convince myself to keep going. I am not sure what it is that I tell myself during a race to just keep going but perhaps I begin to focus on myself rather than the task ahead. I listen to my body, I trust my body and I focus on the moment...not on the finish.
Miami marathon 2005 - Don't remember anything from mile 18-23, bonked horribly because I knew nothing about sports nutrition and that was my first marathon, Finished (qualified for boston)
Boston Marathon - food poisoning, 4 bathroom stops, Finished.
Ironman Florida - 30mph wind, 7min T1 from being freezing cold, my butt went numb on the run, 2 bathroom stops, Finished.
Kona - Well, the NBC kona broadcast shows how much pain I was in. And for the 3 months afterwards, when I couldn't walk without crutches or a limp...but still Finished.
Oh, and there are the many sprint distance races which hurt so bad on the run and the 3 70.3's at Disney which were oh so hot.
So, as you can see I am probably just like anyone else out there and I want to quit races. If anything, I wanted to quit grad school before the end of the 2nd week. I just thought it was TOO hard for me.
However, what defines a competitive athlete (not just a Pro athlete) is the willingness to just keep going. I am not talking about injuries or medical reasons but when it gets tough and the finish line seems so far away, you have to find an inner strength to just keep going.
Over the past few days I have had 3 experiences where I could have given up.
1) On Thursday morning I was swimming with the masters team at the Y. I was in a lane with a high school swimmer (claire) and two guys. The set was 5 x 200's on 2:45. I could have easily made that cycle in the spring but because of my lack of swimming with others, I have been suffering in the pool. However, I am determined to get faster in the pool so I am swimming with the masters every tues and thurs. I barely made the first 200 and the second 200 was touch and go. I figured I would just do a 1000 straight and when the set was over, I could stop. I started to get a bit frustrated as I would push off the wall from a flip turn at the other end of the pool and see the 3 other swimmers in my lane resting on the wall. Here I am not even getting a second rest and they have at least 20 sec. rest. But, I just kept swimming. I made an effort to stop at the 200 even if it was touch and go, just so I could feel like I was doing 5 x 200's and not a 1000 for time. It wasn't until the 4th 200 that as I was swimming into the wall, about to start my 4th 200, that the two other guys had stopped. Why did they stop? For a breather.
After the set was over I had the 2 guys and the coach tell me how amazed they were that i just kept going. Of course to me I am totally upset that I can't even make a 2:45 cycle, but I took the complement. I told them I have a lot more work to do in the pool but I don't give up. I guess if I would have given up I would have been sitting on the wall with the other guys....who were still getting 20 sec. rest on every 200.
2) On sat morning karel and I rode with the Open Road cycling group here in mandarin. It has been a few months since I have ridden with a group because of my tri-training but I was ready to get my heart rate up and ride Blue. I had trouble making my way to the middle of the pack and before I knew it, I was almost dropped. I notice the pace picking up and because i was in the back, there isn't much of a draft back there because the riders around me are having just as much trouble as I am to hang on. With Karel in the front (I was told after the ride that Karel and 3 other guys broke away and no one could catch them) I wanted so bad to do the whole ride with everyone. I worked super hard for around 13 miles (alone) and took a short cut as the group did another 5 miles. Lucky me, we all ended up at the light together. Well, although I didn't give up, I did get dropped again. After all that hard work to get back to the group, my legs were just toasted. Well, I did get in a good 35-mile ride but if I think my mileage would have been much less if I would have given up at mile 10 when I got dropped.
3) This morning Karel and I rode together. I was on Seduza and Karel was on his sexy Pinarello (I love that bike). I planned to do 50 miles and karel was going to do a little extra. I had Karel doing all the work but it is never easy sitting on his wheel. We averaged around 20-22mph for our entire ride and I don't think we ever got tailwind. Headwind and crosswind the entire time. Because I started before Karel, I had planned in my head that I would turn around at mile 31 so that I could get in around 50 miles. When we got to the gas station where I would turn around, Karel told me to go 3 more miles and then we would stop for fluids. Ok, I can do 3 more miles. Well, that 3 more miles turned into 8 and my legs were super sore. My heart rate wasn't racing because i was drafting but the pain in my muscles was ridiculous. Finally we stopped and I gave Karel that look of "I don't want to ride this all back by myself". "He told me I was riding really strong and that he would ride back with me". I told him about my "plan" to ride to the gas station and when I have to do more miles, it is tough for every extra mile. Karel told me that I can't think like that. He is right. You can't just expect to stop at a certain spot and then, if asked to continue, feel defeated because you just can't go on. Well, I stayed positive and stuck on Karel's wheel. We arrived home with 65 miles and it was a really strong ride for both of us (I don't know how Karel does it...he is a machine).
I guess I wrote this blog in honor of my recent registration for IMKY 2009. I know I will have my days and during the race I will have moments. But, you must never give up and you must always listen to your body.