Friday, August 9, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead 2013: A Recap I Didn't Expect To Write

I would never have imagined that I'd be sitting here writing a post like this.  But, with all the good that has come my way, I must face the fact that sometimes things just aren't meant to be.

This past weekend was just one of those "sometimes".

I have entered 59 races since I started this whole crazy thing.  Races that range from 5k's to the Ironman and everything in between.  I have started ALL 59 races.  And until Sunday, I had finished ALL of them.  Sunday was the first time I could not, or rather I did not.  Yes, I now have a DNF on my resume.  I have an m-dot sticker on my car along with a 26.2, and now, I can proudly display a new one... this one:

Proudly?  Let me explain.

I came prepared for this race as I have to each and every other race before.  I swam my laps and put in the miles; the early morning runs, the long weekend rides.  I followed my coach's plan pretty much to the letter. Okay, I would take an occasional license to alter a workout, but never have I crossed the starting line without full knowledge that I left no training stone unturned.  I had a race plan in place, I knew what I would do should this, or that happen.   Yes, I was ready to go.

So what went wrong?

On Friday (two days prior to the race), my wife found a "tick" on my back. It was in a place where it was hard for me to see.  It appears that it had found a home there a few days prior due to its size and size of the ring around it.

Lucky for us one of our team members that traveled to Michigan to race, is a nurse.  She came promptly and removed the little bugger.  With all the skill and precision of a trained professional she pinched and pulled it out.  Okay... that hurt!  But it was out.  She recommended that I take some Benadril, which I did.

The following morning after assessing my condition, which was not normal; I was tired and achy, the symptoms of the flu, she recommended I go see a doctor.  We needed to make sure that I was not infected with the illnesses associated with tick bites, Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

We could not find a doctor so I called my family physician and he prescribed an antibiotic for me to start taking immediately... Doxy-something-or-other, 100mg.  I was to take two pills a day for 10 days, starting immediately.  Which I did.  I took the first pill around 4 pm.

Returned to my hotel after dinner and before calling it a night, I took pill no. 2.  After my pre-race breakfast I took pill no. 3.  I was going to make sure that whatever, if anything, I had was going to be disposed of it immediately.

All was well.  Or so I thought.

Made it to the race site and it appeared to me that I felt good and ready to race.  On the drive there I told my wife that I hadn't been this excited about a race in a long time.  Yes, I was ready.

Made the mile walk to the swim start, took a short 10 minute swim warm up and lined up ready for my wave to start.  Still, all was well.  Again, or so I thought.

The lake was angry that morning.  I remember thinking it would be tough, but there was no doubt that I would do it.  It would take me longer than planned, but I would do it.  So 7:08 came, and off we went.

The trek to the first buoy was long and hard, but I made it.  I turned right and headed home.  Only 1.15 miles to go.

Each and every stroke I took was hard. My shoulders were tight, the elbows stiff. It didn't seem like I was moving at all.  It felt like I was standing still.  It was the waves, it had to be the waves.  So I pushed harder and kept on.

And then I lost it.  Really lost it.  Whatever I had in my belly parted company.  Not once, but twice. After the first incident, I remember seeing a kayak following me.  After the second time, the kayak came up and asked me if I was okay.  I responded:  "where am I?"

Immediately he raised his red flag and told me I was done.  I must have really felt bad, because I didn't argue.

I looked at my Garmin.  It said I was half way done!  Not bad, right?  But it had taken me 47 minutes and change to get this done.  No way I could go on.  No way!

BTW, when I asked what I asked I meant to ask:  "How far do I have to go?", or "Where am I on the course?".  I did not mean to ask if I was in Florida, Cuba or Tahiti.

It took a while for the wave runner to come by and pick me up.  I still had time to argue the young man's decision, but I didn't.  I hadn't felt this bad in a very long time, but still I pondered if I could make it. Obviously not very seriously, because I just supported myself against the kayak and waited, and waited for what seemed forever.

The toughest moment I have ever endured at any event was that very instant when I decided that yes, I was done!

"Oh great!"  the wave runner arrived and is manned by a sheriff's deputy.  No arguing with him.  Not that I was going to, but...

I jumped on the back of that thing and off we went. To the beach we headed.  I was hoping at that point that no one was looking, but they were.  Lots of folks were looking.  Not just at me, but at the massive exodus of swimmers coming out of the water, surrendering their day, leaving their hopes and dreams out in the lake.  (I read somewhere on the internet, so it has to be true, right?) that over 100 swimmers were pulled from the water that morning.

The longest moment I have ever lived at any event was that moment (about 30-45 seconds) that it took for the Sheriff to take me back to shore.

Walking down the beach, I came across a gentleman picking up the timing chips from all who abandoned. He had a handful.  Actually both hands were full.  Reality set in when he asked for my number and over his radio he said: "Number 196 DNF"... 

At Swim Out is where I would find my wife.  She was patiently waiting along the fence for me to come out of the water.  I saw her from a distance and at that moment, I didn't know what I would say.  I came up to her, taped her on the shoulder. She turned around and I could tell the pain in her eyes when she saw me, standing there, defeated.  She didn't say a word. She didn't have to. She just hugged me and held me tight.  That's what I needed.

The rest of the day is somewhat a blur.  Mostly I sat under our team's tent and slept.  I was tired, very tired.


I have replayed the events of the day in my head, over and over again.  I guess I was, or maybe still am, looking for anything that I could have done different that would have saved my day.  I have come to the conclusion that this happened because it needed to happen.

I remembered that on the mile walk to swim start, and then more so after the 10 minute swim practice, my mouth was dry. Very, very dry. "Cotton Mouth" comes to mind. This had never happened before.  I come to my races truly well hydrated.  It's one of my "musts". I think this was a sign, and I missed it.

I am at peace with what happened, with the decision of the life guard in the kayak to call my race. I am glad he was there making a decision for me, when obviously I was in no apparent shape to make it myself.

I would be somewhat dishonest if I were to tell you that it didn't hurt, for it hurt like hell.  Mostly because my pride was crushed, severely crushed.  But it's mending nicely.


I have amassed the most amazing support team of family and friends, some of which I have never met in person, but I feel close to. I am blessed beyond words to have each and everyone of them around me.  The words they said, and hugs they shared meant the world to me. Without these I'd still be a wreck.  I know I would be.

A few of people need to be recognized at this moment because of their ability to know what to say and do at the right moment. This by no means implies that everyone else's words did not matter or I have forgotten, for they did and I haven't.

Beth...matters would have been a lot worse had you not come to the rescue on Friday.
Charlene... you came to me at the tent and that silent hug began the mending.
Skip... at the restaurant you told me that my "actions today would inspire more people than I could ever imagine".  WOW! 
Heidi... Your post on my facebook page solidified the notion that choosing wisdom is always the route to go.
K'leetha and Leigh S...Not sure I deserve to be anyone's hero, but to know that you think of me like that puts a lump on my throat.
Eddie..."One of your favorite athletes"??? With the company you keep, I am honored that you think of me like that.
Robert P... the text you sent me... I've read that a hundred times.  Still get teary eyed.
Coach Barry... No sure there are words that would describe how much I appreciate your continuous support.
Candy... your daily text means the world to me! Thanks!
Beverly...No jinxing involved. And you're right... A man has to do what a man has to do.  Thanks!
Hernando, Carlos and Mercedes (brothers and sister).  Thanks a hundred million times.
Juliana and Marcela... Sorry I put you through a few tough moments, just know that I love you both very much.
And.. Monica... You have been by my side every step of the way without any expectations.  I hurt more knowing, or rather thinking that you were going to be disappointed, but you knew what to say and when to say it, and when not to say anything.  I never get tired of telling you (and the world) how much you mean to me and how much I love you.


I went to see the doctor on Tuesday. To keep the story short, he told me I should have never been in the water.  The antibiotic I'm taking, because of its strength and how fast I took the first three doses, rendered me weak.  Add to that the choppy water and it was disaster waiting to happen. They drew like five gallons of blood and now we wait for the results. In the meantime, I have been grounded for a week!


When talking to a life guard... chose your words wisely.

There's no shame in a DNF... It's better than the alternative.


I lived to race another day!


It never occurred to me that I would ever be faced with a situation like this. Because of this, I did not have a plan for this "what if" moment. I am glad to know that when push came to shove, I was able to make the right decision.

I will continue to dream. I will continue to plan. I will continue to train. I will continue to come to races ready to race. Nothing has changed.  Life goes on.  I lived to race another day.