DNF. Three little letters I hoped to never see after my name, yet there they were: Did Not Finish. Walking off the course with my broken bike, bruised hip and scratched knees, the sinking realization set in that I had just quit my first race ever. Although it was probably the smartest decision, it was a very difficult one to make. Before getting into what happened on race day, here’s the back-story.
Throughout the week leading into the race I was battling some micro tears in my left calf. This injury was leftover from a calf cramp during last week’s New Plymouth World Cup race. On the eve of the race, my coach and I decided that, given the residual pain and tightness in the calf, if I was in a position to do a top 15 keep running, if that was not the case and the pain was high, stop to avoid a full tear or real long-term injury.
If you read my previous post then you’ll know that my poor Mathot bike had already been through a lot this week. The string of unfortunate events went as follows: on Wednesday my bike fell off a bike trailer on the freeway, but seemed more or less to survive. On Thursday, I took it to a bike mechanic in Auckland who made a few adjustments, but said that overall there were no problems. On Saturday, another bike mechanic took a look at it and adjusted the gears, rear derailleur and straightened out the back wheel. On Sunday, race day, I went to pump up my tires when the valve suddenly broke off my back wheel. Thankfully the mechanics on site were able to fix it with a replacement part. Then I asked if they could check my gears while I went for my run warm-up and when I came back I heard the loud noise of a hammer to metal. To my surprise and dismay I saw that my pedals, cranks and front chain rings had been completely removed, (not the kind of thing you want to see 30 minutes before the start of a race). Apparently my small front chain ring was on backwards and needed to be flipped around. All I could do was wait for the mechanic to finish and quickly test the gears again before rushing to put the bike in transition.
However, unlike the bike, you are in murky water with over fifty girls splashing and kicking all around you, so it's never easy to know exactly where you're situated or how to get around gaps, (unless of course you're leading the race ;). By the end of the first lap I was in the middle of the third pack and finished with this group.
However, not even 200m later when trying to change from my small to my big chain ring, my chain got jammed between the two brackets. Completely stuck, but on a downhill, all I could do was coast into the transition zone and call it a day.
Watching the rest of race from the other side of the fence was a frustrating place to be and a position I hope to never be in again. What’s worse is I was not alone, for instance poor Anne Haug had her chain break and Rachel Klamer, who was having a great race in the front pack, got a flat tire and both were also forced to drop out. This stuff happens; equipment fails, people get injured or sick, bad weather causes dangerous conditions, others make mistakes, you make mistakes, etc., it is all part of the game. Life is the same way: failure is a part of life and goals are not met for reasons you cannot always control. In the end, quitting itself is not what make you a quitter. You are only a quitter if your attitude allows it. How you react to failure is far more important than failure itself. So I accept this race for what it is, but I certainly won't let it define me.
My focus now is on getting healthy to get back to training as soon as possible and it is with great enthusiasm and energy that I look forward to the opportunity to race to the best of my abilities at the WTS Cape Town on April 25th.
"How you react to failure is far more important than failure itself."
Thanks for reading and thanks for the continued support!