Those three letters are a bugaboo of the multisport community. Some people—driven people—look on those three letters as a symbol of failure; a mark of something wrong. To be branded DNF in the race results is shameful and deeply injurious to some (so I’ve read).
I do not agree that the DNF that will appear by my name in the Florida Ironman results places any special weight on my character. Truly, I am disappointed that I couldn’t do the race but while I am disappointed, it’s not a disappointment if you can see the subtle difference.
Let’s look at what I’ve lost by not completing this Ironman:
- I’m not an “Ironman”
- I’m out the entry fee
Yeah, that’s about it. And if you want to get technical, I probably recouped the entry fee by not showing up in Florida and spending four days in a hotel eating food and drinking beer. So, that second one is a wash. That leaves the first. I may not be an “Ironman” in the sense that I’ve completed a 140.6 mile full-distance triathlon, but I’m confident enough in myself and my training program that I would have finished except for the timing of that pesky injury.
Now let’s look at what I have not lost:
- One year of dedicated training which will serve as an excellent base of condition for the next race season
- The best shape I’ve ever been in. Ask my wife and see if she disagrees. I’m stronger, fitter, musclier than ever before. The only thing I’m not “…er” than is “fast”, and I weighed 40 pounds less in high school when I was running cross country.
- Equipment that I purchased for this race that isn’t going to sit around gathering dust, I promise
- The mental capacity to push through a program of training like I did. With one brief exception1 I’ve never been this focused on one thing before. This had pros and cons. That’s another post, though.
- The ability to walk for a few weeks. I’ve pulled this particular set of back muscles before. The typical healing time is two weeks. I had six days. While I might have been able to push through to the end of the race, I don’t believe it would have been a good thing. Remember what the most important part of my training regimen is. (psst: It’s racing and living injury-free)
There’s no arguing that I did things this year that I would not have done had it not been for my training. I spent money I wouldn’t have and I put aside hobbies and opportunties because my weekends were taken up with time swimming, biking and running. Looking back, though, I really can’t say that this was a bad thing. I learned, I grew and now I can move on to my winter rest period knowing that I did my best, even if I didn’t complete the race.
1: Studying for the Principles and Practice examination for my PE license was this intensive, but much shorter.