I have mentioned before that learning to become a triathlete entails more than learning to swim, bike and run. You have to learn how to mash those things together somewhat seamlessly. You have to learn how to pace yourself and ‘keep some in the tank’ for the next portion of the race. You have to learn to fuel your body with food and drink at the right times without throwing up or spilling it all over your bike as you try to move forward. You have to train your mind to stay in the game when everything is hard and it hurts.
All of these things I have been Googling and reading about over the last few weeks with enthusiasm. I like the idea of learning how to employ a fueling strategy and devising plans for approaching each leg of the race; it makes me feel like a proper athlete.
I also like learning the triathlon jargon. I am hoping to start throwing it into conversations; I’ve been practicing with Matilda the dog. And I am discovering that the world of triathletes is particularly passionate about acronyms, of which I am compiling a list…
Firstly, there is the OWS. This is the Open Water Swim (as opposed to a swim in a pool) and is often used in a sentence simply as ‘I did a 1km OWS this morning’. Note to self: must do an OWS sometime soon if only to impress the dog in future conversations.
There is T1 and T2, which is Transition One (from the swim to the bike) and Transition Two (from the bike to the run). Triathletes say things like ‘I spent 4 minutes in T1’ or perhaps ‘Some useless newbie called Lauren crashed her bike into me on the way into T2’ (bound to happen)
Apparently (unless Google is pulling my leg) there is also LSD, which means Long Slow Distance – so for instance, I have not yet done an LSD bike ride but I really need to do one.
Unfortunately there is also the DNS – which is Did Not Start. This means that prior to the big race, you suffered an injury or an emergency cropped up and you couldn’t make it to the start line of the race, so you didn’t get a chance to compete. This would suck big time, and you’d probably use it in a sentence that included various expletives and rude things you don’t want your mum to read about.
Then we have the DNF, which is closely related to the DNS. DNF is Did Not Finish. You’d think this would be fairly rare, but having signed up to Noosa, the possibility of a DNF looms heavy over my head. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s not that I am a pessimistic person, but I know if I had to do the race tomorrow, there is a 90% chance I would not make the cutoff times, so even if I was lucky and didn’t get a flat tyre, or get eaten by a shark, or didn’t follow the wrong running course, I simply don’t think I’d be fast enough. Obviously I have a year to improve the odds, but I can’t see into the future, so at this stage I just don’t know for sure how much change I can make.
In researching what pace I would need to keep up in order to be within the cut-off times, I decided to look up some of the race results from recent triathlons. I called up the page of a race I won’t name, but it had about 2000 athletes registered. I scrolled to the end, thinking I would find the slowest finisher there and could base my minimum pace times on them. I scanned my eyes over the names and times of the last page – but they were all DNF. A whole page of DNF! I had not expected that. Those poor people, did they all get flat tyres??
I clicked the back arrow to go to the second last page. Again, the whole list was DNF.
And so was the third last page.
I had to go to the 8th last page (of about 57 pages) to get to the slowest finishers. That is an incredible number of people who did not finish.
When I think about DNF I think about how embarrassed I would be to come back and blog about it. I think about my family waiting for me at the finish line and me never arriving. Tears well up in my eyes. I think about going back to the hotel and hearing people out on the balconies celebrating their fantastic day, while I feel ashamed. DNF terrifies me.
I have done some more googling, and found that even experienced, good triathletes suffer DNFs occasionally. We’re not just talking about people who are too unfit or rubbish like I am currently. One semi-pro man who shared his story had become incredibly seasick during his swim leg and had to be rescued. Many people reported getting diarrhea and having to pull out. Of course, lots of people get dehydrated to the point where they simply can’t function. Even things as simple as cramps or a headache can bring an awesome triathlete to their knees. Any of these things could happen to me, even if I train my heart out between now and November 2016.
The one thing I do think though, is that DNF has got to be better than DNS. Imagine getting sick, or injured, or life happens and you don’t even have the chance to turn up at the race. The race you have spent more than a year training for. That you have spent thousands of dollars on. That you have dreamt about for hundreds of nights, and lived and breathed for hundreds of training sessions. The disappointment and frustration would be horrendous.
DNS and DNF would both really suck and they scare me almost to the point of paralysis. But to keep moving, I remind myself that there is still one thing that is worse than both of them.
It’s not an official triathlon acronym, but I am adding it to my list. The DNSU; the ‘Did Not Sign Up’.
This is used for situations where you wanted to go, and you thought you might one day. For the ‘She Can Try’ aka Lauren who knew that triathlons were ‘impossible’ for someone who can’t swim, can’t run and doesn’t own a bike, and therefore would never sign up (but somewhere deep down, really wanted to)
The DNSU could have been used in sentences when I thought I wanted to be a triathlete, but I never took the chance.
Of course, a DNSU means I’d never have to worry about suffering a Did Not Start or a Did Not Finish. But having conquered the DNSU, I’m on my way to defeating the DNS and the DNF as well.
And if something bad happens that means I end up with either of the latter against my name on the results list of the Noosa Triathlon 2016… Well, I’ll take them over a DNSU, any day of the week.