Ironman Arizona 2019 – DNF

Yes folks, you read the subject title correctly. I have managed to rack up another DNF. My second. My first was at Ironman 70.3 FL. Once again, the swim was the cause, but more on that later.

My day started off a little hectic. Transition opened from 5-6:30am. I was doing the Ironman with my sister Alana and a few other folks from Trinidad, two of whom were staying at the same hotel as us (Abeo and Giselle). We decided to get to transition for 5:45am figuring that 45 mins was a good amount of time. It was just barely enough time.

Lesson Learned: Next time allow a full hour.

While in transition, I realized that we needed to get our wetsuits on as we had to put our clothes into the morning clothes bag and leave it in an area within the transition. That is, we couldn’t put on our stuff outside of transition. Time was running out and in my haste to put on my wetsuit, I tore a 2″ hole on the right side of the abdomen area. That raised my stress level a bit. We managed to try and patch it with some electrical tape, but we knew it would not hold and it came off in the first few mins of the swim. In the end I don’t think the hole caused any issues.

Lesson Learned: Have some duct tape and possibly a wetsuit repair kit as they can repair it in 5-10 mins and can be used right away

I then heard the start of the pros and I was no where near the swim start so that was a little stressful. I hugged my wife and hurried off to find my self-seeded position. Since I swam 2.4 miles in the pool in 1:40, I figured I would start near the back of the 1:40 group. And then we had to wait…I think it must have taken about 20-23 mins from the time I got to my corral till I got into the water.

As I got it, I pulled on the neck part of the wetsuit to let water in. It was cold, but not too bad and that helped relieve any suction of the wetsuit. I then started swimming and within the first 50-100m I started to feel the way I had at my Ironman 70.3. I was out of breath and started to panic a bit. Not to the level as before, but it was there. I rolled over on my back and took a few breaths and then continued swimming. I just could not get into any kind of rhythm. I would swim for a bit and then have to roll on my back to rest or grab a kayak. This continued for a while.

I would look at my watch to see how far I had swam and the time. At one point I saw 1100 yards on my watch and I think it was about 30 mins. That was a bit slow, but knowing the race was 4200 yds I figured I was OK. I then continued swimming and resting. I got to about 2000 yds and my watch said about an hour. I was half way there and still good on time, but…I recall at the Athlete Briefing, the announcer said that when the buoys change from yellow to orange you are half-way there. I was still seeing yellow buoys. I then thought that perhaps the announcer was just trying to help boost our spirits and the orange buoys started past the half-way mark.

When I finally got to the first orange buoy I asked someone on a kayak if that was the half-way mark and they confirmed it was. I looked at my watch and I think it was about 1:15 or thereabouts. I was totally deflated at this point! I knew in my heart that I was not going to make the cutoff. Sure, I could swim 2100 yards in the pool in 45 mins, but based on how I was swimming in the lake, I was not going to suddenly swim faster. I debated if to just pull out, but I remember my wife saying to just keep swimming no matter what happens. I decided to carry on.

Interestingly, it was at around the half-way mark that I did manage to get into a rhythm and feel more comfortable swimming. I still had to take breaks but they were a little less frequent. That same volunteer I asked about the distance at the half-way mark kept kayaking alongside me and encouraging me. She was so great. I was surprised after seeing her for the next several hundred meters and in the end she actually stayed close and kept encouraging me for the entire remainder of the swim until I got out of the water.

Then my watch hit 2:20 and I was still no where near the exit. My day was definitely done. I kept going. By the time I hit the exit, I was swimming for 2:31. I missed the cutoff by 11 minutes!

The volunteers helped my out of the water as I was a bit wobbly after swimming for 2:30 and one told me that I missed the cutoff. I told them I knew and they took my timing chip. Later that day I was thinking about the volunteers and I have to believe that having to pull someone from the course is probably one of the hardest things they have to deal with during the day. As I was walking to the transition area to collect all my stuff, I was walking alongside another lady that came out of the water around the same time as me. She too did not make the cutoff. She mentioned she had completed 4 other Ironmans and realized she didn’t train as hard for this one.

When I uploaded my swim, Garmin Connect said I swam 3.05 miles. I doubt the course was long by 0.6 miles so the GPS while swimming was just way off. That accounted for my thinking I had enough time. Interestingly, while I didn’t stick to each buoy, the map didn’t show me being much off course, but it did show me swimming on land a few times 🙂

Lesson Learned: Don’t trust any distances I get when open water swimming

After all the work I had done for the last year, my day was done in two and a half hours. Surprisingly, I was not as devastated as my DNF at the 70.3, but I was massively disappointed. Leading up to my race, I had told myself that regardless of the outcome, I was done with Ironman racing. The training was too long. I was prepared to continue doing triathlons but only up to the 70.3 distance. Not the full 140.6. I think that is why I wasn’t as devastated or depressed. In my mind, I tried, I failed, and I was done. I would just move on to other challenges. I think the other factor that made this DNF easier to swallow is that I actually finished the swim. I did not quit! Afterwards my wife was encouraging me to try again and I told her I would consider it.

For the remainder of the day, I relaxed at the hotel and headed out on the course at various points to cheer on my sister at the bike turnaround, at T2, and at the finish line.

Out of the group of us racing, Abeo didn’t finish either. She couldn’t make the bike cutoff for her third loop. Everyone else finished. Alana bettered her IM time and one of the guys came in under 14 hours.

So what is next? I’m actually thinking of trying again next year. More on that once I make a firm decision.