This is my journey from couch to athlete.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The end of a dream

Maybe the morning after watching your dream die isn't the best time to write a blog entry. Right now, it's 6am and I'm sitting here crying. I guess I should do the report first, and then talk about how I feel...

Tried to go to bed at 9:30 the night before, because we had to be up by 4:30. I couldn't sleep at all - I tossed and turned until midnight, then laid on the couch and watched tv for a bit until I finally fell asleep for a couple of hours before I woke up again. Once I got up, I ate my bagel, banana, and drank a boost. I was really happy I managed to get it all in - normally I'm so nervous on race day, I can't eat. We get our stuff ready and head to the race at 5:30 - drop off our special needs bags and get body marked. Got our stuff sorted, bike tires pumped up and then waited in a very  long line to use the bathroom one last time. We missed the elites starting because we were still in line. I was so nervous I kept gagging - like I was going to get sick, but I was determined to keep those calories in where I needed them. I took a gel, got on my wetsuit and headed to the beach. Saw a friend and my physiotherapist - who assured me that everyone feels sick, but I would be fine as soon as I started. The cannon goes off, and away we go. I was really nervous about the swim because I had gotten sick on every swim over an hour, and had only made it to 2200m; today I had 3.82kms to get done. As soon as I get start going, I feel a great draft - there are lots of people around me so drafting is easy. I have a lot of time to think about the challenge ahead of me but everything I read said to stay focused on the moment and avoid thinking and stressing about everything coming up. I am going along thinking about how great I feel, then I think that its early yet - you haven't hit that one hour mark yet. But as the swim goes on and I go around the second houseboat - I just tell myself that we're heading back to the beach now. I got a nice smack in the lip but that was way out in the water. On the way back to the beach, I felt fantastic - I was swimming strong and felt really happy. I get to the beach and see my husband and friend cheering for me, so I give them the thumbs up and tell them it was a piece of cake. While I'm getting my wetsuit taken off, I ask the strippers what time it is and they tell me its 8:43, which means I finished about 1:42 - my goal time!

Grab my gear, head in to the change tent, and take a seat. I don't want to rush, so I get changed, drink a Boost and take a gel to start replacing what I used up in the swim. As I come out of the tent, some girls ask me if I want sunscreen - glad to see them because I almost forgot that part. They put it on (but I realize later they didn't do my neck or face.) I grab my bike and head out of transition. Riding out of town was really cool - lots of people cheering everywhere and I felt good. Just as I'm getting out of town I get passed by Sister Madonna Bruder, a 78 year old nun doing her 35th Ironman. This woman is a legend in the world of Ironman and a huge inspiration because so many people say they are too old to be active. We come to a small hill and I pass her again. As I'm passing her I turned and said, "I never thought I'd see the day I'd be out on a race course with you." She smiled. As I was riding, I was eating half of my bagel (as planned) and drinking Nuun. It is so hard for me to eat because I just don't want to but I bonked from not having enough in me last time I rode this course so it was imperative for me to follow the plan. About 10km in to the ride, I'm not feeling so good. I stopped to use the washroom but that didn't help. As I'm passing some very nice spectators, up it came; I held it long enough to pass the spectators though. I would have felt really bad if I got sick on them! Then I start climbing Mclean Creek Road and suddenly feel sweaty/clammy and dizzy so I get off my bike and threw up 3 or 4 times. The other riders were so supportive as they were going by, telling me I can still do this and to keep going. I got back on my bike and managed to keep riding but was hugely disappointed because I knew I had just lost all my nutrition and I wasn't carrying much more with me. I tried to keep drinking the Perpetuem but it made me feel sick every time I took some. I was drinking Nuun but it tasted awful. The only thing that was going down good were the gels and by the 40km mark I was getting low already. As I'm riding, my husband comes by in a vehicle and asks how I'm doing. I tell him that I feel ok but had already thrown up a few times. This section of the ride is fairly flat but by this time it was really hot and there was a big head wind. I was trying to keep my HR low so I could conserve energy for the very challenging hills coming up but the head wind was making it difficult because you use up a lot of energy riding in to the wind. My stomach is still queasy but I'm trying to force bagel pieces and perpetuem down.  Sometimes I can see other riders but there are times when the road bends and I couldn't see anyone. I had imagined race day to be a lot more crowded with lots of people cheering but there were times it was no different then our training ride. The people cheering were awesome though. I can't stomach the Nuun anymore so I grab a bottle of water at the aide station and dump it in my holder, and take a banana whenever they are on offer because I know those always stay down. I have electrolyte tablets but only brought 8 - 1 for every hour and the last one I took went down sideways and almost caused me to start puking again. 

I get to Richters pass and take a deep breath - this is the part where I can't let my head get too far ahead of me. I start riding up and don't feel too bad but ran out of water at one point. My neck was really stinging - I thought it was chafing from my wetsuit but then I realized that I had no sunscreen on my neck or face! Tried to ignore the pain and just keep riding. I see my friends cheering and they are awesome but I'm miserable and don't want to talk to anyone. I keep going, and there is a downhill but I don't even have the strength to use the momentum to get going. I'm just coasting down the hill really slow (because of the head wind) and getting angry because I need the momentum to climb the next hill but I just can't do it. I realize that my race may be coming to an end really soon. As I get to the hill, I stand on my pedals to push and my quads start seizing. Suddenly my mouth felt REALLY dry. I knew my body was crashing. 

I get to the aide station at the top and see my husband and friends there. They are cheering me on but I just pulled over and stopped. I told him that I didn't think I could go on. He tried to encourage me and tell me that I still had lots of time and just take a little rest, get some nutrition and keep going. I start crying because I can't tell if I'm just giving up because I don't have the mental strength to do this race or if my body really is done. Suddenly I start to feel really dizzy so I try to get off my bike. I dropped it on the ground and just laid down right in the gravel because I was about to pass out. The volunteers are the aide station are great - offering my water/gatorade, to phone someone etc. When I get the strength to stand up, I move over to the shade, but the only shade available was behind the port-a-potty (which is funny now but I didn't care at the time.) I lay down and can't keep my eyes open, my HR was still 109 even though I'd been laying down for a while so I ask the volunteers to get me some medical assistance. I was thinking a drip would help get some salt back in to my body. The paramedics come and check my blood pressure, blood sugar levels and my electrolytes. They tell me that my electrolytes are all out of whack and I'm done for the day. They tell me to just lay down and take some water but not to guzzle it. Then they are called to go and see someone else. I took another electrolyte tablet and drank some water. After about 15 minutes, I finally feel able to sit up. Lawrence loads up my bike. My friend that came to watch was thinking of possibly signing up for next year. I figured seeing what happened to me was enough to turn anyone off this sport. 

As we're driving back I feel ok at points and really dizzy and tired at other points. We get to town, I go back to the start/finish area, hand in my chip and get my stuff (after walking through town in socks because my only shoes were my biking ones.) As I'm going, the volunteers offer me food and medical which I refused since I already had help. I see another guy walking around with all of his gear so I didn't feel so alone. We both go and grab some soup. He tells me he came here from England to qualify for Kona but dropped his salt tablets at the beginning of the bike and his muscles were seizing by 10 miles - he was second overall at the time. Makes me feel better to know I'm not the only one that gave up a lot to be here and  not finish. 

For the rest of the day, I just try to keep hydrating. I thought I would sleep for a while but I never did. After getting cleaned up, I went down to the run course to cheer on my friends. I was so proud of them but it was so hard to watch everyone else achieving my dream. 

I promised myself and my husband that I wouldn't do this again. I'm not a natural athlete - this took a ton of hard work for me to get here. I trained as hard as I possibly could, and have been at the point of exhaustion for a while now. That affects your home, social and work life, and made me miserable. Like I said, I haven't really enjoyed this journey but I thought achieving the dream would make it all better since I could look back and say I worked so hard but look where it got me! Now I just look at all the hard work and feel like it was for nothing. I didn't become an Ironman. My story feels unfinished but I just don't have the determination and tenacity to go through all that again to come back and try a second time. Today was supposed to be my big celebration - where I got to go and buy a jacket that said Ironman Finisher! Hold on to the medal and feel the biggest achievement of my life. Instead, I feel like a loser. I see people that didn't work as hard or sacrifice as much and they finished. I know people that do this without putting in very much effort at all. I guess there is no glory in that but there is no glory in failing either. I pictured myself crossing that finish line a million times. Words can't even express how sad and disappointed I feel today. 


  • At 8:05 AM, Blogger Jennifer said…

    Kerry, I know it's impossible for you to look at your race as anything but a failure, especially right now, but you did not fail. How many people say they would like to do something some day but never have the courage to start? How many people start but don't have the will to put in the hours and hours of training, not to mention the fatigue, sore muscles, and mental anguish that the training brings with it?

    I am proud of you, whether you get to call yourself Ironman or not.

  • At 10:02 AM, Blogger eastglen77 said…

    you know what kerry? no matter what any of us has to say,. or no matter what you say to yourself over the next while, this is always gonna suck. yeah, i could say you'll feel better about not finishing in a few months, or weeks, or years. but the reality is, that even decades from now, after finishing a couple of ironman races and finally earning your well deserved m-dot, you're going to look back at this weekend and it's always gonna suck. you'll think of things you could have done differently, you'll learn things over the next while that may have helped..who knows, but the best thing you can do, is look at this as a start, as another stop on your personal journey. take some time off, take a year to do something else (like that 70.3 in calgary next august)...have fun, train just for fun, but never lose that burning desire to keep going, and that desire to pick another hurdle, another race, another distance, or your next ironman...yeah, this is a set back, yeah it sucks, but you know what, you'll be back to kick ironman canada in the ass again someday


  • At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kerry, I can't deny your pain. I'm sorry if I came off like that earlier, by trying to make a girl smile when she still needed to cry. I was trying to tell you a thing or two I thought you needed to know.

    Ironman or not, you still have plenty of reasons to be proud of yourself. You had the imagination to dream big... the courage to actually pursue your dream... and the perseverance to put in all the training and to give it everything you had (and then some) on race day. Not many people can say that.

    If you never attempt another Ironman (and I wouldn't blame you), you've discovered your limits by trying to exceed them... and you should now know the power of your mind in pushing beyond some of those limits. You are One Tough Woman... going another 50km and climbing Richters Pass after puking your guts out speaks volumes about mental toughness (or maybe insanity?). All this is not for nothing, because the determination you have shown/found, in your training and in the race, will help you... getting over another climb... getting to the finish of some other race... or maybe just in LIFE.

    Sure, there is disappointment... but never let there be shame. I am proud of you, and I still wish I had half your determination. :)

  • At 11:09 PM, Blogger vo2mike said…

    KA. A year ago I told you what finishing an Ironman would cost you and you paid your training dues in full. But I failed to mention the costs of not finishing.

    It may cost you a month's worth of self-doubt, what-ifs, and never-agains. It may cost you a few Visa bills, an eBay listing for used race wheels, and a wetsuit you can't unload. And it may cost you a few pats on the shoulder from clueless co-workers when you tell them your story.

    Once you get through those "costs" you need to remember that the training dues you've paid were not for nothing.

    Despite how you feel at this instant, you can still swim, ride, and run further than 99% of the planet. You can look at a 10 hour training week as laughable. You can genuinely say your definition of the term "hard work" far exceeds that of virtually anyone you know - including other IM finishers.

    These are the lasting and to me the most important benefits of being an Ironman, and you get them whether you cross the line or not.

    But right now I understand there is no way anyone can make you feel better about a DNF. Just know that you are in good company. Peter Reid, Chris McCormack, Normann Stadler - all have DNFd in Hawaii at least once only to come back later and win it.

    For them, past performance was not indicative of future results. Whenever you're ready, no matter how many years away that may be, the same will apply to you.

  • At 12:52 PM, Blogger Running~Jordan said…

    I wish I was as eloquent as everyone above. I wish I had the words in me to make things better. I've been trying since crazy (and failing) to comfort or cheer you since I got the news.

    Whatever the future holds for you, know that, you are forever someone I look up to.

  • At 8:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I have been reading your entire blog with a lot of interest. A lot of people have already written eloquently about your courage and your determination that goes beyond a DNF - I totally concur with all these comments.
    I just wanted to add some observations from reading ALL of your posts (love your blog!).

    I don't know you personnally and you don't know me; I am just an 'anonymous' observer on the internet, so this can be taken just for what it is worth...just some observations

    First, you are saying you are not an athlete. Why would you say that? I think that any one putting in 10+ hours of training a week for many weeks, months and even years SHOULD BE CONSIDERED an athlete. It has nothing to do with race outcome, DNF or 'speed' . You are an athlete because you have embraced that lifestyle, because you have made some important choices in your life. You are an athlete because that is now your life and what you choose. And you will not stop being an athlete because you chose to continue on this journey. And this journey is the journey of a whole lifetime and has nothing to do (again) with a single DNF or even Ironman.

    My other observations :

    1) About your dream of doing an Ironman: dreams don't disappear after a disappointment. They have a tendency to go quiet for a while, take a different shape and reappear at another time in our lives...
    I think running an Ironman is achievable for you. But you did not take enough time to prepare for this very difficult undertaking. You mentionned that you never ran a marathon but that you did two half Ironman; doing these 2 half Ironman was an excellent preparation but not enough to jump right into Ironman training. For such an undertaking, it would have been preferable to prepare your body by having a 2 or 3 years plan not just a 6 month plan after having done a couple of half Ironman. This was asking a lot of your body.

    2) About your coach: we always develop a close relationship with our coach and we rely on them to give us guidance AND feedback on our performances. Sometimes they almost become friends and it is difficult to be 100% objective about the work they do. But they are paid to monitor our training and make adjustments when necessary. if a coach is to take part of the credit for a successful training cycle of an athlete, a coach should also take part of the blame for 'unsuccessful training cycles'. From your various race reports that you posted on this blog and also from your training weekend in Penticton, I could observe that these have been more difficult than expected. There were some red flags there - did your coach see this? was there any adjustment made? you need to examine this and have a serious discussion with your coach. (you might disagree with this, but your coach should have seen that you were not yet ready to do an Ironman - not just to push you to do it)

    Remember - your dream can still be alive - you just have to be more patient with yourself and build the steps that will take you there, one step at a time!

    Chin up !

  • At 5:35 PM, Blogger Carrie said…

    I think I said this on RM, but I want to say this on your blog - you are a hero to me. I am only 6 months into my couch to marathon and I am so proud of you going so far and giving so much. Please, take a much needed rest from your dream, but don't give it up. Even if you DNF, you make me feel that my dream IS possible.

  • At 4:48 PM, Blogger Shaunene said…

    What to say... I will be honest my heart broke when I read your report and then I filled with fear and apprehension because I just registered for next year but some truly lovely ladies put it in perspective when I told them about you. They said that if you had never tried you would never have had the opportunity to succeed or to DNF. I know the pain and self doubt, the disappointment of the DNF. The price we pay is high but to my mind you needed to pay it. You are such an athlete and at least you showed wisdom to leave the course rather than put yourself in danger - my husband is a paramedic who has worked this event the past 3 years - he has told me of people who have tried to push through and have really paid the price with hospital stays and such. In 2007 he had to take the second woman off the course - she was 20 minutes behind the leader on the Marathon portion when she had to stop because she could not see anymore - she was temporarily blind. Her race was done - why do I tell you this story - because she is an athlete just as you are. DNF's happen to everyone - you had done the training this was not because you weren't ready it was just one of those things - you pray for perfect conditions on race day but the universe always has other plans. You are an athlete and an inspiration.


  • At 12:25 PM, Blogger Sara Cox Landolt said…

    Hi there,
    I've had a similar experience.

    - Failing hurts. I failed at Ironman Wisconsin. I had problems with heat and nutrition, and didn't have a solid enough training base for an iron-distance event. I also had major problems with fear.

    - Failing makes finishing much more memorable. I finished my first Ironman two years after failing. I confronted my fears and training issues and switched venues to Ironman Florida.

    You can read a little about it at my blog and web site.

    Take some time and think about everything. The Ironman experience is more than one day, the training and life lessons you take with you last forever.

    Best to you and thanks for your blog journey.

  • At 8:26 AM, Blogger grantatvitalize said…

    Hi Kerry, I really appreciate your comments, I know it sucks to not finish, it took me four attempts and 5 years to get to the finish line so hang in there, perhaps in the future some year you'll be ready again. As a tri coach for over 30 years I feel a few simple changes to your fueling and training and you would have had a different result. I would be happy to share a few atrticles I have written with you if you like. I can be reached at or at I have also written up my story which appears in Ray Fauteaux's book Ironstuck ? or I can zap you a copy. I new to this blog thing so send me an e-mail if you like, I'm familar with that! I hope I can help, in the mean time enjoy a few easy workouts, hope to chat soon!


Post a Comment

<< Home