My DNF Story – Jason Bahamundi
Not all DNFs are created equal but they all end the same way. That’s with a Did Not Finish. You trained for the event. Prepared your hydration and nutrition. Developed a race strategy. Began the race and eventually did not finish. This is My DNF Story.
The Way It Was Meant To Be
For a few years I was able to compete and complete a 100 mile race in the winter, typically February. I would then take a couple of months ‘off’ from training. In late May or early June I’d begin a training plan focused on an Ironman race. That race would take place in September or October. The space between February and September was enough for me to recharge my batteries and be prepared to race a completely different sport.
I followed this pattern for 4 years. 2019 was going to be much of the same but in December of 2018 something changed. What changed? My name was selected for the start list of the Western States Endurance Run. I was already registered for a 100 mile race in February and an Ironman in late September. This was a monkey wrench in my race plans but I could handle it. Or so I thought.
2019 – A Big Year
I raced the 100 miler in February but didn’t treat it like an ‘A’ race and I felt good with my training. After the race I focused on Western States but threw in some bike rides toward the end of the training cycle. I always kept swimming because I use it as a recovery tool. I thought to myself, I’ll be good with the 100 miler and the Ironman this close together.
I raced Western States and took about a week off from training before getting into Ironman focused training. This meant a lot of miles on the bike. After all, my run should be good as I had just finished a 100 mile race. Swimming was still there and I wasn’t going to get any faster. I just needed to stay afloat and get out of the water in shape to ride.
As Ironman Wisconsin drew closer, I could feel a wave of IDGAF coming over me. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait for all of this to be over. All of what? The training, the racing, the focus on how many calories I’m consuming in an hour, how many ounces of liquid I had taken it, where are the salt tabs, is my bike ready, are my running shoes at the front door or in my car. All of it!!!!
Ironman Wisconsin Race Day
On race day I could see the winds picking up and the waves of the lake seemed larger than they should be. I got near the start line and hesitated. A first for me. I just had to get ‘psyched up’ I told myself. I finally entered the water. Panic set in almost immediately but I pushed on.
After what seemed like an eternity I flipped on my back to catch my breath. I saw other athletes swimming past me. I turned over and started swimming again. Just reach the buoy and the next I would tell myself. Eventually I would turn over and back stroke.
At one moment I looked at my watch and realized I had swam 0.6 mi in 30 minutes. Quick math told me it would take nearly 2 hours, at this pace, to finish the swim. I told myself that this wasn’t fun, I wasn’t interested in continuing and the thought of a 112 mile bike ride after that sounded awful. I waved to a jet ski volunteer. They asked if I needed assistance. I told them I was done and was going to DNF.
The Moments After The Decision
To their credit, they asked multiple times if I was sure and if I wanted to take a moment to think about it. There aren’t many things in life I was more sure of. I didn’t want to continue. This was no longer fun and I was relieved to be stopping. The volunteers got me to the dock and there were a slew of other athletes that had DNFd the race as well.
In that moment I went from a DNF athlete to a consoler. I talked to the athletes that were DNF’ing and I quickly realized that with 8 other Ironman finishes under my belt that this wasn’t that big of a deal for me. I gave them advice on how to deal with the DNF, how to move forward, how to assess what happened and to continue to challenge themselves because that is how we grow as people and athletes.
The DNF wasn’t the end of my endurance sports road. It was a bump in the road and a learning experience. It was a building block for success and not a terminal failure.
- Understand your race season. Truly analyze it and understand where you’ll be in the cycle for taper, recovery, performance.
- Challenge yourself but also understand your limits in that moment. As I mentioned in this article you want to give yourself a chance. Maybe that chance is not just during the race but in the days, weeks, months leading up to the race.
- It’s OK to DNF. It hurts/stings in the moment but you will grow and learn from it. Apply those lessons to future events. Never stop learning.