When to Say ‘It’s Over For Today’

“Hi Rob, thanks for the message. If you think the article would help motivate other athletes you may re print it on your website… have a great day and be safe out there. “ Suzy Degazon.

 An article appearing in the April-May edition of Endurance, on-line newsletter of Hammer Nutrition, describes how an elite competitor coped with an experience testing her judgement and resolve.

 Day 2 was never expected to end as it did during the Ultraman World Championship for the athlete who for thirteen consecutive years had started and finished the race. But there are gremlins without limit on race courses. They wait in hiding ready to pounce on the chance to turn a good race bad. One had been waiting for Suzy on that day in November, 2011.

The terms of our contract with ‘Life’ are not all terms of our choosing but regardless, there for us to deal with. How we do, ultimately defines the person we are and so the tale of what happened on a windswept road in Hawaii represents more than just the struggle of a single athlete. Though we may wish the wind would blow always against our back… life often doesn’t treat us as we’d like. In her own words Suzy Degazon tells her story.

“Well, what can I say…those three dreaded letters appeared after my name, and the worst part was that it was my ‘A’ race of the season, Hawaii Ultraman World Championships. And the DNF was my own call! No, I was not injured; no, I hadn’t bitten off more than I could chew in signing up. Quite simply, the realization that mentally I could not ride my bike in 55 mph side winds without some sort of consequence – despite only 12 miles to go and mostly downhill – led me to my decision to get in the crew car and drive to the finish line.   

It had been a long hard two days. On day one I started the 6.2 mile swim never thinking I would possibly DNF on Day 2! I had a decent swim despite being sick one mile into it; I coped with the unpleasantness by focusing on the fish and singing to myself! After exiting the ocean to begin the 90 mile bike journey to the volcano, I felt nauseated, which is rare for me, but I quickly changed and began the ride. I had few issues with numbness in my toes and fingers, but was elated to make it to Day 1 finish line.

 Day 2 was a 171.4 mile bike ride. It began with a few flat tires in the pouring rain and downhill, which meant I ended up playing chase to find other athletes. It was pretty lonely out there, but eventually I had company. The Red Road always offers spectacular scenery, and the Hamakura coastline is amazing, but the fun began on the climb up the Kohalas. I was so close to the finish yet so far away, less than 20 miles. Due to the high winds, I was walking in my running shoes. My husband and crew chief, Al, came over to walk with me, and my bike was like a kite as it went airborne! I looked at my monitor and thought,” I can do this. I have time.” I would try to get on my bike and would be blown across the road, so I’d walk again. My toes were going numb and I was sad; I knew I would have to run pretty fast with the bike to be inside the cutoff.

  Initially, getting into the car was devastating but I knew I made the correct choice as I rarely ride in winds that bad. I quite like living, so Al and I made the joint decision to DNF!

 I am quite an accomplished athlete with well over 380 multiport events to my name. Yes, if you race enough, one or two DNF’s will appear in your resume, but what exactly does that mean? Does it mean you are a failure? A bad athlete? Under trained? You should choose another hobby? The list of self-doubts goes on, and it affects different athletes in different ways.

 I personally think a bad race – be it Mother Nature  performing her wrath of elements or getting injured – is exactly that. A DNF is a bad race gone south! Yet it should not define you as an athlete. In fact, I find I can reflect on the race and see what I could have done differently, and it will deepen my resolve to train smarter and bounce back stronger.

 As an athlete I really want to finish the races I begin, so I visualize the event ahead of time, never thinking I may DNF ( which thankfully is quite a rarity). I cannot lie… a DNF does feel awful. After Ultraman Hawaii I felt sad and extremely disappointed in myself. I felt as if I had let everyone down who believed in me. What would I say to sponsors, friends, and family after getting into the crew van that late afternoon and crossing Day 2 on four wheels instead of two! I knew I made the correct choice as the van tossed around by the wind and daylight was wanning, but that didn’t help much at the time; my resolve was to wake up the next day and finish the 52.4 mile run, keeping a smile fresh across my face!

 Day 3 began at 6a.m.; ironically I had a good run! I was happy and upbeat, kept to my nutrition plan of Hammer Gel and Perpetuem plus Hammer bars, had no stomach issues, and had the most amazing pacers come out to support my efforts. There was a lot of time for reflection while running this double marathon. First, I was happy to be in Hawaii; that was the reason I signed up for my 14th consecutive Ultraman, love the Ohana of Ultraman, love the island, and really enjoy the Ultraman Hawaii event. I enjoy the challenge of pushing the mind and body through three days of doing what I love, and finding my limits. I concentrate on the things I could contraol and forget about the rest! 

 Day 3 finish line was bitter sweet for me, as an unofficial finisher but a happy participant nevertheless!

 Competing in Ultra events really requires a mixture of mental and psychological toughness, as well as training. While the DNF is most difficult to process by the athlete, life goes on. The event or race is the goal, but the journey to the start line can be as amazing as you allow. I’ve had some great training rides, swims and runs; I’ve met some great athletes, made new friends, and connected with old friends. In Hawaii, I swam with dolphins, drank 100% Kona coffee, enjoyed a few scuba dives…DNF’d…mmmm, Ultraman Hawaii 2012 in November is unfinished business!