DNF…Defeated Not Finished

There is no way to sugar coat the truth-Saturday was brutal and heartbreaking.  I went into the Olympic Trials with very lofty goals but one of those was to finish the race…it never crossed my mind the potential of not being able to finish.  I didn’t get to that starting line Pre Racealone-so many people helped me get there—my coach, family, friends (both old and new ones that I met because of qualifying), Art (the AMAZING PT who got me back to running in mid-January), Linh (who had to threaten me at times when I wasn’t wanting to listen to my body), and the awesome team I coach at UT.  The race was to celebrate them and to thank them for their unconditional love and support.

Yes, LA was hot but everyone knew that it was going to be hot on race day.  I mentally prepared myself the days leading up to the race and I repeatedly told myself that it was going to be tough, painful and I would have to be patient (a skill I lack in both my running and personal life at times).  Tony and I talked about the importance of patience and that I needed to be in the back 1/4 of the race at the start.  I have been lucky to have had my first two marathons go relatively smooth but I had a respLulu picect for the unknowns that can occur in 26.2 miles.  I forced myself to line up in the very back row so that I wouldn’t get pulled along and get caught up in the middle of the race.  Through the first 2.2 mile loop I did exactly what I needed to do and stayed in the back 1/4 and stayed relaxed by taking in the amazing environment that the city of LA had setup. 

I felt relaxed through 13.1 miles but I could tell that my body was starting to work a bit harder than it should be at that point in the race.  At 16 miles I got the chills pretty bad, goosebumps and it was the first time when I really really NEEDED the next fluids station.  I had been getting my fluids down but the sun and lack of shade was really catching up to me.  I told myself to just take it one mile at a time and by mile 18 I was starting to get really nervous because the chills had turned to chills, a very queazy stomach and forcing myself to keep my eyes open and to not think about water.  At 18.5 miles I was able to grab my fluids (Gatorade at that stop) and I also grabbed a bottle of water.  I made sure to drink all of my Gatorade and then sipped on some water and poured the rest over my head to try and cool off.  I was just praying that my body would rally and relax a bit over the next mile.

I was scared.  I’ve passed out a handful of times from either the heat or dehydration after running aTrialsnd I could feel that my body was minutes away from that.  At 20.5 miles, I saw a break in the fence that lined the course and my body was shutting down so I stepped of the course. I cried as a lady who was spectating held me up and gave me her water.  She hugged me as I stood there defeated and in pain knowing that I wasn’t crossing the finish line. 

Two days later, I finally had the courage to look at my splits from the 20.5 miles I did get through and honestly it just made me sick to my stomach.  Part of me is disappointed in myself for not forcing myself through another mile to see if my body would work through it…was heat only part of the problem and then I panicked and made it to be something worse in my head?  I will never know the answer to that question but what I do know is that I have some of the most amazing people in my life.  I felt like I had let people down because so many people have invested their time and energy to help me get to the starting line but the outpouring of support from family, friends and my coach made me realize that I didn’t.

On Sunday I had the opportunity to relax at the beach with my parents.  The ocean is my happy place and it helped me put things into perspective.  It reminded me of how lucky and grateful I am for the opportunity to still compete and do the thing I absolutely love.  It reminded me that  I am young and hopefully I have many more Olympic Trials ahead of me—everyone has bad days and one of mine just happened to be at the Trials.  That ONE race doesn’t define who I am as a person or as a runner. Yes, the race made me feel defeated but I also know that this is only the beginning to a wonderful and crazy journey.  I’ve had the following quote saved on my desktop for a few weeks and right now it is very fitting.

“Strength grows through struggles, courage develops in challenges and wisdom matures from wounds.”

4 thoughts on “DNF…Defeated Not Finished

  1. Sam, I am so proud of you for giving it your all and for listening to your body. You will have another shot. Stay strong!

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  2. What an awesome attitude to have! Everyday is a learning experience and you young lady, have a very bright future ahead of you. Congratulations not only on making the trials, but for the lesson and strength to move forward with confidence. Bravo!!

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