New Year, New Dreams: Bouncing Back After a DNF

"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour..."

This is on my bathroom mirror so I can look at it every day and be reminded that success is not a guarantee of happiness, just as failure or disappointment is not a measure of one’s character or how hard you have tried.

A bit of back-story…

I’m an ex-pack a day smoker (haven’t had one in over 10 years!). I started running when I quit smoking to avoid putting on weight, and this progressed into my boyfriend and I racing Ironman events. I’ve finished five and still have to pinch myself when I see my medals. Aside from my career as a Paediatric Intensive Care Nurse, this is my proudest achievement. I can’t believe I’ve finished five of the toughest events in the world! 

kate allen ironman finish five medals

Last year I spent over 10 months training for Ironman Cairns. My preparation was almost perfect, and a week out I was feeling fit and strong and thought it was a given that I would finish. Well, the universe had other plans. I got really sick and was in bed for most of the week before we flew up. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe that my body was giving out this close to the race. This shows how much strain Ironman puts on your body! I was also working long shifts at the hospital in the middle of winter, so it was probably inevitable that I would get sick.

The morning of the race arrived and I couldn’t eat a thing. I always feel nauseated due to nerves, but this was different. I felt sluggish, frightened and ill. I was already concerned that this would be a matter of survival and not the strong finish I had hoped for. The swim was rough, the water was brown, full of silt and very choppy. I vomited a lot for the last 1km and continued to vomit on the bike. I couldn’t keep any nutrition down, and after 40kms I knew I was in serious trouble. If you’re tired after 40kms in a race like this, it’s cause for concern.

At the six hour mark (150km) I was losing time and really struggling. I was crying and had started to get awful cramps from not being able to keep any nutrition down. I knew there was no way I could run a marathon after this. Then something in my head said “You’re done, if you keep going you will seriously injure yourself”. So for the first time ever, I had to pull out of a race. To say I was devastated was an understatement. I think I cried for about two weeks.

Over the coming days, weeks, months I got sadder and sadder about it. I knew there was nothing else I could have done, I can’t control if I get sick or not. But it didn’t make me feel better. I didn’t know where to put this. You never start an Ironman thinking you’re not going to finish, and having already done five I thought it was a given that I would finish this one. I wallowed for a long time and didn’t know if I wanted to go back to Ironman again. Then I looked at some of the families I was helping at work, going through the worst times of their lives, watching their children battle illness, injury and death, and I was reminded that I was being ridiculous. It’s only a race for goodness sake! A DNF doesn’t define me; it reminds me that Ironman is not meant to be easy. I survived it, and I will survive it if happens again (which I’m praying it won’t!)
So I enjoyed my Christmas and New Years (perhaps too much according to the scales!) and reassessed where I wanted to go from here. I didn’t have to do another one, I didn’t have to prove that to myself or anyone who loves me, but I knew deep inside that I would.

So here we are, on the dawn of a new year. Plans are in place and I will be attempting to redeem myself at Ironman Western Australia in December. I’ve finished this Ironman twice already, I know the course and it’s a challenging one. Long, choppy swim 2kms out to sea along the longest jetty in the world, hot, flat bike course through the national forest, then a hot, flat run. Western Australia in December can be scorching hot and windy, temperatures of up to 40C, so although the course is flat, it’s extremely challenging. The swim was cancelled last year, thanks to a couple of great white sharks hanging around the jetty, so this race has a little bit of everything!

So the training begins again! There’s a few extra kilos of padding that weren’t there last year, but there’s also a new attitude and an appreciation for how precious my health is. I can’t wait to take on the training again, and I’m so happy to be a part of this tribe of women from all around the world who I know will be supporting me and cheering me on, as I will be for them.

i left my heart in kona muscle tee woman yoga mat sunglasses triathlon

As they say in Ironman “YOU WILL DO THIS!!”

Written by Kate Allen, Siren Luminary

Follow Kate on Instagram! @irongirl70

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