Be A Good Sport About Your Ironman DNF, Fair Or Not, It Creates Space For Reflection

Eagle's nest

FitOldDog sees his first eagle’s nest at Taylors Island, Maryland. Fascinating. Photo by FitOldDog, using telephoto on his Canon. Great camera.

FitOldDog's 2014 Maryland Ironman race results

My friends were mad about my recent DNF (Did Not Finish) in the 2014, Maryland Ironman, but, in order to be a good sport, I took it in my stride as a blessing in disguise.

Rich on Taylors Island

Rich, also camping at Taylors Island. Completed Placid a number of times, and it was interesting to compare notes. We also met on the course several times. Good people, Ironman triathletes. Photo with permission by FitOldDog.

Here’s my story: The 2014 Maryland Ironman race started at 6:50 am., on a lovely morning in Cambridge, Maryland, in the Choptank river. My race went fine until late that evening, considering the fact that my training had been degraded by a severe bout of plantar fasciitis only six weeks previously (it’s all in this blog). It was 99% fixed, based on perception, using the method described in our book. But it was clearly fragile, needing more strengthening exercises. But what could I do, my son, Nigel, was also in the race and I love to in the same race (heart over head, DANGER).

From my race stats, above, you see that my swim and bike times were adequate for my age and level of conditioning. However, the run was tough due to increasingly sore feet, especially in my left heel (yep, I was risking setting off my plantar fasciitis again, but what can you do?). Friends, following me (well, following my tracking chip) on Ironman Live, saw me disappear at the 12-mile mark.

What happened to Kevin since mile-12 of the run?

A lot!

This is what happened to Kevin.

After the Maryland Ironman race 2014

After the race. What is Ironman all about? It’s about people’s stories, and some great stories they are, which were realized here for many the day before I took this photo. By FitOldDog.

At 9:09 pm, 14 hours and 19 minutes into the race, I reached the the transition area near mile marker 16, which is also close to mile marker 18 (there is a 2-mile out and back between them). A nice lady, a race official, stopped me and said, “Do you know that you have until 9:50 to be back here at the 18-mile mark?” I thanked her, thinking, “Plenty of time!” On my return, having been sent in the wrong direction by one volunteer (costing me about 2 minutes), I arrive at the transition area at 9:44, to be ‘greeted’ by a gruff, non-sportive guy, sitting in a golf cart. He says, brusquely, “You missed the cutoff, I need your chip.” I protested that I had been told it was at 9:50, and I described the error made by a volunteer that had cost me time around mile-17. He said, even more agressively, “Give me your chip!

So, being tired, not wishing to disobey a race official, which would have me disqualified anyway, I gave him my chip, and the race was over for me. Then he made a big mistake, in my opinion! He sent a 71-year old guy, who had just completed 132 miles of the race, off into the dark, without even a kind word, or “Are you OK?” Not a good idea!

Chesapeake Bay calm.

Chesapeake Bay calm, as FitOldDog cooks his dinner.

Could I have made it? I think so, but would it have been a good idea, with my left foot becoming increasingly sore, I wondered? So I smiled (the guy in the golf cart didn’t), and wandered off into the darkness, feeling oddly happy.

At 9:48 I’m resting tired feet, sitting on the sidewalk, near where my chip was confiscated, when a young lady runs by, and I say, “Sorry, but you’re too late, they pulled me off the course and took my chip at 9:44.” She, yells, “No Way! The cutoff is at 9:50!” She doesn’t return, presumably allowed to continue. I start to shiver, which is common as you cool down from these long races. I contemplate my situation, smile (oddly enough), and walk, somewhat tenderly foot-wise, back to my car. But I feel quite happy. Why? I realize it’s a blessing in disguise, especially for my left foot.

Liz and Kurt Kahl

Liz and Kurt Kahl, FitOldDog’s heroes of the Maryland Ironman, 2014. Photo by FitOldDog, with permission.

AND THEN, would you believe it, Kurt Kahl, 77 years old, oldest guy on the course, came by, rushing into the transition area. I shouted out that he was my hero, and he shouted back that I was his hero. Old guys keeping each going, not ‘going gladly into that good night.’ By the way, Kurt has been fighting mantle cell lymphoma/leukemia for two years, with regular chemo. His doctor tells him to keep doing Ironman training, it’s helping his case. How about that for an admirable approach to life, and the right doctor, to boot. My impression of Kurt is a big heart, a sense of humor, determination to finish, and appreciation for his wife, Liz’s, support of his endeavors. Way to go, Kurt and Liz. You’re clearly good sports.

When I tell my friends what happened, they are all mad about it, but I’m not. “You should lodge a complaint!” ‘You were cheated out of your medal!” “That makes no sense!” “You should get a free race!” and so-forth. In my mind, the fact that I made it to mile 132, out of 140.6, is almost a miracle, but I’m here because my son is here, and I love that, and he did so well. Eleventh overall, and second in his very competitive age-group, 40-44. His fastest race ever, he tells me later. How could I be disappointed!

Bald eagle nest demo

Bald Eagle nest at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Photo, with permission, by FitOldDog.

Furthermore, I had a glorious weekend in Cambridge, Maryland, at  Taylors Island Family Campground. Where:

1) I met some other admirable athletes.

2) I saw my first eagle’s nest. Never seen one before.

3) Got to watch Deb, enjoying fishing in the Chesapeake Bay.

4) Watched the seagull power dance, reminding me of seagull management.

5) An got to see Kurt’s shit-eating grin as he passed me on the bike at mile 44.

PS I did slightly reactivate my plantar fasciitis, so the moral should be, “Don’t attempt an Ironman as part of the later stages of your plantar fasciitis treatment; do all the exercises in our book, first.” I knew that, but I did it anyway! Heart over head!

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.