Death Before DNF

Pain is temporary.  Quitting lasts forever.‘ — Lance Armstrong

And the racing season is upon us.  The mantra among endurance athletes is, death before DNF.  None of us want that mark on our record.  We will do anything to avoid the DNF.  But our goals and our realities are sometimes very different things, in very different places.  At what point do  we choose to protect ourselves, so we can come back to compete another day.  I once listened to a coach chattering about mile 20-21 in a marathon.  That is the point where decisions need to be made.  Are you able to finish, or do you need to call it a day and tackle that race another time?  I scratched my head at the time, curious as to why this coach would encourage a DNF, but he was being realistic in his coaching.  There are times that we need for our own health and safety to end the race.  

In my endurance racing, I have two DNF’s.  In one race, I managed to fracture a metatarsal in my foot (bone leading to the phalanges or toes), and there was no way I was going to finish the run leg of the triathlon.  And the other, two miles into the marathon my hamstring cramped.  After doing everything I could do, the hammie would not quit, and there was no way I could comfortably finish the race and go out another day.

The reality:  none of us wants to train hard and put in those hours for the event and NOT FINISH IT.  To not go out and be competitive and give this our best is just INSANE.

The truth:  we need to be sensitive to the needs of our bodies.  Sometimes the body is saying something completely different than what the mind wants to hear.

But at what point do we need to choose our safety and our health to be able to come back and race another day?  We need to change our attitudes toward the race and the potentiality of anything that can happen out there.  We need to remember what we love to do, and that we would like to continue to do this again.  We need to understand our bodies, our limitations and the difference between going hard and going dumb.  

Take a moment and think of your racing schedule.  Those of you who are not beginners, have several training races on your calendar.  Those are the races that test your training, your fitness, and teach you new skill sets.  Those are NOT your A races.  Beginners:  this is what you get to look forward to.  Those races your are doing now, are laying down the foundation for future races in future seasons.   An A race is what we consider the most important races.  The A race is where we expect to qualify, to PR, to achieve the ambitious goal we have set before us.  The B and the C races– the training races, so to speak– are the races where we might do amazing things, but are designed in training to teach us, to test us, to define our needs, our strengths and perhaps our limitations, those things in which we need to spend more time working on.

At any time, anything can go incredibly right or terribly wrong in the race plan.  When is it appropriate to keep pushing through or to call it a day, so you can return to complete another?

Only you, the competitor can decide what is best for you, as you are competing.  You need to learn how you respond to the challenges.  You need to understand you.  There may come a time that you need to make that hard choice of DNF or racing again tomorrow.  It isn’t easy.  In fact it is downright disappointing.  Ultimately though, I believe we all want to be safe out there.

Have a great season everyone!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *