Although I was shaking in my neoprene waiting for my wave to start, I was fortunate enough to watch the pros swim at Boulder 70.3 2011. Andy Potts was racing his home course in perfect conditions and was a heavy favorite that day. As expected, he emerged from the water minutes ahead of the chase pack and sped by stunned onlookers en route to T1. Just an hour later, he inexplicably pulled out of the race despite his favorable position on the bike and logged a DNF.
Disclaimer: neither Taylor nor I have DNFed to date. Quitting never crossed my mind – I spent the money, I put in the training time, and I will finish – barring injury or natural disaster. Until very recently, I took pride in this statistic, but that all changed at the Great Race last weekend. At no point did I consider taking a DNF, but the GI pain I experienced coupled with its negative impact on my performance served as a revelation: sometimes it’s ok to DNF.
This of course depends on your race goals, but in my case, the explanation is simple: there’s no reason to overexert and sacrifice my long term goals for short term pride.
What does this mean? In practice, this would mean that if my goal was Boston Marathon qualification, then I would take a DNF at my qualifying attempt marathon if I fell far off my pace. Instead of just finishing and missing my goal, I’d rather have a fighting chance at a fresh attempt soon after instead of going through a full cycle of marathon recovery. If the Great Race fell closer to my A-events this year, I certainly would have considered a DNF instead of overexerting myself and potentially detracting from the bigger picture.
Looking back on it now, Andy Potts taught me a valuable lesson back in 2011 and reinforced it again by deciding to not to race Kona 2013. When you have a busy race schedule and long term aspirations, there’s no sense in throwing it all away for one race. I’m not hoping for a DNF anytime soon, but as I set new goals that will require precise execution, it’s important to know when to say when.