Saturday, September 01, 2007

LooAville pics. And some thoughts about DFL

I've read/heard comments here and there about the fact that I took longer than 17 hours to finish Ironman Louisville.

I've heard/read about how lucky I was that the cutoff was extended because of the change in the swim start. I've been asked about whether or not it "counts" as an official finish.

I'm not angry about it, or hurt. I've been thinking about it. I wanted to collect my thoughts into a coherent assemblage of utterances to explain what it means that I "almost didn't finish."

About what it means to be, most of the time, last or nearly last, and why it is


I like this T-shirt, not just for me. It sums up part of how I feel

...about my first Olympic distance, in which I was also DFL.

...about my first half iron, in which, I believe, I was nearly DFL.

I did this triathlon with a bunch of friends and, of course, Sweet Baboo. I was also lucky enough to have some in-house cheerleaders and of course, a lot of support and cheering going on in Blogland, which still humbles and amazes me.

(That's Sweet Baboo, Me, and my fabulous mother-in-law and her husband Gordon in the top photo, right, the day before the race, in Louisville. In second photo, is Me and Sweet Baboo, and Mary Sunshine, and Dying Water Buffalo)

Some of my Albuquerque friends are fast. CRAZY. Fast. There is a picture of all of us on a previous post below, entitled, "Run, part 2"

Did you know? Ironman started in 1978 as a wager between friends about which one was the most fit: a swimmer, a cyclist, and a runner. In 1982, because the Kona race had attracted so many participants, the first cutoff time was introduced, 18 1/2 hours. does not give a reason for this time having been chosen, such as lactic thresholds or research or such.

The following year, it was changed to 17 hours. No reason. It is what it is.They can't let it go on forever, right? I mean, the volunteers have to go home some time.

There are some smaller iron-distance races in the US that don't have this type of cutoff system.

But there it is.

I've discovered that each person who does a triathlon, whether it's a sprint or a long course, has a different demon facing them when they step or jump or run into the water.

For some, it's the voices in their head that say they aren't good enough,
fast enough,
strong enough...
they want to silence those voices.

For others, it's more tangible: they need a goal for exercising.

Some beat back the ghosts: failures, "errors of judgement", bad decisions, guilty pleas - whatever...
"Each step or mile is like a giant eraser" that cancels out those mistakes. John "The Penguin" Bingham said that.

Some just like doing something that most people find very hard to do.

every single amateur or pro, whether they are fast or slow, will head into the same river, lake, ocean, inland sea or pool, and face their demons.

and every one of them is nervous.

They may not look it, but each hopes they trained hard enough and that they'll meet whatever goals they have...when they face the river, lake, ocean, inland sea, or pool...and most feel that they are unique in that respect.

As for me, I'll tell you a secret: according to my training times, I should not have been able to finish any long course triathlon I've ever attempted.

And yet, well... here I am. Proof that stubbornness trumps speed in many cases.

And so it was, at Louisville, we all went into the same river, toward the same same sunrise, and swam the same distance.

Then we pedaled the same bike distance, on the same road, cursing the same hills. Laughed at the same weird guy dressed like a devil. Smiled at the same folks in LaGrange going crazy with cowbells and yelling. Couldn't wait to get off the bike.

Then we all ran the same 26.2 miles. Throughout the race, we all followed the same rules, and ran, or walked, and sweated (and sometimes vomited) our guts out... and then crossed the same finish line.

Yes, some of us did it faster. But we all did the same distance

and the heavier, slower ones? Probably expended more energy.

So, who is the better athlete? The ones for whom covering the distance is easy, or the ones for whom it is hard?

What does it mean to be a triathlete?

Because if all it means is fast, then I've greatly misunderstood the whole thing.

I thought it was about challenging myself, seeing how I could make my body go, go, go! when it really wanted to stop, stop, stop! I thought it was about the feeling of accomplishment, and the fun.

So, as I said, my friends are all faster than me....
  • Ricky V, finished in 12:53.
  • Miquel, "Sharkbait" finished just a hair over 13 hours.
  • Mark, "Bones" finished about 13 minutes later.
  • Mike, "Wiz" finished in a little over 14 hours.
  • Mary Sunshine finished some time before Baboo.
  • Dying Water Buffalo finished in 16:17.

  • Sweet Baboo finished in 15:35. And then he waited...and waited...and waited.


My time was 17:19.

Pirate had the best thing to say about this:

"You know what they call the last person to cross the finish the line in an Ironman triathlon?"

"They call that person an Ironman."

(BTW, I HATE this picture. I thought my arms were higher up in the air than that. and I should have kept my hat on.
Is that why some of you guys shave your head? So you look good for the photos? It is, isn't it? )

So if you've ever DFL'd, repeat this to yourself:

YOU COVERED, OR WILL COVER, THE SAME DISTANCE AS THE FASTER ATHLETES. That doesn't make you lesser. It may even make you greater.

Besides, who's to say I might not have moved a little faster if the cutoff had been midnight? I've finished every single race I've ever started that had a cutoff, even when I wasn't sure that I would start or not.

So, if you are still wondering if you "should" try to do that race or not, the answer is, well, you should.

Refuse to give up. Refuse to listen to the person or persons who fill your head with worry, doubt, or fear, no matter how much you love them and respect them, unless they have an MD. This is your race, not theirs.

This advice is especially important if the fear-monger in your head is YOU.

It won't be that I won or lost a few races that stays with me. It will be that I tried even though I was utterly terrified. (Oh, yes I was! I avoided buying a very pretty Louisville Ironman Bike jersey the day before the race because I still wasn't sure if I'd finish it or not.)

I like a little fun competition now and then, don't get me wrong. But it has to be fun, not all-consuming. As amateur athletes, what else are we doing this for, if not fun?

I mean, why are you doing this, anyway? Is it to be the fastest? I've got news for you. There is always someone faster. And if there isn't now, you'll still be looking over your shoulder in case there is. Or, are you doing this to finish? Then it doesn't matter where your place is. Statistically speaking, those that are considered "experts" in any field in which expertise can be claimed are within the top 2%. Sometimes less. The other 98% will finish after them.

So, let it go, man. Sign up for that race.

Oh, y
ou, yes you, know the one I'm talking about.

Hell, you've been staring at the race website on and off for weeks.

Quit worrying about whether you'll do it "well" and just do it. If you don't meet your goal, well, you'll learn something, and you'll meet it another time.



  1. You got me at hello. I decided to do my first full marathon this january in Phoenix because of your blog and experience in LooAville.

    Thank you, Iron Misty.

  2. I love that T-shirt. I think I said something similar once. Coincidence? Hell no! It's because that is true - so true.

    I saw you cross the line and I remember you having your arms over your head. Maybe they got you on the upswing or the downswing in that pic. I didn't really take much note, though because what I really noticed is that you crossed - you did it! And that's all that counts. But you just said that, didn't you?

  3. Great post, girlie, great post! And of course, you are an Ironman, there's no doubt about it. :)

  4. You rock! Good job! Your ARE an Ironman!


    IM Lou should be so grateful to you for finishing the event for them with such style and class!

    You fought your way to the start AND to the finish!

    You are IRON through and through!

  6. Hope you bought that jersey the next morning....!

    I too have been DFL and had a DNF...and will experience yet another...DNS tomorrow at a local Labor Day run because of this damn cold I have...but will it deter me from entering or competing in yet another race somewhere? Hell no!

  7. Hi
    I have lurked on your blog for a while. I have been in this sport for over 10 years, and I am still shocked at those who don't get it and feel the need to overcome their insecurities with "time judgments" of any kind.

    You finished within the cutoff, and as such you are an IRONMAN!! Congrats - enjoy the moment you deserve it.

  8. Hell Freakin YEAH!!!! :-)

  9. Well stated.

    For me, it's me against the course. I'm in for the finish and a sense of accomplishment.

    ...and I've learned that being one of the last finishers isn't so bad after all. :)

  10. You are a finisher. Plain and simple. You started, you suffered, and you finished by the rules that they set forth.

    Ignore the naysayers. Enjoy your victory!

  11. Iron Misty is a moniker you earned with determination and courage. The inspiration you have provided is immeasurable. As the final finisher you were triumphant over 140.6 miles. You knew what you had to do on the day, and you did it with grace. That is an incredible achievement.

    Oh, and Dying Water Buffalo: 16:15.08.

  12. As is your custom, you have created a post that is topical, moving, and on target. I appreciated and enjoyed it very much.

  13. I can't believe there are people saying that. I've been DFL, and I probably will be again in two weeks. I didn't like it when I was DFL, and my time didn't "officially" count. But I DID IT. If ANYONE demonstrated what it means to be an Ironman, it's YOU!

  14. Misty, again I have to tell you what an inspiration you are to me! Great post! You are an Ironman and it was cool as hell to see you bust out of the darkness and come down that IM chute! Freaking cool! I race on Sunday and I will be DFL most likely, and I will have a total blast!

  15. My Mum asked if it was an official finish ('cos I'd been sweating on it so much on her computer and she was worried about you) and I told her that if they let you finish, and give you a medal, it's an official finish. So there, and a big raspberry to those sad souls who have criticised you.

    Pirate's absolutely right, Iron Misty!
    Hope you got the bike jersey.

  16. Great writeup once again. Thanks for the inspiration!

    You could also say that the person who gets 10 other people to sign up for races is a pretty good athlete too :)

  17. You can put emotions and feelings into words like no one I have ever read. I know that part of what you say is speaking to us who are afraid. And we are listening. Believe me when I say that for all you get from the bloggers with the encouragement, you give back 10 fold with posts like this. IRON MISTY. Just let those nay sayers try to say any different.
    Oh by the way....I forgot how sweet your bike is. major amounts of serious bike envy going on right now. I mean major.
    Hope you guys have a nice labor day.

  18. Oh darn you IronGeek - get out of my head!
    Now I have to think about how I can scratch up 475 bones before IMWI08 registration next monday..... Maybe someone will buy my kids if I list them on ebay... I would have to tell some really big lies though to get ANYONE to buy them.
    Seriously though, someone's gotta be last and the finish counts the same. in my mind it counts more because it involves much more blood, sweat, tears, and sheer fortitude to keep pushing forward.
    My hat is off to you.

  19. I wasn't aware of the finishing time history and that they have changed it occasionally. Bottom line, you finished before the official cut off for this race - you are an Ironman finisher.

    Congrats on a great race from someone who has been DFL before and probably will be again in the future :-)

  20. Anonymous8:40 PM

    Thanks for sharing the
    pictures...ya'll look great! You have more guts and determination than anyone I know. No one can take this accomplishment away from you! Your IM motivated me so much with my workouts this week. Sure, fast is good, but it's just numbers on a clock. I think the ones for whom covering the distance is hard have to be tougher mentally.

  21. I don't understand why anyone would want to make it complicated.

    You finished. You are therefore a finisher.

    You finished within what the race organizers decided was an appropriate timeframe to be considered an "official" finisher. Therefore, you're an official finisher.


    Congrats again!

  22. Oh crap, you are talking to me? How did you know? =0)

    Congrats on a fantastic job. You are an inspiration. I have to say though, I am terrified. How can I be so afraid of something like this?

  23. ffttt...time did it, Iron Misty. Great post!

  24. I just wanted to let you know that your last few posts have had me shedding a tear or two at the same time as I start to set myself some seriously challenging goals for next year! You are an inspiration, and although I don't have a blog roll (laziness, sheer laziness) I DID link to you a couple of posts back.

    I'm about to run my second half marathon and thanks to you I've just decided to run my first full marathon in June 2008. I've also decided to get back in the pool, learn how to swim a length, learn how to swim a few more lengths, complete a sprint tri, complete an oly, complete a half-Ironman, and then ....

    Well, we'll see!
    Anyway, thanks! Thanks and congratulations...

  25. There is NO DOUBT. You finished a freakin' IRONMAN. You ARE an Ironman. No question about that. At all.

    You know what needs some correction, though? That "3rd best triathlon blog" sign. This is hands down the 1st best triathlon blog I've ever seen. And I spend a lot of time reading triathlon blogs (more time than I spend actually training, now that I think about it... hmm, something to work on!) Anyway, reading your posts has me so fired up to try harder and set my goals higher. Thank you. For your honesty, your humor, your insight. You're just really great.

  26. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN. I ran my first marathon in April and am running my second in less than a month. I hope to work up to be a 1/2 Ironman. I know I am slow, I get to enjoy the scenery that way, I get to savor the moment. I also know I am running/racing for me...not for anyone else. You have made me very proud! I also wanted to tell you that your number was 2 off my mentor. She eneded 2nd in her age group. It was her 8th Ironman and she said it was the toughest course. Much harder than Kona! So tell that to any naysayer.

  27. You are So an Ironman! Love the IM Medal..

    Dying Water Buffalos time is 16:17
    on her blog crossing the finish line.


  28. Thank you!
    Thank you!
    Thank you!

    You rock!


  29. Great post - hope some folks do sign up for races they've been eyeing!

  30. I can't understand why anyone would want to "take away" what you have so justly EARNED. Sh*! heads.
    You are IronMan!

  31. Iron Misty you are such an inspiration to me. I would pay to read your blog. I will buy your book when it comes out. If I had money, I would publish your book. Please don't stop writing! You have infected me with the Ironman bug, it has laid dormant for several years (first crossed my mind 10 years ago when I first quit smoking). I will not be afraid to be the last to finish, because I will be thinking about this post. Thanks for being who you are. Trying to decide between IMKY or IMFL 2009....

  32. Who made "comments"!?? I'll kick their ass. I'm just sayin'.... not that you need any help kicking it, of course.

    If WTC says you're an Ironman, you're an Ironman. Period.

  33. Misty-
    YOU ROCK girlfriend! I know how hard that damn race is and you did it!! BTW-thanks for the IMCDA clock reminder at the top.

  34. ack. i did it. i signed up for louisville 2008. holy crap. now it is time to panic.

  35. "So, who is the better athlete? The ones for whom covering the distance is easy, or the ones for whom it is hard?"


    I always wonder if the people who so openly judge me and my flabby spandex-clad ass could do what it takes to haul an extra 90 pounds or so across a finish line.

  36. You're so inspiring and 110% right! It doesn't matter what time you finish as long as you finish. Everyone of us trains hard, and should acknowledge that that alone is an amazing accomplishment.

    Finish strong, but for you. Not for someone else's standards. This is about you, your determination, your courage, and your touch of insanity;)

  37. Perfect! Thanks for saying what many of us feel, but can't put into words.

  38. Its amazing what you think about during and after one of these types of events. I have been DFL so many times, it must be a record. I still get out there and at least tri. Yet I still have the fear of doing an IM, because I'm afraid I won't be able to finish and then what? Speed is an issue with a lot of people I know, and because of this, I hold back on trying things I know I will be a lot slower at than they are. I have a friend who was last at IMWI last year and she was glad she finished, it didn't matter that she was last. So this gives me a lot to think about. Thanks. Oh, and my personal favorite for sticking it out to DFL is that "I paid the same money everyone else did and am going to get my money's worth today."

  39. As always, your words are inspirational and beautifully said. I can't believe anyone would try to tear down another's accomplishment, what we are is completely within us. And congrats on your Ironman finish. Any Ironman is a long, hard day whether front of the pack or back, and staying with it to cross that line is always a victory.

  40. Girl you absolutely rock! Congrats on your Ironman Finish! I'm impressed!

  41. Right on! I was very nearly DFL at my first marathon (the only two that finished after me were two guys that walked teh entire thing) and I'm sure I'll be close to DFL at my HIM this weekend. But who cares!? I enjoy my races just the same as anyone else.


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I'm sitting here, looking out the window.  I did 3 miles this morning.  Big whoop.  After recovering from CDiff last month, I got a cold...