Tell us about your DNF & the lessons you learned from it.

JBirrrdJBirrrd Member
edited June 2014 in General Discussion
DNF, the acronym that makes any athlete cringe. In my book it’s worse than finishing DFL. Recently, I was inspired by an amazing swimmer who had a disappointing DNF at MIMS 2013. She came back to win this most prestigious event a few weeks ago. I thought, “Wow, so even world class swimmers sometimes DNF. Wonder how someone like that deals with the disappointment.” So I am posing the question, not knowing if anyone will be willing to talk about the subject. But if you do, know that people like me will appreciate learning from your experience.
Tagged:

Comments

  • JBirrrdJBirrrd Member
    edited June 2014
    I’ll go first.
    In my short open water career, I have DNF’ed twice. Both related to the cold. First one I was pulled involuntarily w/ hypothermic symptoms (foggy headed and speaking jibberish) and the last one I pulled myself, shamefully because of mental weakness. To say I have beaten myself up about that last one repeatedly would be an understatement. I think about it every time I’m in the water. However, I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason and I am trying to turn my failure into an experience that helps me grow. My take away lessons from Canyon Lake @ SCAR:
    1. Communicate with your support crew. I had one of the most mentally tough marathon swimmers in the world, Darren Miller, kayaking beside me. Yet he did not know what was going on in my head until I had already decided to quit. If I had talked to him, no doubt he would have figured out a way to help me overcome my self-doubts and keep me in the water. I never even gave him the chance.
    2. Sometimes marathon swims are not fun. I just have to accept that sometimes it’s gonna hurt. It’s as much about the mental aspect of pushing through the pain and darkness as it is about the physical. I knew that going in, but obviously I forgot midway through when I told Darren I just wasn’t having fun. WHAT was I thinking? Of course it isn’t always fun. Geez. Rookie error.
    3. And this came from a FB friend I’ve yet to meet. He said to bottle up that horrible feeling of dejection I had in the rescue boat for the next time I hit a rough patch in a swim. Then compare it to the pain I’m experiencing in the water. Is getting out worth the inevitable feeling of failure I’ll have after I’ve dried off? If the answer is no, well then I better keep on swimming.

    OK, Your turn…
  • heartheart San Francisco, CAMember
    I've DNF'd twice as well--both times at Tampa Bay. The first one happened after 11 hours and about 18 miles of swimming, when my shoulder went AWOL. I swam one-armed for a while, and when the second shoulder gave in, so did I. I felt entirely at peace with the decision to withdraw and learned some important lessons about body mechanics and maintenance; spending some months working on my breathing technique and catch really paid off eight months later, when I swam the Sea of Galilee (under much better conditions, admittedly.)

    The second time was recently on a relay, and this is something I feel awful about, because I rained on other people's dream as well as my own. In the water I was fine, but on the boat I quickly became severely seasick, which led to a scary drop in blood pressure and hypothermia. I was rescued off the boat, and while my valiant friends soldiered on, they ended up not completing the swim. They were very gracious about it, and I really hope they don't resent me for our groups DNF. That one taught me that I am not, not, NOT relay material; that any generosity in offering to observe, crew, or otherwise be on a boat for someone else is best not extended, because I'd ruin people's day instead of helping; and that I do much better in the water, no matter how rough the conditions, than on a vessel.

    The two DNFs also shaped my preferences about the rest of my swimming career. I had grandiose plans of channel crossings for this summer, and decided, for various reasons, to put them on hold. I'm scaling back, either temporarily or permanently, my dreams of conquering cold water, and focusing on having fun, swimming courses in beautiful freshwater with breathtaking vistas.

    And, as many of you know, the first DNF involved a last-minute no-show among my support crew, which was heartwrenching and shocking to me, and taught me a lot about who I could and could not count on. But I was pleased that my DNF was due to a physical mechanical problem, and not because of a broken heart, which proved to me that I was a stronger person than I thought.

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Member
    edited June 2014
    I've got two of them. Both were at the USA Swimming 25K Nationals and 10 years apart.

    1995 was in Lake Lanier, Georgia. The course was five times around a 5K loop in 80+ degree water It was my first race over 4.4 miles. (I had won the GCBS a few weeks earlier and I thought I was invincible.) As a first timer, I didn't really know what to do or expect. I wanted the race wrapped up by the first 5K and a seat on the Pan Pac team. I led at 10K, but didn't make it to 15K. I cramped up in my hammie's, quads, and calfs in both legs. I had to be rescued. The most embarrassing thing was that I was in the lead.

    2005 Nats were in Ft Myers, Florida. A World qualifier this time around. We had a several hour lightning/rain delay. The course was 2 12.5K loops in very salty and 84 degree water. I learned 10 years earlier that dehydration was the mother of all F-ups. Knowing the water was hot, I made all of my feeds 10 mins apart. None of this made a damned bit of difference. I cramped up again. This time it was my back and even the muscles in my head spasmed. I was in second place and still in position to make the team when this happened. I got out around 20K.

    I learned that it sucks to get out of a race. I kept trying out different concoctions to help with the cramping, which I've never fully figured out. The best solution has been a salt pill called Success Caps. They came in handy in my last race before my injury took over, which was a 20K at Lake Travis, Texas. I was 3h 46m (IIRC) and saved my best race for last (for the time being. I'll be back.)

    I also learned that hot water just isn't my thing. I'm not scared to swim in the hot stuff, but it changes my entire approach to how I'll swim it. I've never had cramping issues in water under 70.

    I've pretty much wanted it bail out of every race I've done. Racing sucks along with the mind games that comes along with it. Getting out of a race grinds on me pretty hard initially until the self-loathing sets in. I got out because of a crippling pseudo-injury, which does give me some comfort.

    The hardest part was taking the boat back to the start, re-tracing the course I had already swam, and seeing all of the people that I was STILL ahead of. It was the ultimate dejection and still bugs me almost 20 years later. I blew my best shot at getting a USA National Team parka.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited June 2014
    I think this is an incredibly important thread.

    I haven't DNF'd... yet... but I don't consider a badge of honor, not even close.

    If you've never DNF'd, then the question becomes: Have you really challenged yourself sufficiently? A DNF is evidence of an admirable willingness to attempt things at the very edge of one's abilities.

    Every long swim is an opportunity to learn (I think this is another gem from Andrew) -- to learn about oneself, and the darkest corners of one's soul. Every time you explore those dark corners, you become a better marathon swimmer. Because it's mostly a mind game.
    kiparizmpfmarkdpm50
  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    edited June 2014
    Two DNF's.

    One was my second ever (attempted) 10K. In National Harbor, MD. 8 loops of 1250. Horrible. Mostly horrible due to my lack of nutrition prior. Escorts weren't allowed but we could put water bottles on a floaty by the start/finish. I didn't do that. I drank a bunch prior to starting, and peed at one point in the race so I felt I drank enough. But I started that day with two slices of left-over pizza and that was it. Unsat.

    My back was killing me halfway through. I did the first 5K in a little over 90 minutes. My wife came by and waved and I told her I had 4 more laps. So she went away for another 90-or so minutes, and when she came back, I still had 2 more laps!

    There was a course limit of something like 3:30. I started lap 7. Every buoy I went around I switched to my side and bent my body (head toward legs) just to relieve the pain in my lower back. It was killing me. That last lap took forever. They were willing to let me start lap 8 even though I only had about 10 minutes left until the course closed, but I couldn't handle the pain in my back anymore.

    I freaked out because a month after that would be my 10-miler (Swim the Suck). I concentrated during every swim practice after that on "time horizontal" and nutrition and swam StS just fine (4:44).

    DNF #2 was Ocean City 9-miler. The cold of the Atlantic, combined with the chop, made me nauseous and shaky. I pulled myself a little over 4 miles. If I had to do that one again, I'd do more salt-water swimming leading up to it, and do it colder.

    You definitely learn from every swim, but sometimes I think I've learned more from the DNF than from the completed ones!
  • I DNF'd my Lake Pontchartrain Crossing attempt. Conditions were very poor (4 foot wind chop getting worse the further south I swam), but the real trouble was between my ears. I got cold before the sun came up, and while I warmed up after the sunrise, I just got tired of getting thrown around by the waves. I was devastated.

    Remembering that disappointment helped me some this weekend. I did not have fun the first 4ish hours of the swim. I was very angry at getting beat up by the debris, was having trouble seeing anything, had my travel schedule thrown off by cancelled flights. Physically I felt fine, but I just wanted to go home. But, in part because abandoning would mean a lengthy wait for a ride back, and partly because I remembered how disappointed I was last November, I yelled at myself enough to suck it up, and power through.

    I was very pleased with myself for getting out of that deep mental hole, which is something I struggle with outside of the water, as well. It was a very major mental victory, although it was not an easy one to obtain.
  • evmo said:

    I think this is an incredibly important thread.

    Because it's mostly a mind game.

    It's all a mind game and the willingness to suffer until your feet touch dry land.

    I've always loved this quote from Wall Street (I think it applies to swimming, and personally dealing with my injuries):

    "Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss."
  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member


    "Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss."

    Unless you're looking into @loneswimmer's Abyss http://loneswimmer.com/2014/06/20/the-abyss/.
  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasMember
    I DNFed my first marathon back in 1987. I bonked at 22 miles, struggled for two miles and then I could not run another step. Stopped at mile 24 and waited for the sag wagon. I was really bummed about it.

    Then my GF asked, "why didn't you just walk the last two miles?" "Huh?!" I had no answer. Why didn't I just walk in? It made no sense at all.

    It was a paradigm-shifting moment. The idea hadn't crossed my mind. It's not that I considered it and dismissed it. I didn't conceive of the idea. Why didn't I just walk it in? That would have been much better. At least I would have finished what started.

    So that's what I learned. Always finish. It doesn't matter how. Maybe your solution will get you DQ'ed. Big deal. You were going to get a DNF anyway, so you switch it to a DQ. What does it matter? At least you finished! Maybe the MSF isn't going to give you credit. That's OK. You know what you accomplished. It may not be an "official" finish, but its a finish. And you taught your kids something important!

    13 years ago, my business partner did his first triathlon. True to his personality, he chose a half IM as his first. He got terribly dehydrated on the out-and-back run. I passed him on my way back in. His thighs looks like he was smuggling a dozen golf balls under his skin (cramps/charley horses). The doctor in the med tent wouldn't let him continue. He spent the night in the hospital, where they gave him 5 bags of fluid.

    When I picked him up the next morning, he insisted I take him back to the exact spot where the med tent had been. He got out and ran the last 4-5 miles. Boo ya.

    Always finish!
    kiparizdpm50
  • Agree, if you've not DNF'd ( OF YOUR OWN ACCORD... emphasis mine,you haven't pushed yourself . My first , and certainly not my last was my first attempt at Sand Harbor to Chambers Landing in Lake Tahoe in 1986 (?). I got out, cuz I was cold. 30 min later, I was fine. I was 2 miles (?) from the end. I learned , you can always go further than you think you can. Or as Eleanor Roosevelt said" you must do the thing you think you can not do".

    Starting to like pools... @suzieswimcoach www.suziedodsswimcoaching.com

  • tortugatortuga Member
    edited June 2014
    I disagree that if you haven't DNF'd you haven't pushed hard enough. It can mean you pushed too hard or outside/unforseen events intervened.

    The old ultra running thinking is; If you fall out before the finish then you pushed too hard, if you fall out after the finish then you didn't push hard enough, fall out on the line and you ran your best.

    BTW, I have yet to DNF but my day will come.
  • I did a half iron tri in central Florida in August a few years back. On the run I became dizzy and chilled so I look for the EMS to bring me in. I was desperate to find cold water and shade, a DNF would have been great. The EMS weren't anywhere to be found so I rested under the feed station tent for 20 mins and recovered. I got up and finished the race. I had a huge sense of accomplishment from that and have been able to look back on that instance for strength when things get tough.
  • I DNF'd with my first IM attempt, Cozumel Mexico. I had promised my wife that I wouldn't get hospitalized in a foreign country. At mile 20 of the run (OK, walk) I called it quits, terrible muscle cramps and I had an episode of peeing blood. I also wasn't sure I would make the cutoff time even walking. Even though I rationalize that it was a good decision, I remember the dejection of failure, worse at the airport as everyone was wearing their finisher shirts (which were pretty cool that year!) I need to recapture that feeling of regret with every event. Not sure what I would do if I could relive that race, but at this point think walking in after the cutoff would be far superior. On the brighter side, I finished my next IM in Louisville, then swam Big Shoulders 2 weeks later. I think I had an even bigger sense of accomplishment after soloing this year's FKCC Swim around Key West, by far my longest swim ever.
  • JBirrrdJBirrrd Member
    edited June 2014
    @evmo said:

    I haven't DNF'd... yet... but I don't consider a badge of honor.

    If you've never DNF'd, then the question becomes: Have you really challenged yourself sufficiently? A DNF is evidence of an admirable willingness to attempt things at the very edge of one's abilities.

    I think having a clean record of finishes CAN be a badge of honor. It means you knew what it would take to complete the swim (or whatever race) and trained appropriately. It means that you also prepared yourself for any mental challenges you might encounter. It means you possess a strength of character to finish what you've started.

    I look at Darren Miller's perfect record in the Oceans Seven Challenge and I am Impressed with a capital I. Knowing what he encountered and overcame in Japan makes his feat an even more remarkable accomplishment.

    That being said, I get it. Sometimes it just isn't your day. Sometimes as they refer to in The Hunger Games, the odds just aren't playing in your favor. It happens. I hear it often: Live to swim another day. You should not be stupid out there. Yet you should not overestimate what you are prepared to attempt.

    And then there are the trailblazers. The crazies attempting swims that have yet to be completed...not necessarily for any accolades other than the pride of claiming "a first." To simply conceive of an idea and attempt it is admirable, even if you DNF. To them I say, "Yay you! Keep on chasing your dreams. No shame in trying."

    But I do thank you all for sharing your experiences. For some, I realize the pain is still raw, and maybe it's too early. Hoping others will add their stories b/c it really is fascinating to read them.

    Carry on...
    kipariz
  • I haven't DNF'ed as in started a race and not finished...but I've carefully pulled out of races/swims because I've evaluated my training and decided I'm not ready for the swim. I didn't do a 5 mile race years ago for this reason and a 5K race because I had a cold, was NOT swimming in a wetsuit, and the water was below 60.
    I don't think my all or none approach to preparation and racing is necessarily wimpy, and people that go for swims with less training are great too! I think it is all individual, as is an awful lot about marathon swimming. Due to health issues, I have to be trained well for a race. A DNF for me would most likely mean a long stay in the hospital too...not worth the risk.
    My closest true DNF was actually in a 200 back. If I had to swim any longer distance, it would have been DNF. I was supposed to do 100 free, changed at the last minute...was not prepared for mid-distance. Ended up passed out and blue on the pool deck, on lots of medicine for weeks.
    If I could test my limits more, believe me, I would! I'd actually love to have a DNF in the books because then if know I reached past my potential. :)
  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WAMember
    I've DNF'ed a couple of bike races, (as in spinning back to the car and skipping the last lap), after getting dropped, with no hope of getting back on. I DNF'ed one triathlon to go verbally strangle the race director for not having the turnaround marked or manned on the bike course when I got there, (so much for being first out of the water). Now and then I "shut it down" on a swim course when I'm not feeling great and swim it in easy. No sense flogging myself on an off day. I've cried, barfed and wanted my mommy a few times while swimming, but haven't DNF'ed one yet.

    At some point I'll probably attempt something that I can't finish. I feel like that's going to be a situation where I'm supported entirely by my own crew, either a small event or solo thing, not at a mass participation event.

    I believe that swimmers should feel confident that they can safely finish the distance in a mass participation event, rather than just hoping to make it, since we all know, "you can't walk the swim". I've lifeguarded plenty of swims/triathlons and directed a few. I can't imagine any event director wanting to have to make rescues of swimmers who were unprepared for the course and conditions. There are already enough variables among a group of capable swimmers that can cause a DNF without adding "gosh, I hope I can make it...." to the list.

    I'm planning to swim something monumental (for me) in '16, when I turn 50, (maybe SCAR) so I'm spending this year and next preparing by pushing myself further, colder and (hopefully) faster, for more days in a row. Somewhere along the way, when I find my limit, I'll probably want my mommy again. Whatever happens then, I'll come away from it stronger, although my goggles might be full of tears.

    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • SydneDSydneD Member
    I can't agree with the never having DNFd as a sign of not having pushed yourself enough. I haven't DNFd but I did pull out of 8 Bridges before my swim day last year because I knew that the water temperature would not work for me and I didn't want to put my family and I through the stress of realizing that during the swim. It wouldn't have been fair to them or to others swimming that day or to the fantastic organizers.

    There's enough machismo in sports without trying to make DNFs a badge of honor. There's no shame in them either, and I'm sure that one day, I will have one. Just hasn't happened yet.
    dpm50
  • Its still a bit raw, but I'll go ahead and put it out there. I had my first DNF this past Monday on Stage 5 of the 8 Bridges race. The short of the matter is that I wasn't prepared. If I want to look for an excuse I could blame the fact that I had a pretty painful sinus infection for a month leading up to the race, but I'll state it again, I wasn't prepared. I tried to do the minimum amount of training for a swim that was billed as the beast of the 8 stages. I would like to think that I would have made it if I were infection free and the conditions were more favorable, but I won't find out this year.

    There were many very good aspects from the experience though:
    1. Watching @Malinaka defeat the beast. The man was a sight to behold, battling the final meters against a 2 knot current for the final 2 hours of a 9 hour 21 min swim.
    2. Spending 2 days with an incredible race crew, most notably its directors Rondi & Dave.
    3. Observing and also cheering on fellow CIBBOWSers during Stage 6.
    4. After spending over 15 hours on small boats in choppy waters I was happy to learn that my penchant for seasickness might not apply to rivers.
    5. Thinking cold water acclimatization would be necessary, I expanded the range of temperatures I can swim in this year. It turns out the river warmed up early this year though and we swam 70 degree water.
  • Great thread. I DNF'd at the Chicago Marathon in '08 when it 89 degrees. I was trying to qualify for Boston and went for it. Wasn't pretty. Blew up badly. Still bothers me.

    I came close to DNF'ing during the Swim Around Key West two weeks ago. Got food poisoning or a virus the day before, but thought liquids would be okay. They weren't and it was bad. I went from trying to race it, to just finishing, but DNF'ing was a repeated thought. If I felt I was in any serious medical danger, I would have pulled out.

    I think it is a very personal decision and always a tough one to make. I am still coming to terms with Chicago and that was almost 6 years ago. Was I tough enough, could I have gone harder, was I mentally all there? Its funny - I am very sympathetic and understanding of people who have DNF'd, but very hard on myself.
  • @SFLSwim said:

    Its funny - I am very sympathetic and understanding of people who have DNF'd, but very hard on myself.

    Amen
  • JonMLJonML Member
    SFLSwim said:

    Its funny - I am very sympathetic and understanding of people who have DNF'd, but very hard on myself.

    That's just it, isn't it? A DNF is a fact. It happened or it didn't. How we choose to take it is the point. Reading this thread, it occurs to me that another point is how we envision that we would choose to take it, should it happen, and what that causes us to do. On the upside, envisioning that a DNF would be an unacceptable disaster is motivating for a lot of us. On the downside, it can make injuries worse, leading to longer breaks in training than would otherwise need to be. I've forced myself across the finish lines of a couple of marathons that I probably would have been better to DNF, only to find myself in physical therapy and off of training. Had I DNF'ed, I would have to report that, but conceivably I would also have been able to report more and better successes than is the case.

    For once-in-a-lifetime or very expensive events, a never-ever-ever-DNF mindset seems useful. For run-of-the-mill or even once-per-year events? Maybe we'd be better if, when we recognize we're injuring ourselves, we just took the DNF, shrugged our shoulders, learned the lesson, and moved on to the next.
  • Birrrd & friends, Gracie will soon release a link to her blog about her 2013/14 MIMS experience. She is around half-way now, and I think it will put DNF in perspective for all of us. I will be sure to post the link here if there are no objections (admin?)

    Personally, I agree with the earlier posting of learning something every time - I think it is really important for swimmers and coaches to know their bodies and swimmer abilities and unfortunately, sometimes life's lessons are hard, but good for us in the long-run. I truly respect Sydne who made a judgement call when she realized the water temp was below her body's threshold. As alluring as it might seem when you are at the edge of the water thinking you are invincible and can conquer anything - having had that DNF and hard lesson can prevent injury or worse.

    Having said that, there is also something to be said for taking on your challenges by the horns - and I am NOT saying go do ice miles until you don't feel cold on your skin anymore. Our first defense is knowledge and then comes experience, which some may refer to as "acclimation". In essence, I highly recommend speaking to REAL experts and reading about topics that concern your reasons for DNF's before taking on the life lessons of experience.

    There are many theories out there and some can be more dangerous or detrimental to your overall health in the long run (like gaining excessive weight), which might, or might not be the right or only answer to your problem. Go find out about theories, research, and evaluate results before blindly following others' formulas that weren't tailored for your body (e.g. go read up about brown fat and other theories about the impact fight or flight in your mind has to do with what fuel resources get consumed first).

    Anyway, before I go off-topic, I really appreciate everyone's honesty and lessons learned, cause for me, I learn a something new from every swim and apply the collective knowledge to the next in order to perpetually support our swimmers better out there.

    And perhaps the most important lesson: never give up! So get out there and try again until you reach your goal.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited June 2014

    I will be sure to post the link here if there are no objections (admin?)

    Of course that's OK. Thanks Neil.
  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasMember
    Check out this awesome race report from @Heart about her "successful" 10-Mile Kingdom Swim last weekend. Hadar was forced to withdraw as a result of lower back problems. But that was not the end of her story, as described in this inspiring quote:

    In the morning I was full of gratitude as I got up and realized that my back wasn’t hurting that bad and I could function. So pleased that I ended the race when I did! And so, after breakfast with some awesome swimming friends from Vermont and New Hampshire, I drove back to the lake and swam the remaining 2.5 miles. Just for myself, with no medals and people and hoopla.

    Although the record books will define this as a DNF, I define it as a courageous comeback completion as worthy an accomplishment as any other competitor. On some levels, more worthy. She didn't let her initial apparent failure to define her experience and she accomplished the intended objective without fanfare or public recognition solely because its what she set out to do. This is what athletic endeavor should really be about and shines in stark contrast to the behavior of so many modern athletes promoted by the media who tragically serve as role models for today's youth.

    This is a great example of my point earlier in this thread: Always finish! Even if your manner of accomplishment doesn't conform to the technical requirements!

    Way to go Hadar!!
    dpm50
  • Even if you read that a non-electrolyte based beverage is better for salt water swims, don't make race day the first time you use tea as a calorie source for more than 90 minutes.

    Yep
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    edited July 2014
    I nearly swam Loch Lomond in 1992, 15 hours in with a mile to go, I had swam right up to the very last stroke I was able to give. Certainly a DNF. I spent the next four hours unconscious in intensive care. Giving everything soothes everything. Then last year, I had an English Channel swim, I can assure you, choosing to give up is much worse. It took 7000 words to cleanse my soul.....sorry about that.

    http://www.haydnwelch.co.uk/previous-swims/english-channel-the-undone-way/

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited July 2014
  • msathletemsathlete Victoria, CanadaMember
    I am just returning from Dover after an unsuccessful relay swim across the English Channel. One of my teammates was a bit slower than the rest, although she is exceptionally strong and has incredible swim endurance. Our pilot decided after 7.5 hours, after we had passed both shipping lanes, that she was too slow and we would not make it. Sadly he pulled her from the water.

    I found this incredibly frustrating as I have never read anywhere that speed is a factor in determining ones ability to complete the swim. I understood that it determined how long it might take.

    I also curious as to how we ever got into the channel to begin with. We all qualified for the swim and our pilot was given our times on 3 occasions. If it was an issue, how is it that we passed through these gates, especially when we specifically asked if it would be an issue.

    I had read that pilots used your times to help determine your course. I can honestly say this did not happen for us.

    The relay attempt was a step toward a solo swim for me. I have already done the distance in another body of water. I wanted to learn more about the channel before taking the big plunge. What I now know is that I have more questions than answers. And the questions thus far have cost my team over $25,000 CDN.

    Surely one of our check points could have told us this. We could have quite comfortably swam as a relay of 3 had we known :(
  • @msathlete. That sounds ... unusual. Are you sure you were past BOTH shipping lanes after 7.5 hours? That includes the Separation Zone. That would not be slow but actually quick and would have you in French inshore waters and only a couple of hours from finishing.

    The lanes are marked on the CS & PF live tracking page here. What could you see from where you stopped? Did you see the C2V buoy and if so on which side? (You can PM me to discuss further if you prefer).
  • My failed attempt at the English Channel. But, it was a successful experience in that I enjoyed the training, reached swimming goals I didn't know possible and made incredible friends along the way. No regrets. http://mollysbigswim.blogspot.com/2014/07/dream-in-water.html

    Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska http://mollysbigswim.blogspot.com/ www.facebook.com/molly.nance

  • For people who have undertaken very long swims (let's say > 6 hours in the water), and have not finished the swim, what was the cause?

    Was it safety concerns (eg losing contact with boat due to large waves), mental demons, physical tiredness/exhaustion, falling asleep, injury, 'wildlife', adverse currents, cold, other?

    If it was 'demons', what are the best techniques people have found to get past those demons????
  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member
    excellent question Jas. going to watch this one closely
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited February 16
    Merged @Jbetley's new thread (originally titled "Why do people stop?") with this one from a few months ago.

    Great topic!
  • Windermere last year in August was my first DNF and it was/is very difficult to digest. I pulled myself out because of the cold after 10 of the 17kms. It was the first time I had experienced shivering IN the water and I distinctly felt like I was swimming backwards. I got out at 10.57km which I did in 3:46, my average moving pace was 20:32 min/km which is slower than my normal pace. I recently saw some accidental footage of me swimming towards the end of my swim (safety crew on the lake were being filmed) and it goes some way to reconcile my decision to stop. I looked uncoordinated, slow and my stroke looked like someone swimming with rubber arms. In June of the same year I completed a 14k lake swim at 19C. What did I learn? Two degrees makes a helluva difference.
    And now a question: how important is it to go back and do it?
    KatieBun
  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsMember

    And now a question: how important is it to go back and do it?

    Not important at all. Only do it if you feel up to it.
    Remember we're swimming for FUN not bread and butter!
    LynneSydneDevmophodgeszohodpm50

    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • j9swimj9swim new york Member
    I DNF'd my first attempt at a marathon swim - Stage 6 of 8 Bridges (16 miles) and walked away happy, i know not the usual sentiment. But i had swum farther and longer than i ever had before, there were amazing swimmers who also did not make it that day, so i was in excellent company - and i learned that on any given day any of us can DNF no matter how hard we train. I was reminded that there is always joy in getting in the open water even if it doesn't turn out as we hoped and yes I am going back again this year to see if i can make it to the GWB. I had thought about the possibility of DNF in 2014 as i was attempting my 1st 2 marathon swims (i completed the other) and told myself that if i didn't put myself in a position to DNF then i wasn't setting my goals properly..they should be a stretch or they are not an accomplishment.
    phodgeszohotortugadpm50
  • @j9swim - "if i didn't put myself in a position to DNF then i wasn't setting my goals properly.." Nice! Like that. :-)
    tortugadpm50KatieBun
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Member

    I DNFed my first marathon back in 1987. I bonked at 22 miles, struggled for two miles and then I could not run another step. Stopped at mile 24 and waited for the sag wagon. I was really bummed about it.

    Then my GF asked, "why didn't you just walk the last two miles?" "Huh?!" I had no answer. Why didn't I just walk in? It made no sense at all.

    It was a paradigm-shifting moment. The idea hadn't crossed my mind. It's not that I considered it and dismissed it. I didn't conceive of the idea. Why didn't I just walk it in? That would have been much better. At least I would have finished what started.

    So that's what I learned. Always finish. It doesn't matter how. Maybe your solution will get you DQ'ed. Big deal. You were going to get a DNF anyway, so you switch it to a DQ. What does it matter? At least you finished! Maybe the MSF isn't going to give you credit. That's OK. You know what you accomplished. It may not be an "official" finish, but its a finish. And you taught your kids something important!

    13 years ago, my business partner did his first triathlon. True to his personality, he chose a half IM as his first. He got terribly dehydrated on the out-and-back run. I passed him on my way back in. His thighs looks like he was smuggling a dozen golf balls under his skin (cramps/charley horses). The doctor in the med tent wouldn't let him continue. He spent the night in the hospital, where they gave him 5 bags of fluid.

    When I picked him up the next morning, he insisted I take him back to the exact spot where the med tent had been. He got out and ran the last 4-5 miles. Boo ya.

    Always finish!

    I'm too new to the game to have a long swim DNF, although in 2010, I was getting worried I would have to be pulled b/c my swim was going to be about 20 minutes over the cut-off. I'll get to that further down.

    But I have DNFed in two running marathons (completed 7). In both of them, I believe firmly that I made the right call. In the first of the two, the calf that I thought would loosen up as the marathon progressed was instead getting tighter and tighter. Rather than risk damage that could sideline me from running for a long time, I chose to stop and work a nearby water stop for a while.

    In the other, I wanted so much to run--even through plantar fasciitis for which I got a cortisone shot to keep the pain at bay--that I decided it was worth the risk of aggravating the injury--and the foot didn't hurt THAT much (I told myself). While warming up, I also took a fall and added to the foot pain a broken finger. At about 5 miles in, the handwriting was on the wall--the foot pain was increasing... and even the finger pain became a distraction. I could suffer through this marathon but I decided I didn't need to prove anything to anyone but did need to take care of myself and live to run another day. So I stepped out--and then headed for the last water stop on the course to volunteer for a while. Figured if I wasn't ready to finish that day, I could at least help others do so.

    I think there's a fine line w/ DNF--I have no regret about stopping either of the above mentioned races--the longer term goal is to keep on taking part in the sports I love. That said, I've had some races that have hurt so much I wanted to leave them but kept going, and I'd evaluate: is the pain from an injury or illness--or is it me just not wanting to keep going. If it's a matter of safety and not endangering my health, just being very, very tired, I keep going. But sometimes it's hard to call.

    In the 2010 Great South Bay swim (then 5.25 miles--it's longer now due to change in start location), we were to swim out to our kayakers, and my sighting skills were not great. Moreover, neither was my training that year. I'd entered the swim--but had also committed to running a half marathon for a charity with family connections, so no regrets there, but I learned from that: sport specific training definitely helps. Four years later and returned to the swim, training much improved--performance also much improved.

    I went off course and finally one of the officials helped me find my kayaker. But my progress was thus delayed. True, once the kayaker and I came together, all was pretty much fine--except that a piece of seaweed or driftwood or something caught in my suit strap and was irritating my skin and my stomach was cramping more and more as we went along--something I wasn't about to tell my kayaker or anyone b/c I wanted to finish.

    When the kayaker told me I had about two miles to go, the only thing in my mind was to block the pain and push myself through. He later told me he thought he'd have to encourage me, but instead I hardly looked up, just kept swimming. He didn't tell me I was exceeding the cut-off. They weren't apparently enforcing it strictly that year. My thought was "swim until someone stops me or until I finish--whichever comes first!" Despite the setbacks and the increasingly cramping stomach and increasingly irritated skin, I was feeling like a tiger in my resolve. It showed me that I could if needed push through difficult periods not only in the water but out of it. If someone had stopped me, yes I'd have to cooperate and accept their decision. But I was extremely grateful that I was allowed to finish.

    Last year, I came back and made the cut off by nearly 20 minutes. Better training, more knowledge gained from excellent coaches--and now a goal for a longer swim still. It's all about learning! And regret is a waste of time. Learning from mistakes--priceless! Keeping on keeping on... crucial!
    tortuga
  • SharkoSharko Sonoma County, CAMember
    edited March 2
    My 2004 EC swim was successful...but I had to come back due to bad weather in 2003 where no attempt was made due to that blowing Channel weather...I asked myself if I still had the fire did I need to do this and ultimately I said yes...and so ultimately a successful EC journey..I met a guy at Varn Ridge that had attempted the EC 3 times and gave up at about 7 hours in and has made several failed attempts since....I have been around many swimmers training for channel swims and I can usually look into their eyes and feel that will succeed....my pilot Reg Brickel who has been piloting a long time (piloted with his father) told me of numerous EC swimmers that have quite within a few hundred yards of touching the French shoreline...so the mind is the bigger part of theses swims...obviously body things start hurting after 14 hours but look at Jackie at 28 hours...sometimes your body is done and you need to quit cause you can't go on (this happened to me on a pier to pier (Capitola to Santa Cruse) swim where I could never get into a rhythm with the chop going down my throat for a couple of hours....but mostly after sufficient training and then on the day of the swim it is almost all mental....so I say to myself and others if they ask do I/you want to do this swim...even "do I need to do this swim" to get to the other side" and get-your-mind-right and ready to go for it!!!
    jkormanik

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • KatieBunKatieBun Member
    edited March 3
    I didn't finish Champion of Champions in Dover Harbour in 2013. (5 miles, 3 miles, 1 mile - rest depends on how long you take to swim each one, there's a definite start time for each.) I did the "5 mile" swim, ( which was closer to 6.5 miles), in 12C water, with the longest side of the triangular course into a headwind of 20+ knots. I knew I was in trouble over the final two laps, as so many people cruised past me. I should have called it a day but stupidly finished it, taking over 4 hours, extremely cold and totally lacking in coordination. I just lay down on the beach afterwards, not really caring what happened next. I was advised by family, friends and St John's Ambulance volunteers not to get in for the 3 miler. I was very miserable and felt like a failure, watching everybody get back in. When I'd warmed up enough, I decided I'd do the 1 mile swim, so I did. For many months after this I felt that I was a rank amateur, fooling myself if I thought I could get in with so many great swimmers. I learned that if it's too cold, it's too cold and I should just call it a day. What I've learned since then is that a DNF is no indication of your capability, nor is how you look, how old you are, your past history or what anybody else thinks. It's just one day. There will be others.
    SpacemanspiffLynneIronMikedpm50
  • KatieBunKatieBun Member
    edited March 3
    Next time I DNF, I'll draw on everybody's experiences.
  • KatieBun said:

    Next time I DNF, I'll draw on everybody's experiences.

    Here's all you need to know:
    It's better to finish than not to finish. It sucks.
    KatieBunSpacemanspiff
  • KarenTKarenT Member
    One of my DNFs involved a swift and rather scary descent into hypothermia while trying to swim the Cabrera Channel in Mallorca in 2013. In hindsight, it was frightening and I wish I'd never allowed myself to get into that state. It wasn't fair on my partner who was on the boat, and it wasn't worth the risk; I knew it was going badly, and should have got out sooner. Nothing bad happens if you DNF. You get out, lick your wounds and then, in my case, spend the rest of the week sitting around in cafes eating ice-cream.
    NiekKatieBunevmoLynneIronMiketortugadpm50
Sign In or Register to comment.