I have a lot to catch up on----the new school year, life these days, the recent Bike the Bay event---but I wanted to write about a swim race I did a few weeks ago that ended up being my first DNF. It was the Oceanside Labor Day 1 Mile Pier Swim.
DNF stands for Did Not Finish.
The back story:
I have done the Tiki Swim (a 2.4 mile ocean swim race) the past two years in a row. When I did it last year, I decided that I likely wouldn't do it again. It was very hard for me last year to get through the waves, and while I was proud of myself for finishing, I didn't enjoy it as much as I had the year before. But then my friend Leo, who has done it every year and is a legacy swimmer for the race, got deployed to Afghanistan. He had already paid for his entry, and asked me if I would do it for him. I immediately said yes----if he could serve our country, I could swim 2.4 miles for him---and he contacted the director, who transferred the entry.
In the meantime, I had signed up for the new Spring Classic 3k Swim as part of my half-Ironman training. It was another very tough swim for me, complete with a lifeguard rescue. But then it was announced that, starting this year, if a swimmer completes all three swims (the Spring Classic, the Oceanside Labor Day Pier Swim, and the Tiki Swim), it would be part of the new "Trident Series" and an extra medal would be given out at the end. Having been part of such series before in the running community, such as San Diego's Triple Crown series and Orange County's Beach Cities Challenge, this was right up my alley. Since I was already doing two of three races, I signed up for the third. And with only a mile swim, how bad could it be?
The thing is, waves scare me. I've written on the blog before about how ever since going through the 6 foot waves at my first half-Ironman, Superfrog, I've been scared of big waves. Small waves I can handle, and in fact just volunteered as a swim buddy in the ocean at the Solana Beach Triathon a month ago (my third year in a row doing this). But big waves scare me. The week before, my friend Marianne met me in the ocean and helped me practice, giving me a good tip to go UNDER the waves, not through them. I was still nervous, but felt much better about handling waves.
Race day came, and I arrived in Oceanside bright and early, easily finding parking by the transit center. I checked in, got my timing chip, cap, and my hand marked with my number. I went to look at the ocean, and it was calm. I was very early, so I sat on a curb just watching the waves. Before my eyes they got bigger and bigger. I saw two people get rescued by lifeguards, and this was before the race started!
By the time the race started, the waves were huge. Easily 6 feet tall, or higher. And the current was STRONG! The start was a few hundred feet south of the Oceanside Pier. The first wave of people charged into the water, and within two minutes they were pulled right next to the pier! The waves (of people) were supposed to go off every 3 minutes---I was supposed to start at 7:39---but because so many people were in trouble, and the lifeguards were helping, they had to wait until the lifeguards came back. I watched the next two waves (I was in the fourth wave) have issues. Finally, my wave was sent to cross the start line, at about 8:11. It took that long to get the lifeguards back---and they were already exhausted. I was scared, but decided to try.
As I ran into the water, I got pushed back by a small wave. It was small, but powerful! Very strong currents. I started to walk toward the big waves, and then suddenly stopped. I didn't want to do this. I felt no joy, no excitement, no sense of adventure. I only felt fear. I did NOT want to be there.
So, I got out of the water.
I felt disgusted with myself---I'm no quitter---so I got back in. As I waded in again, the same thing happened. I realized that it was ok to stop. Could I have gotten through the big waves? Yes. I've been through waves like that before. But I hate them, and didn't want to. I was also nervous about the return. Even if I got through the waves, and made the turn around the pier and came back to shore, I'd have to fight the waves crashing down on me.
No thank you.
So I decided to quit. It wasn't an "A" race for me, and I didn't really care about it. I told a lifeguard that it wasn't worth the struggle, and he thanked me for being safe. I had to give him my race number, so they knew I was ok, and as he wrote it down I saw the list was long. I turned in my timing chip, and came home.
Later, I saw this news story. I was far from the only person who walked away. Apparently, 355 people started the race, and 282 finished, meaning that 73 people walked away. That's huge.
And check out this video from the race. These yellow-capped swimmers were in the wave immediately before mine.
I also decided not to do Tiki this year. Without completing the Trident Series, it seemed pointless to do so, especially since I was ambivalent about doing it in the first place. I transferred my bib to a new friend who has never done it before.
I may do this series again one day--=who knows, maybe next year?--but only if I get more confident in big waves. Until then, I'll stick to smaller waves and the bay. And while there's a small part of me disappointed in myself for quitting, the majority of me is proud of myself for knowing when I was at my limit, and taking care of myself.
Safety First (and second and third)
2 hours ago