Let me explain.
I'm about 2 miles from the finish line at the inaugural Ironman Kansas 70.3 race in Lawrence this weekend when I make a left turn to finish the last part of the final run loop.
But instead of running the last two miles a volunteer blocks my way, points toward the finish line, and says, "Sorry but we've called the race because of weather; you're all done!"
I make a hard left into the finisher's chute, cross the line, and they hand me a water bottle, finisher's medal while at the same time strip the chip from my right ankle. Before I know what to say I'm standing in the wet grass looking up at the threatening sky's and wondering exactly what just happened.
The entire finish to my race lasted about 5 seconds...and that's probably being generous due to my utter and complete confusion at being pulled from the course so abruptly.
There was no:
- Savoring the last mile of the run like the cherry on top of the 70.3 mile cake
- Sprinting across the finish line to beat another racer
- The traditional calling out of my name and hometown by the race announcer
- Huge wave of relief to finally be able to stop running and moving
- Welcoming arm or arms of volunteers ready to catch me should I stumble
- Cheering crowds
- Waiting family
- Exhausted but jubilant finisher's
- Post race feed
- Post race nap in the sun
- Post race waiting for my friends to finish
- Satisfaction for completing a brand new race
Instead, I overheard somebody saying that if you've parked your car in the grass (which of course I had along with everyone else), it would be a smart idea to move your car immediately before it gets stuck in the mud that was sure to come from the gathering storm clouds. So I sprinted back to the transition area as the clouds opened up and the rain came. I (very hastily) gathered my still sweaty stuff and raced to get my car on hard pavement before the make-do grass parking lot turned into a river of mud.
And sure enough when I got back to my car several larger cars were already stuck in the muck. I managed to move my car and that's when it struck like the thunderbolts from the sky, I had just completed 95 percent of the first Kansas 70.3 and I felt completely cheated of all of the things that make finishing any long endurance race (be it a marathon, long distance swim, or century ride) such a treasure for the age-group everyman athlete.
And that's when I thought HTFU.
If you are not familiar with HTFU, it stands for...on second thought I better use the urban dictionary to define the term;
Used to tell a weak person or persons that they have become far too weak, and to prevent further embarrassment to the human race, they must Harden The F@#@ Up.
1. I see that you are on the side of the road with a flat tire. What, you, a fully grown man can't change a tire yourself, and you're waiting for a tow truck? HTFU !"
When it comes to endurance racing and more specifically the Ironman distance in triathlon HTFU is normally used when things get tough.
As in from Kona Shelly's Blog: "I kept wanting to walk up the steep hills, but I kept telling myself "your competition isn't probably walking, HTFU".
But I have to be honest here and say that for the most part I'm not really a HTFU kinda guy...at least not when it comes to most races.
I enjoy the ironfit lifestyle. That is to say I really enjoy having a training goal like an Ironman, century ride, or marathon, but I'm usually not the one out for blood at any cost. I'm not fast enough to qualify for Boston, or Kona, or even the 70.3 championships in Florida.
So for me the race is most certainly about the living in the moment. That's why I felt so bad when the moment you know "THAT MOMENT", of crossing the finish line was denied to me and hundreds of others.
From the Ironman web site:
"Ironman 70.3 debuted in Kansas today, featuring both some outstanding racing but also the difficulties of dealing with unsettled weather. Safety concerns due to severe weather conditions forced race organizers to shorten the run course for about a third of the field."
It seems such a casual statement to write, "Safety concerns due to severe weather conditions forced race organizers to shorten the run course for about a third of the field."
And I suppose that's why I wrote this story today. I thought it was important for us non HTFU everyman types to be heard. Just in case they don't get it the Ironman HTFU crowd and the race organizers need to get an up close and personal look and get a first person view of how we feel when "unsettled weather" strikes.
This is not about blame or second guessing the decision to stop the race. Instead, this is just one story of several hundred unfinished tales.
The business man in me would strongly suggest that the race organizers go out of their way to give the athletes that were unable to finish a second chance next year.
But the athlete in me says just suck it up, HTFU, and move on.
* Post Script: If you look at the photo above you'll notice that my friend Dave raced this very difficulty course (read hot, humid, hilly and very windy) on a hybrid mountain bike. He was also denied the opportunity to finish his first 70.3 by the unsettled weather.
P.P.S # 2: I looked up my race results and it turns out that I was beat by a bunch of Clydesdale who ran a sub 54 minute half marathon. It seems that the race organizers have a bit of a mess on their hands when it comes to figuring out who ran the entire half marathon and who set a new world record for 13.1 miles. ;-)