For those that don’t know, DNF stands for Did Not Finish. This post was very nearly about that, but in the end I Did Not Did Not Finish.
It was the last swim of the BLDSA calendar at Kings Lynn and I was looking forward to it – a 4.5km lap swim (3 x 1.5km) and an even more relaxed and friendly atmosphere as it was the last swim.
Life stuff got in the way a bit to slightly disrupt plans (poorly son), but soon I was off to Kings Lynn being directed to the wrong venue by the satnav. A slightly panicky dash to the right venue and all was fine. Time to chat, register, chat, get changed, chat, have the briefing, chat and then get in the water. It was chilly, but manageable and soon we were off.
The first part of the lap was down river and directly into the sun. I thought I’d started well and kept to the left-ish side of the river towards where I believed the turning buoy was. I felt strong and was enjoying it.
After a few minutes of swimming I looked up and saw people way over to my right. Ok, I’ll drift that way over the next few minutes, no problem. Next time I looked up and couldn’t see anyone in front of me on my current trajectory, but a group of people to my left. This was starting to get annoying!
I drifted back to the left and tried to swim in the pack so that I didn’t have to sight any more, but even that was tough as I seemed to either swim into someone with one stroke and then be 5 metres away (and out of easy eyesight) with the next stroke. The water wasn’t very clear, so there was no underwater sighting possible and I just struggle to sight with my poor eysight – it takes me two or three consecutive sighting strokes to be able to gather enough information to be sure of anything.
Fortunately I was able to stick with this small group and they led me to the turning buoy – they became involuntary Labradors!
Swimming the other way was a bit easier as it wasn’t into the sun, but boy did it take a long time. I made the mistake of looking at my watch and by the time I would have expected to have completed a full lap I wasn’t even 2/3rds done. What was wrong with me? I finally completed the first lap and set off for the second and the group was now just me and a female swimmer a couple of metres away.
The sighting on the second lap was a little easier – as much to do with familiarity as anything else, but the pace still felt veeerrrry slooooooow. And I wasn’t enjoying it.
I wasn’t not enjoying it either, but it just wasn’t ‘fun’. I was starting to feel the cold a bit, again, nothing unmanageable, but it was clearly chilly; I was getting fed up of swimming in a zig zag pattern; my pace was really annoying me; and to be perfectly honest I’d lost the desire. The actual swimming bit was nice, it was the whole ‘event’ around it that I’d had enough of.
And actually I realised that I had had enough – and you know what, I could stop. So I spent the next few minutes exploring that decision. How would it feel to have a DNF? It wouldn’t be because of injury, or hypothermia, or the conditions, it would be because I just didn’t feel like carrying on. And as I thought about it, I realised that that is probably the best reason for a DNF – I was taking care of myself instead of pushing when it wasn’t there. I was saving myself physically and mentally for future challenges and keeping the passion intact. Yep, I could cope with a DNF.
As I neared the end of the second lap and my planned stopping point two concerns now reared their heads. 1) I needed to pee – and I needed to do it now and in the water so I could get up and walk out with no worries about it happening then!; 2) I didn’t want me stopping to put off the woman I was swimming with. Fortunately these two coincided as I slowed down to pee, she got just in front.
Right there’s the buoy. I’m not going to call my number out. I’m just going to make the throat slitting gesture and swim to the bank. A DNF, but I can live with it.
Wait! What’s that he’s saying? I listened closely as information was being relayed to the woman in front – “A shorter lap for the final one… Don’t do that extra loop there…” And for some reason I carried on.
I actually enjoyed the third lap. I almost knew where I was going. I picked up my pace. And it was almost fun again.
And it turns out I wasn’t that slow after all – the course, even with the shorter final lap, was 7km and not 4.5km!
Although it was that cold as I discovered as I joined Margaret, my aunt, my Windermere support crew x2 and currently a slow breaststroke swimmer, for the final section of her swim. Swimming at a pace that was unnaturally slow for me meant that the cold really got in and I was quite shivery for a while. But nothing two cups of tea and three delicious slices of cake (thank to whoever made that) couldn’t fix.
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Even though it turned out to be 7km, I’m only counting it as 1 mile towards my Aspire Challenge. 22 miles, in 22 days, in 22 venues – you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire/.
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