Moving Forward

By Ann Brennan


On July 4th, 2004 I did something I never thought I would do. I DNFed

A week before heading to Ironman Austria someone asked me what I would do if I couldn’t finish. I was speechless. Not finish? That wasn’t an option.

But it turns out it was.  Although I had trained well and had done everything in my power to prepare for the heat, I found myself lying in the back of an ambulance connected to a bag of fluid knowing that all of the work had been for nothing.

After my DNF, I was gutted. For almost a week, I wore sunglasses so people couldn’t see my tear rimmed eyes. For months, I couldn’t even think about racing without crying.

The following summer I completed one triathlon. It went better than I could have hoped but somehow that didn’t matter. Although I had been training for two years before my DNF and continued to train afterwards, I no longer felt like a triathlete and I did something worse than DNF. I quit triathlon altogether.

Last year, after a seven year hiatus, I returned to triathlon, completing one Olympic Distance, one Half Marathon Distance and one full Ironman distance Aqua Velo (the Ironman minus the run). All three of these triathlons went really well. My run and my swim both continue to improve but my bike times were where I really excelled. My bike times were better by far than anything I could have imagined.

The season should have been encouraging. It should have helped me to gain the confidence I need to take on the Ironman again. Logically, based on my training and my results, I understand there is no reason I can’t complete an Ironman.

But the season taught me two things I didn’t expect. First, I am not over that DNF. It is still hanging there, haunting me.

But beyond that, I have coming to realize, I don’t want to just complete Ironman this year. I don’t want to go in with the idea that getting around the course is the best I can do. Instead, I want to be the best Ironman athlete I can be.

I want to spend as little time in the saddle and on my feet as I possibly can. I want to set a goal and meet it.

When I talk to other athletes, whether they are thinking about completing their first 5k, taking on the challenge of a century ride or looking to become a triathlete, I always tell them that knowing what you want is the first step. Endurance sport is as much mental as it is physical so if you want something and are willing to work for it, you can have it.

This is what I tell other people. But somehow, it isn’t what I have been telling myself. Instead, I have been questioning my ability. Can I do this?

Yes, yes, I can.  I have committed.  Over the past several months I have trained for my first 70.3 of the season, the first race in a series of races that will lead to the Beach to Battleship Triathlon in October.

This weekend I will be competing in the Eagleman 70.3 and while it will help me physically to get through this course, the big step will be mental.  The problem I face with the DNF is not that it has been hanging over me. It has been hanging in front of me. It has been keeping me from moving forward.  With the training I have been doing, the focus on one step at a time, I have been able to push the DNF to the side.

By pushing it out of the way, I can now see the goal more clearly.  This is the first step, but there will be many more and without the obstacle of that DNF hanging there, there is nothing standing in my way.

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About Ann Brennan

Ann Brennan is first and foremost a mom of three beautiful children. She is the managing editor of Beyond Limits Magazine and the creator of Ann’s Running Commentary. In 2012, Ann took Ann’s Running Commentary to new levels – first with a segment on the RunRunLive Podcast, chronicling her journey to her first Ironman and second, with a new channel on YouTube. Currently Ann is working on a non-fiction book series and working hard every day to remind people to get up, get active and get out there.
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5 Responses to Moving Forward

  1. Good luck this weekend Ann!!! I know you are going to have a solid race!

  2. Ririnette says:

    Dear Ann, I have been reading your blog for quite a little while, but I was too shy to say something other than nodding my head in approval with every post. As I learned today that you completed your 70.3 successfully, I would like to congratulate you and to tell you that you inspired me to commit to finishing an Ironman in the next 2 years. Today I even bought a wetsuit, even though I have yet to complete my first triathlon (olympic) in 1.5 months. I am a mom with a full time job, started running for weight loss and sanity 3 years ago, this year completed 2 marathons and I cannot wait to see where this journey takes me. I do believe everything is possible, thanks to people like you. Keep working hard and I have no doubt that you’ll smash the full Ironman. You rock!

  3. Ann Brennan says:

    Thank you so much for this comment. It totally made my day. Please comment more often and let me know what is happening with your training. I am so glad you have found endurance sports. It makes a huge difference in my life and I have seen a big difference in my kids as well because they really look up to me and my husband for what we do.

  4. Pamela says:

    Way to go on your half ironman, Ann. It’s all about moving forward, and not looking back. I am so happy for you, and proud of you 🙂

  5. David says:

    First time reader…Girl, let that DNF go!!! You must have compassion for you! Get rid of the notion of being perfect – is anyone?

    I personally relate (though not an endurance athlete) I ran X-Country / track (hurdler) in H.S. – all but walking away from running as a life long pursuit. However, once I accepted that I walked away from running (insert excuse here) I was no longer held captive (insert victim here) by my decision to quit (insert victory here).

    So okay, you stopped the race…the fact that you’ve returned to compete in the activity that you love is Victory enough! 🙂 Remain victorious!!! It’s not about winning an Ironman, but finishing (so I’ve heard).

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