Did Not Fail!

Jun 25
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Guest Blogger, Race Reports, Training

Dana Platin is a rock star. She’s one of my heroes. I asked her to do an interview with me, and she agreed. Here she tells about her recent and only DNF (Did Not Fail).

Q. Dana, tell us about the half ironman you’ve been training for. How did you choose this particular race? What drew you to it?

I chose two half- IronMan races as part of my training plan to work toward racing a full IronMan in early August 2014. An IronMan endurance race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run with a total distance of 140.6 miles. Not normal, I know. The half distance is 70.3 miles with a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run. I raced two of these 70.3 IronMan races between May and June 2014 as part of my preparation for the IronMan race coming up on August 3, 2014 in Boulder, Colorado, 38 days away!


Q. What was your training schedule like as you’ve prepared for the big race?

I train 6 days a week with a combination of speed swim trainings, strength swim trainings, long distance swims, speed work on the bike, climbs on the bike, speed work with my runs, hill training with the runs as well as long distance runs. Some days, I would combine the biking and running. I wake up at 5am and grab a cup of coffee before I head out the door; this has been my ritual for years. I train between 5:30 am and 7:30 am and then get home, shower, and go off to the office. I have a busy job and have had to learn to plan out all my trainings and work tasks every day, week and month in order to be able to fit this all in. It sounds like a lot, but the training actually is the most peaceful time of day for me. It’s quiet time where I can be alone with myself. I believe my best ideas come to me when swimming, cycling, or running, and I use this time to help me meditate, decompress, and recalibrate for the day to come.


Q. I know you recently had to make a difficult call with regard to one of your half Iron Man races. What was that race like? Highlights? Lowlights? Funny/scary/frustrating/victorious moments? Paint a picture for us of your experience. Take us there (this is where you tell the story of the event).

I have raced over 12 years with a mix of 5km runs, 10km runs, half marathons, marathons, and century rides, 8 half IronMan distance races, IronMan full distance, trail half marathons, mountain expeditions…you get my gist. I have a LOT of mileage under my belt, and I have always finished every race. Now, I haven’t always finished strong and have even finished injured, but this recent race was the first race that I DID NOT FINISH.

In racing, there are terms such as DNF (did not finish) and did not start (DNS), in which the individual signed up for the race did not show up to race or actually dropped out. The results are posted on the Internet and the entire world (if they are looking) knows you were a “no show” or didn’t finish. So I knew I would have a little bit of “ah shit, gotta explain this one.” I usually don’t care what others think, but the explaining I have to do for myself is the hard part. I have been close to not finishing before when I was injured. In those cases I would have to walk to the finish line, slow down the pace, but never have I fully dropped out.

Here’s a snapshot of the series of events leading up to my first DNF…

We showed up at 6am to get our wetsuits on for the open water swim. The temp was about 50 degrees in the morning and the water was a brisk 61 degrees. Everyone was nervous about the cold including me. I hadn’t swum in waters that chilled before but had so much training under my belt that I felt my strength would help me overcome. I put on my wetsuit, which was warm and toasty. I step into the water, my toes felt frozen but the water didn’t seep into my wetsuit. I stood in up to my knees and still didn’t feel anything. I figure, “I got this, it’s not that bad.”

The gun goes off and I dive in headfirst. I come up gasping for air and a shock went through my system as I felt the cold. WOW, this is freakin’ cold!!! I try to take a deep breath and swallow some water. I then get kicked and pummeled by the lovely men to my left and right as it’s a mass start with a couple of hundred people. I had the onset of a cold the day before, nothing major but a bit of congestion and an earache. Still, I start to find my place in the water, set the pace, find my stride and rhythm. After about 5 minutes, I felt my chest tighten up and had a hard time breathing, I slowed it down as I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t swimming that fast? My legs felt like dead weight and my arms even heavier. I was only 5 minutes into the swim; I had at least 35 more minutes to go! What was going on? I stayed calm and mentally put myself in check. You can do this and “will” be ok. Do not wave the kayak guy to come rescue you, I said to myself.

I turn around and see the shore right there, I can actually swim back and get out of this right now. I tread water, try to breathe and have a moment of “knock this negative talk off” with myself, and onward I go. I have never been scared in the water or panicked. I have seen my triathlon comrades hugging the buoys waiting to be rescued by the safety kayakers or small boats (if you raced in South America, we had fisherman as our safety water peeps J), but I’ve always been fine. This was a strange new experience for me and I didn’t realize the cold had such an impact on me, I just thought I was slow and the wetsuit was too tight causing me to feel cement arms and legs. 40 something minutes later, I make it through the 1.2 mile swim. I get out all water logged with frozen cheeks. My arms were still there and moving. Phew, I am done with the swim!

I try to run to the transition zone to get out of my wetsuit to grab my bike. There are 2 guys there who are serving as volunteers—called “strippers” (LOL)—who help you strip out of your wetsuit. They grab my suit and strip it down, and I fall backwards as it was so quick and I was still frozen. I think of the movie frozen and all the hype around that song “let it go” and just start singing to myself the same lyrics! Am I going insane? I am out of the wetsuit and find my bike. I put on my cycling helmet and shoes, and off I go. I have my race nutrition in a small pouch on my bike, so I drink some electrolyte mix and eat 2 fig newtons (my favorite on the bike) to get the proper fueling for the next hour. Pedal, chew, breathe, drink, pedal, chew, breathe, drink and breathe some more. Off I go. I am cycling like a bat out of hell.

timerI am cold and trying to warm up and still in a bit of shock that I made it through the swim. I am hitting it hard, flying past everyone on the bike. I am in my aero bars on my bike which has me arched forward in order to be as aerodynamic as possible to move at a faster pace. I am confident, pedaling harder and harder, making up time, breathing well and pushing on. I have a total of 56 miles to ride and it looks as though this will be my personal record for timing on the bike. I am 1 hour and 20 minutes into the ride and my bike clock shows 28 miles have been completed already. I am on track for a 2 hour and 40 minute 56-mile ride. WOOHOO!!!!! I am flying and feeling good.

In the aero bar position you shift your gears up and down from the aero bar shifters. Suddenly, I shift one of the gears and notice the shifter is coming off and flimsy. It comes lose and is hanging, meaning I can’t change the gears and need to ride the remaining 28 miles in the same gear! OMG, this isn’t happening. As I am processing the new mechanical situation of my bike, I fly over a bump and my water bottle sponge that is nestled in between the aero bars pops off and I am being splashed by my limeade electrolyte mix; I am sticky, thirsty and riding single speed in a half IronMan race being bathed in this sticky, sweet and salty electrolyte mix.

Instead of hitting the panic button, I make sure to put myself in check—laugh at how ridiculous this is and then stay calm. I put my mental skills training to work at this point; I carry on and stay focused on what needs to happen next and stay positive. I have learned that when I get negative in a race it just sends me on a downward spiral, and I refuse to let negative talk take over. Just keep pedaling, find that cadence with the one speed you got and make it work. No need to panic, just pedal, push, breathe and ignore the annoying splashing of limeade electrolyte mix in your face. I roll into the finish line in 2:59, completing the 56-miles happy that my gear didn’t completely fail and that I made it through the arctic swim and bike ride. I didn’t get my personal record (PR) on the bike that day but did get my PR on mental skills training and putting up a good fight when the going got tough!

Next, I get off the bike with my sticky face and fingers from the limeade bath I took and race to the transition zone to leave my bike, take off bike helmet and cycling shoes, and put on running shoes. Every minute counts, so I am trying not to fiddel faddel in the transition zone. If it were up to me, I would take a nap in the transition zone, but off I go… I start running an 8:30-minute mile. Whoa slow that down, I tell myself. Then I am at a 9-minute mile, which is the pace I usually race at.

I start to feel my chest tightening up. I have never felt this before during a run. I am not sure why since I just biked so strong and felt fine with no breathing issues. It was the same tightness I felt on the swim, so I slow it down and take some deep breaths. I can’t get air in my lungs. I am now at a 12-minute mile and still can’t breathe. I start to worry and think, Should I tell someone? But maybe it will go away. Just run it off… I continue to run and now at a 13-minute mile, it gets worse. I see an aid station and some very cool women volunteering. I stop and I wait for a minute, deciding if I should share my secret. “Hey guys, do you have any water, gels, bananas?”

“Yes, we do,” they give me the “looking strong” cheers, and I choose not to tell them how I am truly feeling as I am worried about the consequences of my sharing. I would be told STOP, DROP OUT, DO NOT FINISH. I keep going. It starts again; I can’t breathe. I am thinking now, Do I have asthma? It’s not going away and now it’s getting scary. I make it through the next mile and see another group of volunteers. This time I take the plunge and tell them about my symptoms.

They immediately help me, worried it was my heart. They got me all nervous, but I know I am in perfect health, I don’t have heart issues… but could I? SHIT!!! This is “it.” My first DNF…

They ask if I want them to call a medic and I say no, that I will walk back since I didn’t feel dizzy—just tightness in my chest and lack of breathing. The two women stared at me like my response wasn’t going to work for them and they didn’t want me left alone. I convince them that I will walk slow and be fine. They let me go, although one of them came to check on me on her bike (she was awesome.)

I had that long walk of shame; the walk I always wondered about with fellow DNFers. On the walk, I am processing how this feels; I am not finishing this race. I had these moments of asking myself if I should push a little harder and see? But I realize this was the right decision, a wise one, and the decision of a person who knows her body and is being smart about her health.

This wasn’t about getting a PR or the best time or always finishing. It was about making sure my health,

well-being, and security come first. I actually felt empowered and good about my decision knowing it was the right thing to do. I had enough racing under my belt to know that I would finish if I could. I had done it many times before, but today wasn’t that day. DNF it would be.

I walk back, and as I walk, my breathing gets better and my chest is doing better. The medics checked me out and said I had bronchial spasms from the cold water, and it got exacerbated on the run from the up and down motion. While on the bike, I was crunched over and protected, and that is why I didn’t have the spasms like I had in the swim and the run. They wanted me to watch for signs and symptoms of edema and pneumonia that night, and luckily I took care of my health and recovered the following day. I felt more like a badass that I was even able to persevere through the swim and the decision making of saying “enough” on the run and not beating myself up afterwards.

So there it is DNF, DID NOT FAIL. I turned the Did Not Finish into a Did Not Fail nor Fret. It is what it is, and as long as you can walk away from each experience knowing you gave it your best, then there is no failure. I went on to race another half Iron Man five weeks later in Boulder, Colorado and had no medical problems. There I finished strong. I enjoyed the race, stayed strong mentally, and obviously had my bike shifter fixed and bought a new aero bottle so my electrolyte mix wouldn’t bathe me again!

Lessons learned. There can always be another race. One race shouldn’t be the way we measure our overall performance. I have been 100% committed to this Iron Man plan. I know there will be good days and bad; the important piece is “how” we race and “how” we deal with the setbacks.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer many years ago and lived in the northern Andes of Ecuador. It was there that I learned to persevere and push on. Some very powerful women and girls taught me these lessons that I carry with me on race days.

Dana on her bike!

Dana on her bike!


A huge thanks to Dana for sharing her experience! We learn as much from the struggles as we do from the victories. 

Success Strategy #2: Creating Accountability

Feb 10
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Advice, Reflections, Training

One of the most important things we can do if we really want to reach our goals is to create accountability for ourselves. I don’t know about you, but my internal locus of control only goes so far in keeping me honest–even with regard to goals that are truly meaningful to me. Take my goal to shave an hour off my average marathon finishing time. If I hadn’t told people I would blog about my training, I wouldn’t have had any reason outside of myself to stick to my training plan all year.


Last Saturday I took my last pace run before the Austin Marathon this coming Sunday. I went north to Blaine, WA (just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border) to do a seven-mile fun run. My goal was to keep all seven miles between 10 minutes and 10:30. But one thing I know about myself is that if no one is looking, there’s a chance I’ll say something to myself like, “Well, it’s no big deal if I slow down to an eleven-minute mile on the hill.”

To help keep me on track, I invited my friend Pam to join me on the run and she graciously agreed. For the whole seven miles, Pam stayed perfectly consistent. If I slowed down, she remained solid, which helped me hold onto my own intention to maintain my pace.

When we make a commitment to ourselves and don’t share those commitments with others, we have only ourselves to rely on when we get tired or lose momentum. And while it’s true that no one else can do the actual work for us, sometimes some one else CAN hold the optimism or faith in ourselves that we need to push through doubts or exhaustion.

If you’re working toward a goal and you could use a little accountability to keep you moving, try some of the things that have worked for me:

1.  Create or join a group that meets regularly to support one another (this is a great one for athletic goals or goals related to creative projects).

2. Find a coach who will hold your feet to the fire.

3.  Blog about your journey.

4. Find a partner who is working on a similar goal. Throw out friendly competitive challenges to each other.

5.  Talk about your goals and plans to anyone who will listen. The more people who know what you’re doing, the more people you’ll feel accountable to.

What other strategies do you have to keep you on target, friends? I’m always looking for more ways to hold myself accountable to my intentions.


The next time you “see” me, I’ll be in Texas. I’ll let you know how the race goes. Cheers!


Best Foods to Get Ready For and Recover From a Long Run

Nov 26
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Preparations, Training

Hi runner friends. I was approached by healthline.com who asked if I’d like them to do a guest blog post here on 7marathons7continents and, since I’m amping up my training to get ready for the Austin Marathon and I know many of you are putting in some long miles too, I asked if they would write about nutrition and long runs.

Below is an article written by David Novak (see bio at the bottom of the article). I’d love to hear feedback from you. What resonates for you here? What would you add? Getting the right fuel, both before, after, and during a long run or a race is always a challenge for me. Since I grew up on junk food, I’m still challenged to eat my fruits, veggies, grains, and protein (true confession: as opposed to French fries and pizza). But the fact is, when I eat better, I run better.

So here’s what healthline.com has to say:

Best Foods to Get Ready For and Recover From a Long Run


It is essential when training for athletic events requiring endurance that you have a keen understanding of health and nutrition. The basics of proper rest, stretching, and considering the environment are just as important as proper nutrition for the machine; that is your body. Depending on your goals, whether you just want to stay or get into shape or in fact take the steps necessary to finish near the top, you need the fuel and power for your endeavor, both before and after each training day.

Preparation Nutrition

Just like if you are preparing for a cross-country road trip, proper fueling is essential. The primary fuel for the humans is carbohydrates which are stored in the muscles and liver. The body during the course of any activity draws on these stores for energy, which is stored as glycogen. For the reason that the body can only store a fairly miniscule amount of carbs, it is important to maintain your levels as they are depleted rather rapidly during strenuous exercise.

There are a few questions that need to be considered for every run.

Question: After I have eaten, what is the time frame I should wait before beginning to run?

This is a question that is based on your individual fitness level. There are beginners, intermediate runners who have some experience, and of course those who have run many contests. Of course, you have to know what’s best for you, which includes consulting with your doctor. A rule of thumb is to wait a few hours after eating a large meal, which will allow the process of digestion to begin. If you have eaten a small snack, your waiting time to run should be between 30-minutes to two hours.

There are some metrics you can consult such as the glycemic index score, otherwise known as GU. This metric helps you to understand how long it takes the body to process your food into glucose. Foods with a high GI scores are processed faster by the body. Additionally, the body has an easier time processing the food. These can include foods like banana bread, fruitcake, health shakes and pancakes.

Another rule of thumb is to eat foods that release energy into your system slowly over time thereby fueling your training over a longer duration. These are low GI foods.

Question: What kind of nutrition should I consider for a morning run?

Eating in the morning before a run enables you to also train your stomach for the running event you are training for. There are two types of athletes we are concerned with here; the early riser and the straight out of bed runner. The early riser is well served with a serving of oats and whole grains, eggs and muffins and perhaps a health shake or a smoothie. The straight out of bed runner prefers to push themselves fresh out, and could benefit by consuming fruits and nuts or perhaps a shake. These kinds of foods release their energy to the body immediately. This kind of runner can also benefit by eating a heavy meal the night before, rich in carbs such as pasta potatoes or even rice.

Question: What should I avoid eating before a big run?

Before going on a big run you should definitely avoid high-fiber, fatty or spicy foods as these are known to upset the stomach. Limit your caffeine intake and alcohol as well as these kinds of foods are associated with diarrhea and upset stomach by physical exertion.

Post Run Recovery

Just like proper nutrition is essential when preparing for the big day, it is also necessary to ensure that you eat properly during the recovery phase. You will want to supply your body and muscles with the nutrition that optimizes muscle building and muscle recovery.

Eat within 30 minutes after your run to ensure your body has the ingredients to rebuild damaged muscles and get the repair process underway. This is also true for training recovery leading up to the race.

You are going to need both proteins and carbohydrates. These are the main sources of energy and of course you need to replace these as they are heavily depleted after a strenuous training session or big run. To build back muscle tissues, protein fits the bill here because it limits muscle pains. If you find this difficult, you should look to drink plenty of fluids. Of course, this should be your course of action in any case. Here are some good recovery food ideas:

● Half liter protein or health shake

● Fruit filled yogurt or a smoothie.

● A sandwich, fat-free cheeses or eggs

All training regimens are based on individual preferences and your particular body type, as well as consultation with a nutritionist or health professional. You need to make sure that your priorities, whether it be weight loss, endurance training, competitive aspiration and the like are considered. For the most part, your body can be ready to resume training shortly after you have run a big race, but again it should be stressed, this depends on the person. Fatigue is of course a sign that your body is still recovering and you need to take the time needed to feel good again before you get back out there. A week is usually sufficient.

Always remember, ensure that you take care to get enough rest, rehydrate, repair your body and refuel your energy stores. By following these general suggestions, you can achieve most if not all of your goals when training for and running an endurance race.


David Novak is a international syndicated newspaper columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV around the world. His byline has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest and GQ Magazine, among others. David is an expert on health, wellness, diet and exercise, and he writes on a wide array of health topics for various publications, including regular editions appearing in healthline.com. For more of his Healthline articles, visit http://www.healthline.com/.

Recovery Update

Nov 14
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Reflections, Training

Well, that 18 miler in AZ really kicked my butt. As the week went on, I could see that I’d done a little damage to my right ankle. I don’t think I sprained it, but it was bruised and very tender. And my left foot was inflamed with plantar fasciitis symptoms. Not wanting to ruin my body and make all of the training I’ve done this year moot, I decide the wisest thing for me to do was to rest.

Resting, as you may know, is hard for runners to do (I plan to write a Psychology Today post on this, so stay tuned for that). There’s an inner imperative that drives us to run, to want to be tough, to push through limitations. But it’s important to slow down sometimes. I want to be running when I’m 90, so I need to keep everything healthy.

The first week after the AZ trail run I basically iced my feet and ankles and took a few slow walks. The soreness lasted until Friday. Then this week I’ve started running again, but just 3 and 4 milers on soft ground, going super easy. Starting next week I’ll pick up my training again.

The plantar fasciitis isn’t terrible, thanks to the Rubz ball, the Stick, icing, arnica, and my Choco sandals.

There are only about 13 weeks left before the Austin Marathon. I want to show up healthy and proud of the training I’ve put in. We have several women coming along for this girls’ adventure, so I not only want to be healthy for the race but healthy for the after party too!!!


PS: I’m ALWAYS grateful for tips on dealing with plantar fasciitis. Looks like it may be a bit of a recurring problem for me, so if you have a secret remedy or an exercise that’s worked for you, please share.

Week 24—See Jane Run

Jul 12
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in 2013 Challenge, Preparations, Training

Tomorrow I go to the See Jane Run half marathon expo to pick up my packet. The race is on Sunday. I’m excited. This’ll be my third shot at trying to beat my best time. I don’t know about you, but I usually go into races with two goals. The first goal is about how I ultimately want the race to go, the second is plan B—in case I can tell at some point that the first goal is obviously not going to happen.

My number one goal isn’t always about time. Sometimes the goal is practically unrelated to running, like last year when I ran the Run with the Wild Horses race in Wyoming, my goal was really a hope: I wanted to see wild horses on the route and get a picture of them. Alternately, I wanted to listen to as much of the audio book of Hunger Games as I could cram in (I got to do both). Sometimes my goal is all about my attitude, or a life-lesson I’m grappling with, something I want to learn about myself from a race.

This year, I’ve devoted my running to improving form, efficiency and, therefore, time. I’ve been working hard to speed up the turn over between each footfall and on relaxing my shoulders and feeling a new, unfamiliar pace and cadence. A couple of months ago I couldn’t sustain my 10K goal pace (9:30/mile) for more than one mile before I needed to rest. With some good coaching and a commitment to being regular with my training, I’ve met my 10K goal and put in many more consecutive miles at that pace. Have you ever wondered if you could do something and discovered that you could? It’s quite powerful!

So this weekend my first goal is to maintain a 10-minute  average for the whole race. This would mean a finish of 2:11. Falling short of that, I’d be happy with my number two goal: To beat 2:15. Of course, there’s always the chance that something goes awry and I roll in later than I hope. I’m happy anytime I give my whole heart to a race and let it really teach me something. That’s sure to happen no matter what the pace.

What happens for you when you set a goal for a race and can see half way through that it won’t be met? How do you manage your attitude in the middle of a long, hard race? Would love to hear about your process.

Check back in on Monday. I’ll be posting a race report. Cheers.