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Kona DNF Files: 2018 Edition

What happened to the pros who didn’t finish?

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The good news—the 2018 Ironman World Championship was one of the most record-breaking events in the history of our sport.

The bad news—Kona wasn’t a banner day for everyone. For every Patrick Lange, who became the first athlete to ever record a sub-8 hour performance at the Ironman World Championship, there’s a Sebastian Kienle, who experienced a race-ending injury in the first mile of the run.

After the sweat and sacrifice that comes with training for the biggest race of the year, taking a DNF, or “Did Not Finish,” at Kona can be a heartbreaking experience. This is clear from the words and photos shared on social media by the pros who couldn’t make it to the final stretch on Ali’i drive.

Josh Amberger

After leading the men’s pro race out of the swim, Amberger had a strong ride, only to be sidelined by injury in the run. “Kona 2018 was not meant to be. 10 miles into the run a lingering ITB injury came back & I threw in the towel. I gave it a couple of attempts to continue, but couldn’t make any progress,” Amberger said on Instagram.

Lauren Brandon

“Kona 2018 was a series of unfortunate events from the start,” Brandon wrote on Instagram after pulling out of the race in T2. “Luckily, it’s nothing that I won’t get over quickly and although bummed to not have the day I wanted, I am excited to keep my season going. Thank you everyone for all of the support and cheers!”

Alessandro Degasperi

According to a Facebook post, which features a shredded triathlon kit and several first-aid items, the Italian pro sustained a crash on the bike during the race. “Today the conditions were perfect (as much as they may be here), but the memory that will remain to me will be just a crumpled body, so much sadness, and many months of sacrifice thrown,” wrote Degasperi. “But at least patches [bandages] for a while I won’t have to buy any more!”

Meredith Kessler

After taking a year off racing for pregnancy, Kessler’s return to Kona did not go as planned. In a letter to her infant son, Mak, Kessler wrote of her day: “Dear Mak: Sometimes cherished dreams come true and other times they repeatedly slip away…a dream of a quality race with gusto in Kona fell yet again by the wayside. Today your mom couldn’t finish what I started. It was not my best nor proudest moment in sport. While this may continue to haunt me, as Kona usually does, I will keep learning, growing and recalibrating from it all. On repeat!”

Sebastian Kienle on the side of the road after his DNF. Photo: Mike Plant

Sebastian Kienle

One mile into the run, the 2014 World Champion was spotted coming to an abrupt stop mid-stride, then sitting down on the ground in pain, reaching for his left foot. Shortly after withdrawing from the race, a representative tweeted from his account that Kienle had sustained a heel injury.

Carrie Lester

“That moment when you don’t know whether to keep going & do more damage, or end it,” Lester captioned a photo from the day. “…it pains me to record my first Kona DNF, but even some of the greatest champions here have had a few of those and then come back and had their greatest performances. As soon as I got out of the swim I was having trouble keeping my nutrition down – that eventually compounded with the heat and things went pear shaped very fast.”

Brent McMahon

A lingering injury from Ironman Canada reared its head during the race, says McMahon: “Unfortunately this was near the end of my day. A couple miles after this moment with @carocoops I was walking in a fair amount of pain. I had been battling a foot issue since Ironman Canada and it ended up flaring up again here and causing IT band issues which I’ve had surgery for in the past.”

Emma Pallant

“With my track record in humidity it was a big dice roll coming here with 2 weeks heat prep, but I wanted to learn from the best,” wrote Pallant after passing out in T2. Her biggest lesson of the day? “Know when your day is over: when the body shuts down your day is done! Can’t thank whoever caught me when I passed out in T2 enough and after a few hours in the medical tent I definitely shouldn’t have got back out there and tried to finish.”

Ronnie Schildknecht

The Swiss triathlete conceded defeat in a Facebook post: “DNF today. Not the day I was hoping for of course. Various reasons where I could blame it but in the end I just didn’t have it in me and I could not overcome my struggles. So disappointing but a part of the journey.”

Lesley Smith

Strange symptoms kept Smith from completing her race: “A solid race for me today at the @ironmantri World Champs through around 15ish miles on the run, at which point a strange nerve issue (I’ll keep it vague 😬) stopped me in my tracks. All I have at this point is the [shrug] emoji,” Smith wrote on Instagram.

Sara Svensk

Svensk wrote a blunt analysis of her DNF on Instagram: “For those who are wondering, I’m ok! Unfortunately I injured my back one week ago and I have done everything I possibly could do to get to the start line. But there is a thin line between fit and f***ed. I wasn’t able to run through T2 because of the pain and I was suffering during the first miles of the bike so the decision to drop out of the race was actually easy. Now refocus and move on.”