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With the months of preparation you put into preparing for your “A” race, getting injured or sick at the last second can be devastating. The decision to drop out before things get worse is not an easy one, considering the time and money invested.
First and foremost, give yourself time. It can be tempting to make a quick decision: to push through an injury, to sign up for a “redemption” race or to change direction. Wait a while before making any major decisions.
After some time passes (I recommend at least two weeks), you will gain perspective on the true cause of your DNS. Learn from the experience so you can adjust your approach. Even seemingly random events, like bike crashes, can stem from a deeper root cause of pushing ourselves too hard.
The next step is to focus on recovery. Whether you were derailed by a crash, an illness or simply lack of preparation time, the answer is not additional stress. Use the planned setback of the DNS as the start point for a deep “unloading” block of at least four weeks’ duration. Stay active but resist the urge to do any real training. If you are recovering from an injury, create space in your work and family life. Once you have your health back, focusing on a non-triathlon project can be an excellent way to channel your energy.
If you were derailed due to a stress fracture, consult with a sports doctor who can help you evaluate your approach to nutrition. These injuries are often signals related to your relationship with food.
The first few days after a setback are never much fun. For a couple of days, give yourself some time each morning to recognize your emotions. Then, set a fresh goal and start the journey anew.