Monday was the official beginning of a new era for me: Ironman Utah training. I hadn't planned on doing an Ironman in 2010. Then, I found out that they were going to have an Ironman in the beautiful city of St. George. I had always wanted to run the St. George Marathon (held every October). The area just calls to me. Besides, Zion is only an hour away. When I found out they were going to have Ironman Utah in St. George, I was one of the first to sign up.
My horse, George, died in January of 2005. Horses have always been a part of my life, and he was no exception. He was my best friend, my teammate, and my partner. We shared some wonderful times together: competing in shows, jumping cross country in the snow, bucking exuberantly in the chill of the autumn air beneath a canopy of orange-leaved maples, galloping through plowed cornfields so fast that I could no longer feel his feet hit the ground and my eyes forced shut by the stinging wind burning my face.
When arthritis forced George's retirement, I continued caring for him at a nearby barn with green pastures and lots of other horses to play with. He was like a big puppy dog; the barn manager would let him roam free to graze all day, and everyone smothered him with attention and treats. He neighed repeatedly every time he heard me enter the barn, even before he could see me. He licked me constantly and everywhere--hands, arms, chest, face, ears. He loved children. I taught him tricks: shake hooves, nod "yes" or "no", peek-a-boo, and bowing before an audience (he was quite the ham). He played tug-of-war with the other horses, using a stick or ball. His intelligence was unlike any other horse I have ever met; I swear he could understand every word I spoke. When he no longer enjoyed going out to the pasture and was having a hard time walking, I made the difficult decision to put him down. It was one of the hardest decisions I've every made, and it weighs on me to this day.
While I was grieving, a flock of mourning doves sat shiva in my backyard (a 7-day period of mourning in the Jewish tradition after the death of a loved one). It was January, it was cold, there was snow on the ground, and I hadn't filled the feeder in months. In my shock and grief, I was oblivious to the tens of twenties of birds in the yard, until I walked from the house to the garage. All of a sudden, hundreds of doves flew up into the air at once. The air was so thick with doves, I could feel the wind from their beating wings on my face. I was comforted by their presence and felt a strange calm fill me. I knew George was okay; he was in a better place now, in a place with no pain. I filled the bird feeder every day. The mourning doves (funny, I had always previously believed they were "morning" doves), kept me company for about a week. Then, as quickly as they had come, they were gone, despite a fully stocked bird feeder. Their disappearance reminded me of how amazing and mystical their company had been. To this day, whenever I'm feeling doubtful or jaded, I remind myself of the mourning doves that sat shiva with me, and I am filled with hope.
After George died, I decided to take a hiatus from horses, vowing to return to them again one day. There was a giant void in my life. Then, I discovered triathlon. It has been an incredible journey, and I don't know where my adventures will take me next. When I found out there was going to be an Ironman in St. George, I felt a calling. I am doing this Ironman in his memory. The fact that it is one of the toughest (if not THE toughest) courses in North America makes it all that more special for me. Ironman St. George. Could it be more perfect?
My training has commenced. I am filled with excitment. I love Ironman training. I know that no matter what happens with my life between now and May, I have that Ironman (God-willing, as long as I'm healthy and not injured). Having that on my calendar comforts me. I have the stability and positive-reward system of my training routine. Ah, Ironman training. Coming to the rescue again.
Below is an overview of my 22-week training plan (click on the image to enlarge it to make it easier to read):