Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Iron Journey

I logged 17 hours of training last week (not including weights, stretching, acupuncture, massage, eating and sleeping--all the other unknowns that add to Ironman training). Thankfully, this week is a recovery week. As I rest up and prepare for my next block of training, it's starting to hit me. My body is feeling it. Stronger, fitter, my resting heart rate dropping, my blood pressure so low, I get light-headed when I stand up. I have deltoids all of a sudden, my glutes are bigger, the number on the scale is increasing (it's a good thing--muscle mass). I'm sleeping 10 hours a night. I'm eating all the time. As I prepare for my 3rd one, my body is snapping back to its familiar muscle memory. Jeez. It feels like I have an Ironman coming up. And I'm getting excited. Very excited.

Ironman Utah will be hard. Don't get me wrong. But my last post was simply to help mentally prepare. I have no doubt in my mind that I can do it. I just like to know what I'm in for when I line up for battle. Each Ironman I do teaches me new wisdom that I keep for a lifetime. And I leave a piece of me out there on the course with each Ironman I do.

The Ironman journey is like the ultimate acid trip. I live a lifetime in a single day. There are actually two journeys, the training and the race itself. The training is a long, exhausting, slow build-up, during which I eliminate any extraneous luxuries from my life. Time because the limiting factor. Each day becomes a juggling act, and I become a magician of time management, mastering being in two places at once. Each morning, I wake up, slip into the workout clothes I've laid out the night before and begin my morning training. Go to work, eating all day, trying not to fall asleep. Evening falls, and I complete my 2nd workout, sometimes abutted to some weights or a brick run. Sometimes, I lie about how much I'm working out on my training plan, embarrassed that I snuck in a 3rd workout. Weights don't count, right? And yoga is just stretching. If I'm not too exhausted after gorging on whatever is left in my fridge, I do some errands or chores. Oftentimes, this gets left until the end of the week. Yes, the dog has to be walked and both Travis and Babs need food and a little lovin'. But is it really that big of a deal if the clothes pile up in the laundry room or the dishes in the sink? After a few days, the clutter in the house feels like clutter in my brain, and I simply can't stand it anymore. After much fretting and worrying, I fly around and in one clean swoop, taking a span of about 20 minutes, everything is restored to order, fighting Newton's 2nd law of thermodynamics. If I'm lucky, I get an evening to go on a date or spend it with friends. But usually, such socializing is best saved for recovery weeks and off days. Otherwise, such companionship must be lumped into a long training ride or run. Ah, I am a master of multi-tasking and time management. If only time could be created...or simply slowed down.

By the time race day arrives, it is a sweet victory. I've worked so hard to get there. The excitement in the air is palpable. I am a nervous wreck before the gun goes off. But then, the cannon explodes, and a strange calmness rises within. Everything I have worked so hard for, my moment, it's finally here. I have arrived.

Time stops. Nothing else matters. I begin swimming. I am encompassed in a soothing bubble. My thoughts ebb away. My mind quiets. Nothing can touch me. Nothing can bother me. This is my day. It is a celebration. I get on the bike. I think about my pace, eating enough, drinking enough. I absorb the scenery. Every now and then, wasteful thoughts creep into my brain. "What about the marathon? I've been out here a long time. My ass hurts. What am I going to do after this? Where am I going with my life...." I don't fight the thoughts but I don't acknowledge them either. They simply float on by, and eventually, I float away again and go numb. Going numb is key. I begin running. At first, I hate it. I'm tired. How the hell am I going to run a marathon after all the other crap I've done today? I'm hungry. I reach the first aid station. I eat and drink like a stray dog. I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I start to feel better. I find a rhythm. My legs go numb. Completely numb. I have no pain. Then, I start feeling light and euphoric. I remember, "Oh wait. I like this!" And I start running faster, more comfortably. All of a sudden, I'm in a good mood. It's infectious. I smile and high-five the spectators, thanking them for cheering me on. I tell the other athletes suffering on the run course, "Good job! You can do it! Lookin' good!" They are like moths to a light, and I am their beacon. We cluster together, making our way down the run course, and our energy, infectious, feeds off each other. I am like a vampire, sucking the positive energy from the spectators and other runners, who give it away freely. I count the miles. I count the aid stations. I run to the next tree, then the stop sign, then the bend in the road, the boathouse, the parked truck. I am making progress. Suddenly, I only have a 5K to go, and I know I'm going to make it. I get wobbly and begin to quiver with excitment, the adrenaline fueling legs and muscles with nothing left to give. I do the only thing I can think of; I run faster. It's hard to run in a straight line. I've been out here a long time. I keep picturing the finish line. And suddenly, I'm in the chute. It's a loud, stimulating blur, overwhelming my weary senses. Spotlights, loudspeakers, crowds of cheering people. I am zooming down the chute. I think I'm sprinting but really, I'm jogging. Maybe my knees lift a little higher. I throw my arms high up in the air as I break the tape, and I want this moment to last forever.

Then, it's over, and I'm numb and giddy with endorphins. I've earned rest. As much food as I want. Overcome with emotion. The lessons I've learned. That I'm strong. I can do anything I put my mind to. That I am responsible for myself and my own happiness. But I need not do it alone. Gratitude for all those who helped me along my journey. Human compassion for all the others who suffered with me out there in the heat and wind. And I come away, a little wiser, a little older, a little calmer, a little more patient.

...And then I go and sign up for the next one, and the cyclical journey begins all over again.

12 comments:

Colleen said...

You put into words what only an Ironman can truly understand! :)

Glad it's going well. You're going to kick some Utah butt!

Wes said...

true, dat :-)

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

What an awesome post! Thanks for sharing it with us! :) You are going to ROCK Utah!

Christi said...

That was an absolutely amazing post. Thanks some much for sharing!

Nicole Kesten said...

found you blog.. great posts... great detail. i am doing my first half IM this year and still freaking out about open water swimming (i have done about 4-5 open water tri's before).. any good posts in your archives??

thanks, nic
(it's the nicole's side blog for my training blog)

jameson said...

so... have you done acid? curious as to how you made the comparison? i think i would rather do acid than Ironman!

Jack said...

That was an incredible post, well done! I can relate to parts of what you wrote, training for ultra races is a step in this direction.

Nancy said...

Amazing post. I've been thinking for a long time to do a triathlon. Your post has really inspired and reminded me the dedication needed to complete one of this. You go girl. Your writing also describe the time constrains and constant hunger I experience through the day as I weight train and run. I found a product (a chocolate peanut butter cookie) that's help me greatly with this and is also 100% natural and very high in whey protein. Hopefully, it helps you with your hunger and your recovery. Also, keep up with your antioxidants. Since your workouts are rather intense your body is releasing a lot of free radicals.

www.protelicious.com

Tauromaja said...

I just did my first 70.3 in September 2009, after having only been doing triathlons since December 2008. By the time I did the Ironman, I had 4 sprint triathlons under my belt. It really is all about just wanting it badly. And after having done it, I totally recommend doing a 70.3 Ironman. It is such a rush to know you can do it. Cheers and much luck and training to you.

Kim said...

Well done. Awesome post.

Chris and Amy said...

Wow! YOu make IM sound incredible. I've only done sprint distnaces so far, but you make me want to sign up for an IM now! Don't worry I'll get some olympic and 1/2 distances under my belt, but I'm definitely bookmarking this post for inspiration. Thanks, Amy

Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete said...

Wow, this is the whole reason why I wanted to try triathlons in the first place! I'm hoping to do a half this year, and a full by the end of next year. Thanks for always being inspiring!