I clearly remember seeing my husband Joe and my two kids right before I entered the finish shoot at Ironman Arizona last year. It wasn’t my best race ever; and all day long I thought about those people that do multiple Ironmans. I wondered what was wrong with them? Didn’t they have a life? Didn’t their families get sick and tired of them being hungry, exhausted and self absorbed? At one of the athlete briefings I heard a joke, “if you haven’t been on the brink of divorce, then you haven’t been training hard enough.” Ironman spouses have special saintly like qualities as they put up with a lot of crap.
We were going to go on vacation for one week in Arizona, as soon as I finished that race – in approximately 300 meters. I specifically told Joe, in no uncertain terms, and to the laughter of several spectators who witnessed the event: “don’t worry, I’m not doing this again.”
Ironman takes a lot of training, discipline and commitment. It’s expensive, tiring, and my entire family has to be on board. The last months I’m insufferable. There are other ways to stay healthy, heck, some argue endurance training like this is anything but healthy.
So why do I race?
I’ve come to believe that some people compete while others, like me, participate. My training friends are fierce, dedicated and want to win. I don’t. I’m happy to be there and finish. I don’t want to get faster. Okay, maybe I would, but I am not willing to do the work. Speed doesn’t motivate me. How I finish, and what I finish is important to me. But being faster than my age group peers is not interesting enough to be worth the sacrifices that need to be made.
This does not mean I am a slacker … it just means my priorities are elsewhere. It doesn’t make me less of an athlete either; it just makes me different.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why I do the things I do. It started because racing seemed like much more fun than going to a gym, and I needed to lose weight and get healthy. I started with a 5k in 2010, a sprint triathlon later that year and the rest is history. I kept reaching for higher goals and longer distances. I then went for racing with disabled athletes. Each new adventure was an opportunity to challenge myself and grow; I chose goals that seemed impossible when I first started. I broke each race up, bit by bit, until I completed it. I faced fears, overcame obstacles, and felt the indescribable finish line of a long journey. But now, two Ironmans later and countless races with adaptive athletes …. now what?
As I wrote here, I’ve been struggling … my head is a bad neighborhood to be in lately. I am supposed to take things a bit easier, put less pressure on myself, stop constantly challenging my limits as I have over the past years. My physician said I’ve been on the go, go, go for so long I might just need some chill out time.
I was waiting for my boys to finish their Parkour class and watched two of my friends train by climbing ropes and jumping into foam pits. They would call out to me: “next week come do this with us. It’s about facing your fears, it’s so liberating.” I am in no mood to face my fears, the thought of joining them has absolutely no appeal.
Therefore when I received an email from my sponsor Got Chocolate Milk that I got into Ironman Lake Placid in July I wasn’t sure what I should do. Here was an opportunity to race in one of the most famed, and difficult, Ironman courses. I have used chocolate milk as my recovery drink for years, and the chance of representing them again was compelling.
But didn’t I just say I was in no mood to challenge myself? What do I do? How can I chill out and simultaneously get ready for this? If I go for it am I being irresponsible with my mental health? If I don’t, am I being too conservative and giving into my funk?
I spoke to my husband Joe, who is totally okay with my training and racing. He would be just as fine if I did Ironman as if I didn’t. So, God bless him, that wasn’t an issue. The choice was really mine.
I love training. I love being out there. What I don’t like is the fear of cars while on my bike, the stress of fitting it all in, and the guilt of missed workouts. My journey to Ironman Arizona was about balance, and trying to find it. But I didn’t quite make it. The journey itself was difficult; the race was even more. I had a time goal I couldn’t let go of, and with two flat tires and my time goal shot, I mentally checked out of Arizona on the run. That was not quite balance.
What could be different this time around?
I figured I just biked 125 miles on my own last week, and next Sunday I am racing a half marathon pushing a disabled athlete. And while many people already started their IMLP training plans, it’s not like I am starting from zero. And if I am not starting from zero, then maybe I don’t have that much further to go.
So I figured, I’m going to give this another shot. I am not going to cower under the covers like I am tempted to do, but I am going to accept the challenge.
This go around, my challenge is to improve my mental health AND really, honestly, just experience this Ironman. My only goal with Lake Placid is to finish smiling unlike I finished Arizona. My time goal is under 17 hours and that is not just a joke. I am NOT going to make endless calculations in my head to see where I could end up. All I want is to say, “heck that was fun,” regardless of what comes my way.
I’ve been taught sometimes you just need to fake it till you make it. Sometimes I might have to force myself to smile even if I don’t feel like it. But if I think positive, positive things happen.
I’m not going to train like a madwoman. I am going to do enough, and with my chocolate milk I will be ready for whatever comes next. I will swim twice, bike twice, and run twice a week. Sometimes the bike and run sessions will be bricks. I will have one rest day and if my kid gets sick, I get injured, or it rains, I will be totally okay with missing a workout.
If I get to the mountains of Lake Placid and can’t get up on my bike I will walk. I live in pancake flat Florida and there is only so much I am willing to do. Thankfully I count on Ultrabikex Studio for support as that will be the only place I will get hill training in.
If I am committed to change my attitude, then my attitude will change. That conscious effort, together with some real work and some help will get me through another journey. Perhaps Ironman Lake Placid is the one I learn the most from as it is starting from such a difficult place.
I have five months to learn to smile through challenges again.
And isn’t it funny, I am smiling right now.