My coach keeps a blog. I like to read it because she too is going to Hawaii next month. It is good to share the misery, the pain, the insanity with someone that is also female, in their 30’s, balancing multiple roles in life. Of course, I don’t have 4 year-old twins or an assortment of coached clients but a full-time job and a husband (can we trade for the twins?) has to count for something.
One thing I've realized from my training is that sometimes Ironman training is great and sometimes it’s not so great. The great part is that it is always a challenge. And challenges are what most of us strive for and thrive on. Challenges push us to a higher levels, help us breakthrough old barriers, send us on route to achieve new goals. But while challenges can reveal the best of us, our fortitude, our commitment, our toughness, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it can also reveal the worst of us. And that is why I felt comforted when I read these words on Jennifer’s blog:
“I just have to remember this sanity when I am laying on the path crying like a baby (yes, this was me on Monday!) because everything hurts: my head, my legs, my stomach, my sanity…and know that tomorrow will be another day.”
Raise your hand if you’ve been there, to that place where you are lying or standing on the path in a pool of your own tears. Oh, you have? Then you must be IM training. Because I am convinced that this is the fifth discipline you need to train for with IM’s (1, 2, and 3 being the swim, bike, run, 4 being nutrition, 5 being mental breakdowns, breakthroughs and other head cases that might happen).
Indeed I was there about two weeks ago doing a 2 hour and 45 minute run. About 2:30 into the run, I found myself crying and clutching my knees while vocalizing “I just want to be done” through my tears. In all of my years of running, I have never hit bottom that hard. But I pulled myself together, barely, and limped back to the car cruising along at probably a 9:00 pace licking the salt off my lips from the tears because at that point it tasted damn good.
This is the hidden side of Ironman training. The part that you might not expect or hear about. Of course you expect to physically hurt from the distance and training. But the personal, mental breakdowns – you think to yourself that will never happen to me. But it will. Because again, IM training reveals the best of you and the worst. You will find ugliness inside of yourself that you did not know existed. You thought you were strong. Obviously you qualified, so you are tough, you are talented. But you will find your weakness, you will find your breaking point. You will find yourself crying, you will find yourself doubting yourself. You will not know what to do with these feelings because you have probably never felt them before because after all you are tough, you are stoic, you make things happen, and you don’t give up. So when you are lying on a path or standing there crying you begin to think what the hell happened, when did you get so untough, and slow, and useless. The good news it that if you can let these breakdowns happen and pull through them with the thought, like Jennifer said, that tomorrow is another day, you will grow stronger from those breakdowns. You’ll remember them and know what to do if they happen again or happen during race day.
The bad news is that they will happen again. Case and point – yesterday on a 4 ½ hour ride into a 20 mph south headwind gusting over 30 mph at times. After doing muscle tension intervals pushing in my big ring into the wind, I was finally on my way home and treated to the most delightful headwind all the way back. 45 minutes out became almost an hour back and about 20 minutes from home, heading straight into the wind, after a man almost ran me over because apparently I took too long to clip in while crossing Route 56 and HE JUST COULD NOT WAIT, I found myself actually shouting I GET THE POINT – IT’S F-IN’ WINDY OUT TODAY. Wondering if mother nature would hear me or even care, I thought I would just drop her a note and an f-bomb, letting her know that there was no need to keep throwing the wind in my face over and over again to prove her point. I got the point, ok? Spinning 100 rpm’s in my small ring, sweaty from overdressing in leg warmers and long sleeves on a 67 degree day, exhausted from the early morning swim before the ride, chafed on my left ass cheek only because my shorts were for some reason riding up to the left that day, at mile 70 of the ride, riding through rocks along the shoulder of the road, ready to dismount and throw my bike into oncoming traffic, I. GOT. THE. POINT.
Do yourself a favor - expect these types of breakdowns before you take on IM training so that when it happens you know that it’s ok, it’s normal, it’s not a sign of your own weakness, or inability to do the race. I can’t help but think that one day, after the race is done, life will present me some challenge that seems impossible and and I will think back to all of these breaking moments and I’ll know exactly what to do.