I wasn’t feeling so great yesterday. And, I came away from the day looking like I had a catfight with myself. If you saw my legs, it looks like I’ve tried to claw my way out of my body because my better half, the part that has judgment, sanity, and rationality has decided that they have had just about enough of this Ironman training which is controlled by my other half, the part that is by now shamelessly addicted to the workouts, the endorphins, the attention and should probably be caged or put on methadone to just quiet it down for awhile.
But back to the legs. I didn’t put those scratches there myself. They happened somewhere along the way of what feels like a neverending day overshadowed by a feeling I cautiously announced to a co-worker upon arriving at work that morning – I was in a foul mood. I usually save that warning for days when I truly, whole-heartedly, 100 percent am in a foul mood. I’m moody about 99 percent of time, so when it finally fills out to the full 100 percent, you best back yourself up and walk the other way.
And that’s why I like to give fair warning. Because no one should be the victim of my foul mood. It’s not their fault, and more likely than not, it’s the fault of hormones or training or lack of sleep or lack of food or the fact that it is almost mid-October and I am still training for triathlons during a time when I should be running 5K’s fast, swimming slow, and cruising around on my mountain bike. So, must we continue this, I thought to myself? Must we keep going? It’s supposed to be taper time, a time of cupcakes, happiness, endless sunshine, and unleaded legs. And somewhere in this taper time there has to be a taper, right?
But again, back to the legs. Where did I get those scratches, and why? Thinking back on my day, it may have had something to do with the purest, most malicious evil that flows through my body, worse than my foul moodiness, worse than my Ironman training exhaustion, it may have had something to do with hormones.
It was 5:48 am yesterday morning and I was greeted by what felt like someone trying to pull my ovaries out through my ass and then slingshotting them back inside until they bounced off my insides before pulling them out again. Over, and over, and over with gut wrenching, pain above my hip pounding all throughout the entire morning.
After a few hours at work trying to concentrate and produce work with a feeling of someone punching my gut repeatedly over and over again, I set out for a lunchtime run. Perhaps this would make me feel better. On tap was a hard run, a relentless run that always hurts. One of those taper time specials. I set out to my favorite fall running place along path and enjoyed the sunny day but immediately, warming up, I felt hot. It was probably only 70 degrees but for some reason it felt like 90 only for the short period of time that I was running. I was thirsty and felt like a ragdoll, arms and legs flapping all over the path. And I hadn’t even begun my intervals yet. With each interval, being told to do them “hard”, I felt hotter and hotter, consuming the little water I did bring along. The pain in my side worsened until either something exploded inside me or it just gave up and retreated away until we meet again in 28 days.
Pushing hard into interval #5 I suddenly had to go to the bathroom. How does this happen? Can someone explain it? How is it that you can go from 0 to 60 in my world of potty breaks with no warning, no warm-up? Finding myself in the middle of a path, in the middle of a tall grass meadow with runners approaching me from the front and behind, I hiked off the trail only to find myself ensnarled in a mess of grapevine and multiflora rose, one wrapping around your ankles as the other bites you in the upper legs with thorny branches leaving a mess of scratches and rash all over my legs. I clawed my way out of the thickets and brambles to see my legs bleeding from knee to ankle. Immediately I began fearing they would not heal in time for Hawaii and I would be forced with the feeling of salt being poured into my wounds all day long. That’s right, sometimes taper time can make you a little crazy like that, thinking about the pain of the race, doubting if you can do it, not sure you can handle Hawaii heat if you cannot handle Chicago mid-October warmth, and these crazy thoughts filled my head for the rest of the run.
After work, I decided to visit my sports guy to get stretched out hoping it would make me feel better. Waiting, I overhead his conversation as he was working on a fellow Ironman in training, a guy who has done Hawaii before and just finished IM Canada a few weeks earlier. I heard him saying that taper was going well but he was very hungry. I let out a laugh. And through the wall we began talking about the hunger. He said it’s pretty normal to feel really fat before the race but really skinny after the race. I concurred on half of that, as I woke up today weighing in at 108 which to me feels like moose proportions when you are used to barely meeting 105. I’ve been trying to watch what I eat but it’s not like I eat fast food, frosting, and ice cream all day long. If you can feel fat on bananas, bread, wheat germ, and skim milk then put me on the poster as the case and point.
This is what Ironman tapering feels like. You’re up, you’re down, you feel good, you feel bad, you want to stop, you can’t wait to do more. You're doing easier workouts that feel 10 times harder. You're clawing at yourself in a thicket of your own discomfort, boredom, moodiness and you've got the scratches to show for it. You're standing in the corner, gloves on, salivating and ready to throw a punch. You're picking fights with yourself just to pass the time and just because you are antsy and nervous. You finally get the chance to sit down but can't sit still. You’re sitting at your table, looking around at your house, thinking what the hell has been going on in here for the past 3 months, who has been living here and why haven’t they cleaned. You wonder who the man standing at the sink is after dinner, the one washing the pots and asking if you need him to go to the store. Who is this man? How did he replace my husband? Or, it couldn’t be, has Ironman training trained my husband to do these things. If so, maybe I really do need to do another Ironman because I’m sitting here and he’s the one doing all of the work. You cannot even recognize your own life anymore or the people around it. You think to yourself – enough. This has gone on long enough. You cannot wait to not swim, or bike, or run. You have been fed so much so triathlon and so much training that you are literally drunk with triathlon training, a one too many shots of tequila laying on the floor barfing out triathlon training over and over again until you swear you will never drink tequila again drunkenness. And then you drink the worm. And then you barf some more. Then you piss yourself but can’t even tell.
This is how it feels. To train, and then taper, to be so close to the race but still what feels like so far away from what will be a very long day. This is what the Monday the week before the Saturday race day feels like. It’s not fun and it’s not feeling good. And I’m still in a foul mood.
But I’ll come around. I’ll be ready. I’ll step up to that ocean with nothing but success in my eyes and a hunger in my head. Until then - catfight, anyone?