The other day Chris asked me when our prison sentence would begin – the prison sentence of Ironman. 8 weeks in the sentence, in an iron-clad jail, no bond.
It has begun.
And so have the questions. He is filled with the incessant what is happening to my body and why? Why am I so tired? Why did I just dump all of my stomach after that ride? Why do I want to take a nap? Why am I so hungry? Why does it feel like I’m swimming into a headwind?
Why? The answer is simple. I give him the only truth I know. Because you’re training for Ironman.
There we were, in the pool last night, in the middle of what I would call an Ironman-esque set. We had started already tired. A weekend of long ride, big swim, hot run left us thirsty, tired, hungry, and ready for nap from the start of our day.
Chris started at the wall with an early warning that tonight he would be slow. This is not his usual self. Usually it is me that forewarns – I will be slow. And then I take my place in his draft. Tonight I led the warm up and then he took the lead. I could sense there might be rough waters ahead – a little turbulence in this lane. When Chris has a bad swim, it is never pretty. He is prone to cussing, grunting, throwing pool toys, or just abandoning the lane.
Looking forward to this one.
It started easy enough, 200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull. The classic warm up. Then into 4 x 50 build. 50 easy. And then 12 x 50 odds are free, evens are stroke. On the minute. I know what you’re saying. That’s nothing. You’re right. It’s not. Unless you really don’t do any other stroke but free. Or a bad version of back. Imagine this – 62 inches of little peashooter arms flailing legs kicking with knees out of water barely making the way down the lane. Like a fly trapped in a bowl of thick soup – that’s me on my back. It takes me about 1 minute to get down the lane and back. Going on the minute would be a miracle at best.
12 x 50 of that and I’m exhausted. Already I’ve had enough. But it doesn’t end there. 100 easy and then 10 x 100 descend 1 – 5, and again 6 – 10. At number 6, Chris turns to me and says this one will be slow, VERY SLOW. Hey, you don't have to convince me to take it slow. I'm already there. Number 10 and I am barely holding up the wall. How about just a cool down and then we’ll call that the end?
Try throwing 3 x 400 on top of that, first one sight every 25 yards, next one pull with paddles hard, last one sprint every 4th length. And all with very little rest.
This doesn’t sound like a lot but when you swam the day before – long – and rode your bike the day before that – very very long – it adds up. And that is how you find your husband asking why it feels like you are swimming into a headwind.
Why? Because that’s just the way that Ironman training goes.
But this is a hard sell for Chris. I don’t think he wants to believe. Last year I remember feeling nothing but tired all the time. You’re going slower, but longer, so harder overall. This year, the transition hasn’t been so bad. My body seems to remember. But Chris – well, he’s breaking new ground. He’s never pushed his muscles this long before. He is just learning how slow is Ironman slow.
And that is how I found myself flipping under the lane line to pull ahead. We were on the second 400, pull hard with paddles and I had to make my move. Nevermind that Chris can literally swim circles around me in short course, that he can lap me in a 500. Tonight I was moving and I don’t know why. Somewhere from the depths of soreness and fatigue, deep within my very sore ass I pulled this pull set out and I don’t know how or why. But what I’ve learned in Ironman training is that sometimes you just go with it because these moments don’t often come by.
Afterwards, I’m feeling good about myself. Maybe my body has finally learned. Maybe it is true that muscles have memory and that I will come through this year faster and stronger overall. Maybe I won’t walk around for the next 8 weeks in a weary haze waiting for October 13th like my final sentence down a proverbial death by Ironman row.
And as I stood there getting ready to go do some lifting, feeling strong, and confident, fast and sure, ready to go knock out 20 reps barely bench pressing the...bar itself...I pulled my shoes out of my bag, put them on, looked down and said out loud:
“I am wearing two completely different shoes.” Both racing flats, true, but two completely different shape, size, color shoes.
Why? Well, I’m training for Ironman. And moments like this – little dumb ass attacks where you are too tired to put together the skills to match a pair of shoes – are par for the Ironman in training course and will likely reoccur within the next few weeks.
So much for the good swim.