The tunnel of fire.
We are at the peak of the final push, the last straw before the back breaks, and feel the heat of the Ironman fire every step of the way. We are tired. We are hungry. We are hurting. We are restless, antsy, waiting. Our thoughts are filled with Ironman, our conversations are filled with where to positions ourselves on the swim, our days are numbered until towards Hawaii we are on our way.
And we are getting to the point where the tunnel of fire seems to never end. We’ve been running through this tunnel since June 10th, when we qualified, signed the check. Since then we’ve trained for something far, many months away. The date gets closer but the tunnel doesn’t seem shorter and it’s these final miles that will take the longest until we arrive on the other side.
I was running the other day at 5:45 am, looked down and realized my heart rate monitor was stuck on stop watch countdown mode.
It was a sign, you could say.
And so every minute for the next 50 minutes, it beeped. Not that running at 5:45 am in the dark wasn’t annoying enough. Or getting my morning poop at 30 minutes into the run in the middle of the woods.
After that, the heart rate monitor completely died. Symbolic? You could say. A representation of how my body feels right now, a countdown that we are really ready to be done, the body is tired, the buttons are stuck, we are very close to break.
But first a peak week, a taper, and then an Ironman. See? Now that’s not so bad. Right?
The other day my coach asked how I was doing. On schedule that night was a 20 mile run. She said I could do it as long as nothing was niggling. Niggling? I told her it was pretty safe to say these days my entire body is one big niggle. Especially my left side – that would be left knee, left quad, left hamstring, ITB, foot, and heel. I told her I’ve put in a replacement order for all of these parts, hell how about a whole new left leg, but haven’t heard back from the manufacturer.
Top it all off with the fact that my stomach today has been tied in knots. Those knots. I know what you’re thinking – you do all that training and you still get it? I have come to realize that even if I was chasing it with a flaming stick I would still see it every 28 days. To chase it away with hours in the saddle, yards in the pool, and miles on the run? I wouldn’t be so lucky.
Chris is starting to feel it too. No, not the cramps but just about everything else. Yesterday I received a text message that simply said “worst workout ever”. Enough said. I replied with something along the lines of welcome to Ironman, the best of the worst training you’ve ever done. He came back home with stories of missing a morning poop (the kiss of death for a long ride), stomach dropping at mile 30, organized bike ride on a trail, excessive heat, high heart rate, yes, yes, yes all signs pointing towards Ironman training almost ready to be done.
He woke up the next morning convinced he had an Achilles strain. This began the usual I’m-training-for-Ironman-tirade of help convince me I am injured. You know, where you test, fret, and search for reasons why you are 100 percent injured, hurt, put me in a boot, on crutches, tell me I’m injured and sentence me to the couch for the next 30 days. Because when your body feels pain I am convinced we are not happy until someone says you are hurt. Otherwise why would you feel pain?
“Where is my Achilles?”, “do you think I strained my Achilles”, “what would it feel like if I hurt my Achilles?” all which left him hopping, bending, and pushing off in the living room while I convinced him that unless a bone was sticking through his skin, it hurt to hop, or experiencing non-stop stomach churning pain, he was not hurt.
Then what, what is it? What could it be?
YOU ARE TRAINING FOR IRONMAN. You are just in pain. Simple as that. You rode 100 miles yesterday. You went for a run. You will hurt. Maybe every day for the next few days. And if you wake up and something does not hurt – ask yourself how much you drank the night before or how much advil you had to take. Because the ways of Ironman are filled with pain.
Especially these final days.
But here’s the best part – the end of the tunnel is less than 3 weeks away. I know that rationally - even though irrationally it still seems weeks, maybe months away. I know that in another week I’ll begin to taper and the miles will decrease until race day.
Until then, our bodies will ache and burn and niggle in the tunnel of fire. Literally. It was 90 degrees here on Monday. It was mother nature’s way of telling us she’s still out there. Her fire still burns, and if not here in Illinois for much longer than thousands of miles away, on an island of Hawaii, October 13th, the real tunnel of fire we will run through on race day.