Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Trigger Happy

I spent Sunday evening glued to my laptop watching Ironman Coeur d’Alene stream through.

You too?

It was a very special race. I had three athletes competing. I waited for them to cross the finish line like a mother waiting for a teenager to come home for the night. With each split I checked there was first fear – what if it’s not going well – then elation – oh thank goodness it’s going well – and back to fear – what if something next doesn’t go well.

The good news is that it all went well. Each crossed the finish line. I even got teary-eyed. I had never met Sara but when I noticed a young woman with a vibrant smile running down the chute crossing over to high five the spectator I thought to myself THAT’S MY GIRL! And sure enough there she was, crossing the line. Soon after, Scott and Al followed. Somehow they elusively snuck past my screen but then again there was a lot going on at that finish line (cartwheels, rolling, skipping, high fives, arm warmers, tears, a man carrying a rubber chicken, small children, couples and….cowboy hats).

Yet even with all of these good finishes, entertaining sights and happy I-DID-IT! phone calls, there is always bad news…..

Enter: suspense. What is the bad news, Liz?

The bad news is that this latest Ironman seems to have induced a wave of trigger happy sign-me-up-for-Ironman-NOW.

The e-mails started trickling in early on Monday. Some were logical (what do you think of me doing an Ironman?), some were teasing (I was this close to pressing the button to sign up for Ironman), some were desperate (my friends are trying to talk me into signing up for Ironman – help!) and some just admitted defeat (it took me 2000 presses but I got in!).

Oh my.

For all of this fever to take on Ironman, there are things you should know. Things beyond the fact that you will have to train to go 140.6 miles. That’s a given. There are other risks that are not as clear. Risks you should be ready to take on should you choose to train for Ironman. I’ve decided to list some of those risks for you. This list is not exhaustive, but mind you training for Ironman is. So if you’ve got something that I’ve missed on my list, let me know. Chances are I was too tired at the time of training to either recognize or record it:

1 – You may not pee clear for months. On the other side of things, you will poop 3x a day.

2 – You may find yourself weary eyed one night sitting on the couch thinking – who is that man? Yes, that is my husband whom I have seen for about 10 minutes each day in between sleeping, pooping, showering and stuffing food in my mouth.

3 – You will spend more money on workout clothes than normal clothes and you will find yourself thinking that workout clothes could very well pass for normal at-work clothes (they really don’t).

4 - You will spend at least one week convinced you have wounded your private parts for good.

5 – If you add up the time you will spend getting ready for training, doing the training, recovering from the training you will realize that training for Ironman is like taking on a part-time job. Think to yourself – am I ready to take on a part-time job?

6 – You may lose one of the following when training for Ironman; social life, friends, sleep, toenails, skin on your inner thighs, a little piece of your sanity but you will not – I repeat – will not lose weight (physiologically impossible during Ironman – trust me).

7 – Your car will look like you live in it. With your bike. Things you might find in your car include: baggies (you will carry half of your life in a plastic bag on your long rides), small white capsules (salt tabs that escaped), gel wrappers (sticking to anything they can), a scale (for the ongoing sweat rate test), empty water bottles (smelling funky after days old whey protein based sports drink rots in them), socks (used and unused, well, maybe just used just to be safe), goggles (they were your spare pair), bike route maps (folded, tattered from sweat and likely sealed in a baggie).

8 – You will eat 50 percent of your diet in bar or gel form. Fear not, this habit immediately ceases upon completion of Ironman OR at mile 1 of the run. At which point it will be replaced by rabid consumption of defizzed coke or cookies. You will then call your coach after you cross the line to say COOKIES SAVED MY MARATHON.

9 – If you were to stand naked without your tri clothes no one would know because the tan lines have ingrained their outline into your body for at least the next year.

10 – You will do something during Ironman training that completely scares the shit out of you – such as, staying up all night because you can’t sleep, eating an entire gallon of ice cream because you are so hungry, peeing the bed because you were so tired your brain forget to alert you to WAKE UP! WAKE UP!, waking up in the middle of the night sweating in the sheets so bad you need to change them (then again, wait…read the last one).

Regardless of the risks, we continue to watch finishers come across the Ironman finish line and can’t help but get drawn. We laugh at them, cry with them and dream for ourselves. You see the guy who goes 140.6 miles at an even pace and then sprints the finish line. You feel like you’ve found a kindred spirit. The announcer points this out and makes a joke – but perhaps he’s never been? I mean, all those guilty of sprinting to the finish line of Ironman raise your hand?

(mine’s up – twice)

Watching all of this you can’t help but feel – I want that to be me. There's an emotional connection that drawns you in to it. I want to be covered in sweat, I want to cross the line in tears, I want to put up my arms, I want to give the high fives. I want that. I want to do that. Again. So you start clicking on Ironmanlive……could I do Louisville? Wisconsin? Florida? Arizona? Where will my next one be? And when?

But then you realize it’s time to pull the trigger back. Because Ironman is really a loaded gun of hard work, long days and fatigue. The pay off of crossing the line is great but it comes at a huge cost – physically, socially, psychologically, even spiritually. It changes you. It will change what you think of yourself and how you see the world. You must be ready for that.

For those of us that did not just do an Ironman, we still have our sanity and can see all of this. It is a huge commitment of time and energy. Even though we are watching the finishers come across the line, we can stop ourselves, turn the computer off and consider Ironman another time. We realize that what was a fleeting idea while watching the finish line doesn’t sound so good once we turn the sound down. After all, it’s Ironman…you need to train for it for a really long time with really long swims, bikes and runs.

But for those that just did the race and are thinking they should immediately sign up for another Ironman - realize in the 4 weeks after completing an Ironman you are most vulnerable to suggestions like that. You’re in that unsafe place where you could make a very costly decision for yourself. You are in a sense the most trigger happy because you’re floating on the cloud of I AM AN IRONMAN! It’s a cloud of optimism and invincibility that further clouds your judgment for logical things.

But remember, clouds have no bottom and if you’re not careful with your footing you’ll fall right through. Especially after doing the race, your footing and feet in general are not very good. So I give you another list of warnings – for the recent IM finisher - of things not to do after Ironman:

1 – Do not make any major life purchases including cars, houses or pets.

2 – Do not pop that blister on your big toe.

3 – Do not wake up 2 days later saying “I FEEL GREAT!” and go for a run.

4 – Do not get a tattoo – think about it, ask around, give it time.

5 – Do not grab a bar when you are hungry in a rush – for crying out loud give your body real food!

6 – Do not make blanket statements like “that run was awesome” until you see yourself in the photos.

7 – Do not resurrect your racing outfit; instead lay it to rest with a proper burial in the backyard.

8 – Do not wonder if you could go back and do it faster; give yourself at least a month to enjoy what you did.

9 – Do not think you can sit around eating peanut butter cups for 2 weeks after the race without gaining weight; the post-race thinness lasts about…..one day.

10 – Do not peel the Ironman sticker off your bike; it’s a reminder of a memorable day, a monumental experience and every time you look down at it while riding no matter how the ride is going you’ll think back to the race and it will make you feel strong.

Now, everyone, hands off the trigger. Or hands off the REGISTER NOW button. Put the weapon down – whether it’s the lap top or that voice in your head that says sign up now. Step back, walk away, think about it for awhile. And if you still find yourself wondering should I do an Ironman, go back through the lists above and if all of that sounds like something you want to do for 6 to 9 months then by all means…fire away.

(so which one are doing we doing, huh? Louisville? Wisconsin? Florida? Arizona? CDA? Because you know my finger is on the trigger too……)


Alicia Parr said...

I can't speak for the men, but if you're a female, you WILL gain about 5 lbs during IM training. Oh, and Coke saved my marathon.

KodaFit said...

Should I be seeking some mental help? While that was a pretty extensive and ominous list of warnings, somehow I find myself drawn to it...

I'm not intending on pulling the trigger till 2010 though, so perhaps there is a little sanity left in me after all!

Thanks for the heads up though - perhaps I need to share this with my wife so she can get a sense of what she's in for!

Wes said...

Since I already signed up for Florida o8, are there any (sign me up) do overs? :-)

Flatman said...

I am not ready either....but oh how I want to!

Meredith said...

I helped Dave pull the trigger yesterday and somehow we both wound up logged in and it took a lot of willpower to log out of the website and not sign up. I know I'm not ready mentally even if I really want to be an Ironman. Dave is so excited, though. I saw him watching Ironman videos on YouTube yesterday.

IM Able said...

Yup. Check, check, check, and check.

I *want* it. And *want* is a powerful thing.

But I have to keep reeling myself in an promise that I won't take the plunge again until I have at least two solid, (relatively) pain-free halves under my belt. Until I'm finishing stronger at the distance, I'm just asking for trouble for a full.

But it doesn't change the want.

Or the compulsion to estimate travel time to each race and hotel costs. And consider terrain and time of year. And check the elevation charts.


Someday. Someday for sure.


Alili said...

Hmmm, I resemble this post! And oddly after reading the list (many times over) I am still drawn to it all.


Muppetdog said...

Great post! I'm shooting for late 2009 and it's good to have some more personal warnings of what I'm getting myself into :)

Anonymous said...

So, which one did you signup for? I think you may have left out something regarding having to poop in weird places - like maybe your pants? And, I'm not even an Ironman - never did one, never will. Although I want to hear that phrase for myself, it will never happen - no, I mean it, really I do....


Stef said...

There are many reasons why Iron is not on my radar. Mostly the sheer amount of time I imagine it would take. Thanks for the list!

Danni said...

I read your list and I am ready!!!!

LZ said...

I have been a fan of your blog for a while and Sara is one of my best friends (I swam with her in college), when she told me she had hired you, I enthusiastically told her about how I read your blog all the time (thanks to Alicia Parr, Marit, Bri Gaal...).

She has said great things about you and I thank you for getting her across the finish line with a smile! (I too was watching) And if I ever choose to do an ironman, I am convinced that I would want you to be my coach! Keep drinking coffee!!
-Laurie Zack

Anonymous said...

Sigh. If/when you REALLY get the bug again, call me. I just may be ready to pull that trigger again someday. Now that I'm up to 5 whole miles in a run, I"m feeling invincible! -- Applebutter

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

I'm with Alicia - about 5 lbs gained during training. And then lost with a crash. :) As for me, well, I AM trigger happy. IM CDA '09. Round 2. Well - round 2 of training, round 1 of IM. Love the list. There were 2 weeks where I though I had done permanent damage to the lady bits. And yes, the sheets were changed a few nights due to sweat... and my social life was put to rest. But it was an experience I will never forget.

Now about that race....

ELF - which one are YOU doing... ?

Amber and Eric Rydholm said...

The crazy option is being able to sign up for the following year the day before the race. This led to Amber signing up for her 2nd Canada before she had raced her 1st.

Also, you can lose wieght during IM training and we have a spreadsheet for proof. Yes, we are engineers.


Dave said...

It might have taken me 2000 clicks, but I think I stayed in zone 3 most of the time. :)

Eileen Swanson said...

I love this Liz! Great stuff....Now, let's do one together ;-)


Bob Mitera said...

Only when I've been consistent in my training and trimmed some fat.

When I do re-appear at an Ironman I will be fit. To be anything less than perfect is asking for a long day.

One more Kona...that's all I want. (which means at least one or two more IM in my future)

Sara said...

I think the not losing weight thing only applies to Ironman because I've lost at least 10 pounds and gone down two pant sizes during your half ironman training program! Only a few more weeks to go....

Sarah said...

Ha. I love this. And yes, I was very close yesterday, but I need to finish my first half before I do anything too crazy ;)

rr said...

Add me to the Alicia/Marit/ohshitshe'sdoingIM lets fatten up club.

Liz, you can do mine in Oct. for me, OK? I'll give you my left foot and my Timex jersey.

Anonymous said...

If you have already experienced item number 4 (wounded parts for extended periods) at shorter distances, does that pre-qualify you for consideration of the iron distance?...cuz if so, REGISTER ME NOW!!!



CAMI said...

I must be crazy because although I'm not even thinking about it at the moment, your list makes me want to get started tri-ing. :)

Wisconsin Ironman Wannabe said...

Wow - it's like you know me and have seen my car! It is nice to know I am not alone in my training and these experiences.

Jen Foley said...

Love reading your blogs, I think this is your best one! Bravo!!
Your Trisport teammate

BreeWee said...


You nailed this post! 6lbs Kona, 4lbs Japan (and it ain't all muscle)!

Okay... where we going? Meet you in Lake Placid...!!

TRI-ROB said...

PLEASE tell me that you signed up for CdA!

I pulled the trigger in my mind back when I was 17 years old... think that's been enough time to think about it?


Jen said...

Liz...great post. During the last 12 miles of my IM run I swore to myself I would NEVER EVER EVER do it again...but now that the kids are getting older, I am getting trigger happy.

Once the race was over - and I use the word race very loosely - I thought to myself...oh. that wasn't so bad :)

I'm thinking IM FL 09...are you in?
We could make it a blogger chicks reunion party!

Mark said...

Ha! I have hit the register button at least 5 times, and have even filled out all the forms (twice) and have been THIS close do doing it (for CDA) but didn't - yet :)

Part of me wants to sign up for my second one before I even do my first so I don't chicken out once I know the pain ;)

KK said...

You perfectly nailed my behavior between the hours of 12-1pm on Monday...alas, I came to my senses and realized no. not this year. not yet. thanks for another great post!