Thursday, August 11, 2011

From The Land of Iron

Fear not: I don’t need to be revived from the iron-dead.

Yet.

It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged. I keep meaning to sit down and write but every time I do I end up reading OMG! Hey, there’s a lot of important celebrity gossip out there! Last week, on the floor with my laptop, ready to write, I got sucked into Jersey Shore instead.

I’m still shaking that one off.

It’s not that I don’t have material. I’m training for an Ironman and I have a one year old. I've got plenty of material. It’s just that: my life has become increasingly ironed out. There is work, home, childcare. These are things I need to do. Any extra time that I do have is consumed by preparing for the next day’s workouts, eating or sleeping (or when you have a one year old, trying to sleep).

Yes, I’m officially training for Ironman.

I know this is true as I often find myself shifting between feeling Iron Fit and Iron Fat. If you’ve ever trained for this, you know what I mean. You feel fitter than ever. On days when the temperature is below…90….you are easily hitting paces that used to take effort. Yet at the same time you feel fatter than ever. It is the mathematical impossibility of burning 3000+ calories in a long workout yet getting on the scale the next day to find you’ve gained 7 pounds.

I woke up this morning and grumbled to Chris that I was sore, tired and feeling fat. His reply:

Sounds like you are training for Ironman.

You just can’t hide from it. Take life, mix in work, add many hours of training, a small child, domestic responsibilities (if I’m not training, there’s a good chance I’m folding towels in the laundry room), toss together, serve at what has been a consistently hotter than hell temperature and you get…

Iron Liz. A salty, sassy version of her former self. I’d like to say smaller but…see above.

All of this explains why I caved and bought tickets to Ale Fest on Saturday. I don’t drink beer. I actually don’t drink much at all and definitely never drink before 5 pm. Ale Fest was the exception. Two streets blocked off, 200 different types of beer, one pint glass. And that is how you find yourself drunk at 3 pm on a Saturday. The worst part?

We got there at 2:30.

The best part about drinking before 5 pm? You are sober by 5 and ready to resume your sadly iron-ated life by going to bed at 8:30 pm so you can wake up at 4:30 to drive to Madison to ride over 5 hours and run 40 minutes.

One word for that: ironrific!

My life has become measured in the number of workouts each day, the number of gels consumed and bottles of salt tabs. Speaking of salt tabs, you know you are having a moment of iron-desperation when you turn around to pick up the 6 salt tabs you dropped in the middle of a county road and then – knowing you will need all of them at some point during the day – eat two of them.

After one had been run over.


The other night it struck me that my life just might qualify now as Iron Lame. It was Friday night. I was doing a little online shopping. For Zym. I then composed an email to a friend to talk about the aerodynamics of my current hydration system. I was in bed by 9 pm so I could wake up early the next day to run long.

Week upon week, the iron work piles up. And the miles. The grocery bill. And the laundry. This week I am resting. The past 3 weeks I put in some solid work and I survived. The last day was a little shaky. I was up in Verona to ride the loops of the IMWI course. I’ve been riding the course with my Ironman group. They – because they have to. Me – because it builds character. Seriously. I forgot how truly nasty that course is. The first loop was a little rough. The second loop almost broke me. I had the brilliant idea to ride the loop in reverse. If you ever have the opportunity, take my word for it: don’t. By mile 80, I had quit the run off the bike. By mile 95 I had gotten over myself and put on my running shoes. I started the negotiations. One of those runs where first you say – I’m not doing it. Then you say, I’ll go 1 mile out and back. Then you say, ok, I’ll do 30 minutes. And before you know it all 40 minutes are done and you get that feeling of giving it a complete effort, the euphoria of finishing what you started. And then the reality that it’s 5 pm and you haven’t eaten real food yet.

The weather cracked recently which means it is finally below 90 degrees. Nothing feels better than a dewpoint of 55. The few days where it was 78 degrees with a dewpoint of 73 and a 15 mile long run? Sponge. You could have wrung me out. There was another long run when it was a 112 degree heat index. I now refer to that as the run that may have taken a year off my life. Swimming in 85 degree water, biking through humidity so thick it takes zone 3 power to cut through it. Summer this year has been challenging. I told myself at the start of the summer that I would not complain about the heat because 1 – I am training for Kona, 2 – on race day you cannot cut the course short, move the day of the race or change the weather so you might as well get used to it, 3 – no one would listen (or care) anyways. In other words, get over yourself and do your workout. That mantra has worked pretty well for me so far in training.

Something that I forgot in the past 4 years since I last trained for an Ironman is how there are actually 6 parts of long course triathlon. There is the swim, bike, run. And transition. And nutrition. And your mind. Most athletes make a good effort at preparing the first 3, faking number 4, loosely planning for number 5 and skipping number 6. When it comes to Ironman, I actually think you should work that list in reverse. Learn to manage your mind. Have a well-practiced fuel plan that you execute, avoid spending 20 minutes of your race in transition (for a lot of reasons beyond the PR – you’re losing momentum, you’re not fueling…), run frequently, bike quality miles at a realistic pace and swim for efficiency.

Kurt is helping me assemble the swim, bike, run. The workouts are simple, consistent and effective. He gives me the work, I get it done. Transitions – over a decade in the sport and still can’t do a flying mount/dismount. But I also haven’t practiced. Nutrition – I’ve used the same plan for years because it works. And the mind? As I get out there, I notice my mind is much easier to manage now. I don’t doubt myself, worry about what others think, obsess much about the paces/watts I hit (or miss). Most of the time I am just happy to have made it out of the house dressed for the correct sport. Motherhood is wonderful for your mind. Very freeing. Sometimes I have negative thoughts but I’ve learned to distrust them. Honestly, out there, what could happen that I can’t handle? Maybe motherhood makes you more confident. Or maybe after so much cage-pacing crazy each day you don’t care WHAT you're doing, you’re just happy to be out of the house and not needing to spend another 10 minutes cleaning up the high chair.

I hate that thing. When Max is done with it, I’m throwing it into the creek behind my house. Or rolling it into the middle of I-88.

I looked ahead on my schedule today. Why? As if I would be scheduled for a week of wine, those chocolate-covered English Toffee things from Trader Joe’s and naps. I noticed an upcoming week where I run for 6 days. The seventh day? That would be the day I call up the podiatrist and ask him to reattach my foot. And..this just in….is that a run twice in one day? I slowly backed away from my laptop, hands over my eyes while telling myself it will be ok. What I like most about long course training is that even as an adult you experience as “first”. I’ve never ran that much before. It strikes a little fear in me but also a little excitement about the challenge of something new. We as adults adapt very well, our body is efficient and looks for sneaky ways to conserve energy in what we typically do. Throw a new demand at it and you force a new adaptation. This is how you learn and grow. This is what I love about endurance sports!

These days I enjoy all of my swims, bikes and runs. No, really. It's amazing. Every workout is an adventure – can I make it to White Willow Road, how many different ways can I swim around the quarry, where will I run today. This is the fun side of sport that I forgot about as I made it more about performance. Sure, I still have performance goals. But at the end of the day/race, no matter what happens, I’m still me, I’m still a mom, I’m still a complete person. I strive for my performance goals to prove to myself that even as I get older, I can still make gains. Even as my life is more complicated, I can still find focus and channel into my personal goals. And even though a little over a year ago I felt like I would never reassemble my body/my life into a machine that can do all of this, I can.

When I finished Ironman 4 years ago, I remember all that passed through my head from mile 22 onward was yes I can. It’s funny what you find on the other side of iron. I never forgot that lesson. When someone tells me you can’t (gosh, how many people said I would never find time to do any of this after Max), it makes me want to prove to them that yes I can. Maybe that’s what this year was all about. Not necessarily proving it to myself but to everyone else that we all have excuses, rationalizations and reasons. I’m too busy at work, I have a child, I’m too old. Keep thinking long enough and you’ll come up with a dozen reasons why you shouldn’t do anything.

Max turned one year old on July 23 at 5:43 pm. I’m pretty sure it was 5:44 pm when I thought to myself – giddy up, game on, doctor, how long until I can run again? 24 hours later, when they would finally let me out of bed, I could barely walk 5 minutes down the hall. My still gigantic stomach jiggled like jelly. I didn’t care. I didn’t listen. As soon as the pain meds wore off, I took the upcoming year by the balls (yipe!), looked it directly in the eyes and said yes I can.

I’m going to enjoy the next few days of rest before I jump feet first back into the land of iron again. And with all this extra time I have, I’ll probably drain all of the blisters on my feet and reorganize my Bento Box. But now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a high chair full of waffles and applesauce to hose down. I'm going to resist the urge to throw that thing into oncoming traffic and feed my child from the kitchen floor for the next few years. And the towels in the dryer begging to be folded for the 239404th time this week? Yes I can. YES I CAN!

12 comments:

Morgan said...

This post = just another reason why I think you're wonder woman in disguise and will always think you're an inspiration to all us athlete's. Keep up the great work Ironwoman!

Beth said...

So glad to read one of your posts again! I use "yes I can" a lot. Whether I believe it at the time or not, it works magic! :) As always, you continue to inspire Liz!

Molly said...

This is really ringing a bell this year...you've nailed the IM training experience to a tee! I keep wondering how I found time to blog a lot last time around. Your posts keep me raring to go chasing my own goals!

Brandon said...

I was wondering where you went. The rumors of your demise have been greatly exaggerated.
~B

My Life and Running said...

Salty & fat... exactly how I've been feeling some days! Super impressed at all you've accomplished this year. And envy you that mommy mind that's going to drag you to the Iron finish!

E.L.F. said...

B- that's hilarious! Hope your running is going well.

Kris said...

At least you have IM to blame for feeling salty and fat....I got nothing....just the fat.

If you took 4 yrs between IM's then I won't feel bad about *not* doing one for a few more years. :)

You're going to be amazing in Kona! Can't wait to see it!

Lisa said...

Your posts leave me chuckling and motivated....thank you!

Molly said...

*facepalm* I just saw the 1st episode of the Italy season. There are no words...

mtanner said...

Missed you and your writing! But totally get it. Keep it going ELF-

Alicia Parr said...

Of course you can.

Mary IronMatron said...

Just getting caught up here.
So good to have another mom out there who gets it. OF course, you live far away. That is the problem. I wish I could assemble the six or so moms who understand that you Can, if you want it, if you really want it... and move us all into the same town. Did I tell you I ran 9 days after my first C-section? I got it down to 7 days by my third...
But alas, in my town there are mostly moms who look at me like I am at best, insane, and at worst, working out twenty hours a week so I can be thinner than they are....
:)