I expended so much energy to make it to that finish line that by the time I was done, I was numb. I was excited in the immediate aftermath, but by the next day, I didn't know what to feel. I wanted so badly to be on cloud 9, and I wasn't. I've learned now that the typical 'runner's high' isn't always applicable for an ironman race. Since then, it's slowly come on a little more. But like any huge event, once it was here, it was over "so fast" (sort of) and then there was nothing left to do other than to sort through the emotions and feelings of the experience.
So where does that leave me, with regard to ironman?
I am incredibly proud of myself for the day that I endured. In no way am I trying to be all humble braggy with "look how much I overcame to be an ironman!" because I didn't want to. It's true, I fought through a lot. I pushed my body for 17 hours on a sliver of the nutrition I'd planned, and anyone who is an endurance athlete knows all too well how brutal that is. I had to overrule every natural instinct to stop and save my body. But I wanted to quit. I was sad, I was bleak. I think I said repeatedly "It wasn't supposed to be like this". And it wasn't.
Everyone says an ironman isn't supposed to be easy. I agree. Like the quote from A League of Their Own, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great". But, it was never supposed to be THAT hard. I was truly heartbroken that all the months of diligent training I had done was being wasted. I know that's not true. Had I not trained so smart and so hard, I probably wouldn't have been able to keep going. However, I couldn't help but think to myself how unfair it was. Maybe that is a childish sentiment, and it was sure useless to me. I know so many people didn't get to finish the race at all. I did. But I felt so much disappointment that my body was so unable to race well. Everyone battled the same conditions and so many athletes were still able to accomplish stellar performances. I was envious of that.
For my first ironman, I truly did want to enjoy the experience. For the majority of the race, I didn't. I didn't want to wish it away, but eventually, I was. I wanted to stay in the present, but the miles ahead couldn't be ignored. Had it not been my first ironman, I may not have finished. But somewhere inside, I could NOT live with the idea of not finishing, for as long as that choice was mine. There were plenty of miles where I didn't care, I didn't care if I couldn't finish because I had so many legitimate reasons not to continue. But, I couldn't not finish. Not unless they pulled me off the course.
And of course, I am also competitive. Even if it was my first race, and I didn't plan on having any major time goals, I still had certain loose ideas of what I was capable of. I wanted to do justice to all my training. Erin had done an incredible job of coaching me, and I wanted to show it off. I wanted to race to the best of my abilities. I wanted all the miles I had ridden and run in the snow, rain, or heat to pay off. It was so difficult for me to let go of that. Endurance races are always a gamble-you never know how it will turn out, and very few races ever turn out to be unicorns and puppies and rainbows. But, I never really expected it to turn out like this.
So no, I am not done with ironman. It will be a while before I can take on the distance again, because of family and life. Everyone sacrifices so much to get an ironman to her start line, and then to the finish. In the time I have been with Jordan, we have each done an ironman. It takes it's toll, and NO finish line is worth the risk of our relationship, if he's not on board with it. That, and I really need him to forget the experience we had in CDA before I can try again! But, I know I'm not done. Similar to my first marathon, when I finished, I knew I wasn't done, but I knew I didn't want to experience that again for a while. Still, I eventually came back, and have since run marathons that I know reflect what I am capable of. I want that for ironman. It's not really about the time, it never is. I want to be able to race to my potential. And someday, I will.
I am so incredibly proud of the day I had at ironman for what it taught me. I've wanted to quit races before, when my goal pace goes out the window. When I knew I wouldn't PR, qualify for Boston, or any other goal. I've given up plenty of times, and half-assed my way to the finish line. At ironman, I had to dig deeper than I ever have before. When there was nothing left physically or mentally to pull from, it was sheer willpower that kept me going. I got to experience things at ironman that I never expected. The darkness of the course after sunset. The raw emotion of trying to push your body when it's done. The finish line in the last hour... the last minutes. I had always wanted to go back at midnight (or 11pm, in this case) to see that. But I got to live it. I never, ever planned for that... but I can't deny it was pretty incredible to be on this side of it.
And someday, Lord (and family) willing, I'll make it there again.