Wednesday, July 29, 2015

the post mortem :: IMCDA

After ironman.

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.



  1. Totally feel for ya. I kind of felt that, but I know I still had a great day. I know the heat affected me, but I know I handled it pretty decently, so even though I think I could have done a little better in more reasonable conditions, I'm not sure if it made a huuuuugge difference.... but I know for some people, it did.

    This is something I thought a lot about the last few days, actually, after watching IM Canada! Conditions SUCKED for that race, it was literally the opposite of our race. Instead of heat stroke, people were pulled off the bike right and left from hypothermia. I think the cold might even be a little worse than the heat, since you get frozen and can't move, and I'd probably just walk downhill instead of ride down in the streams of water, but who really knows. In any case, I watched sooo many athletes on Sunday who I know were really struggling, and I know were having a tough time reconciling with the fact that they weren't racing the race they wanted to or knew they could. That is such a frustrating feeling! It's like you know it, but still...doesn't make it any better! But, I think you hit the nail on the head--sure, you could have done better under better circumstances, but you didn't waste the training. All that training allowed you to still finish DESPITE the circumstances! Racing is weird.

    Anyway, so happy to hear you'll be back to ironman sometime..but I totally get wanting to take a break and forget about it for a while. It'll always be there. Time to get used to normal life again, huh!? :)

    1. Yes! I wondered if I would have rather had Canada conditions or not. I don't necessarily mind the cold as much; but the rain. Boo to that. They (esp Mac!) are all so badass. This year has been absurd weather for racing ironmans. Lake Placid maybe?! Haha. I would be back within a few years if I could, but Jordan would say never again ever. Maybe once my kiddo is done with school. And the recovery part sucks too. I'm hating it right now because I want to just be running fast, and feel good again.

      But, I am looking forward to doing shorter races and seeing if maybe I can be vaguely competitive at those! I've never done a 70.3 and I would like to do a few of them!

    2. Yeah... I mean I hate to make it sound like our insane heat was "not that bad," because it really was not ideal at all... but I guess it's easier to keep cool than warm up? I do really badly in the cold. Plus, when you get so cold, you can't move your fingers! Apparently that's why no one could eat or drink on the bike, just being totally frozen and immobile. At least being hot, we could move! lol. And yeah, the rain... I am already scared descending, and there was so much standing water (or, rivers of water flowing downhill), I know I would have been TERRIFIED in that water. So yeah. We were joking that if we could have just averaged the weather between our two races, it would have been a nice, overcast 65F. :)

      Funny, I haven't done a 70.3 either...and now it seems like that training would be super manageable! Next year will probably be about running, for me, with maybe a 70.3 for good measure. Totally feel you on wanting to feel good and run fast! I can run about the same as I was right before CDA, but my heart rate is still skyrocketing and it just doesn't feel GOOD, you know? And I know I don't have the speed I used to, which is understandable but still kind of annoying....

    3. Exactly! Why can't there have been a happy medium. I hate the wind too, and last year's CDA was epically windy on the bike. Though I think now I would have chosen wind over heat. I could eat in a cool stiff wind at least. Oh well... it's rarely going to be perfect!

      Any fun running goals?!? I want to do a 70.3 and I know it won't balance with a marathon, but we'll see... maybe a fall marathon! I'm still not sure I'm ready to go back to the marathon yet.

      I know... I can't wait til running feels GOOD again. The first mile or two usually feel good, but then the recovery from that severe dehydration rears it's head and it's a strugglebus. Oh well. All in due time, or other cliches to make me feel better.

    4. I'm pretty sure wind is just more demoralizing mentally, than anything.. so yeah, I'll take the mental struggle over the physical struggle ;)

      I swear my heart rate has been even higher the last week than the first couple weeks after ironman, even... it was hitting 190s which is TOTALLY unheard of for me and I kind of freaked out, but then yesterday on the bike it was hitting 160 when I was barely pedaling, so I think maybe the sensor is having some issues. But it still FEELS about that crazy!

      Running....hmmmm...I'm thinking it'll be a marathon year next year. I think I have forgotten about the marathon pain of last year, so now it seems totally doable compared to this silly 140.6 business. I would love to qualify for Boston, and I think it's doable if I buckle down and get my legs back. Sooo that might be the big goal. I don't really have a huge attachment to actually running Boston, other than it being the "big" thing, but it's a very concrete goal so I might shoot for it. Haven't even started to think of what race(s) though. I really enjoyed just jumping into a lot of local sprint tris last summer, so maybe I could do that and still run? So funny how marathon training seems soooo tame now! Long runs on the weekend? Maybe throw in some extra cross training during the week, plus another few runs? How did that seem like so much, before ironman? ;)

    5. I'm loving the comment string chat! :-)

      The upshot of wind is that when it's an out and back (say, Hwy 95) they FLEW back to town... so sure, it sucks to struggle out... but at least you can tell yourself when you turn around, it SHOULD get better. Heat and rain? Not so much.

      Oh yeah... qualifying for Boston! That's why I had to step back from marathoning. I tried 4-ish times to qualify (ish because once, it wasn't even my goal, and I came within 22 seconds-but in a marathon, like most long races, I was too delirious to realize how close I was, I was only thinking "holy shit I'm killing my goal!") and since then it just got to be a struggle. I had too many mental roadblocks to reaching my dream sub 3:30 so I finally decided it was time to stop chasing that goal for a little while. Hence ironman. And other triathlons! :)

      But yes, marathon training will be totally manageable by comparison. I remember saying that to people "well, ironman shouldn't be too bad, I've trained for 5 marathons with pretty high volume..." oh Monica, you silly little fool. Even when I was running 65 miles a week I didn't even touch the kind of hours IM required. Oof.

      And sprint tris + marathon is totally doable!!! I've done that a lot! Okay, I never actually trained for a triathlon until ironman. I always just jumped in with a handful of bike rides and maybe a swim or two for the year.

    6. 22 seconds is brutal! But yeah, funny how you only focus/realize certain things.

      I only recently started trying to have actual goals--up until the end of last year it was always "do the best you can, see what happens!" Then at the Seattle half I decided to actually have a time goal and "race" a run race (decided the night before; smart). And I realized I could actually do that. Etc etc. It's awesome, but I'm always a little worried for that very reason--what if I don't make it?! What if I just come close but can't quite reach it?! Won't that just make it that much more awful?! Eeeeeeek. I dunno. So yeah, that's me and goals like that lol.

      That's the great thing about the sprints and stuff, especially if you keep up some level of the swimming and biking just a cross-training. We'll see :)

      And I just signed up for Cabo!!!! For the 70.3 though. I got talked down into doing the half, which I am happy/sad about. But whatever. That does mean working on speed now which is good, I'm tired of ONLY thinking about endurance! ;) It's hard to think of new goals since I've done olys and now IM, but not a what level of exertion is THAT?! So weird. We'll see how it goes :) That'll be a good cap off of the ironman year, I think

    7. I'm so jealous!!!! I wanna go to Cabo!!!! And race!!!

      I think 70.3 will be the perfect level of training! I'm such a volume athlete... when I train for marathons I don't really feel good until I'm hitting my 50+ mile weeks. So I feel like maybe it'll be the same for triathlon. It won't require soooooo much time and be soooo slow. But it'll be enough to keep my focus. I feel like I get so lazy in the low volume zone. It's easier for me to skip out on something. Even if it's just mental. Like, I LOVE hitting that 50 number. Like i LOVED hitting 14+ hour weeks for IM... but when I don't have that to reach for, I tend to be like "meh."

      I KNOW! I'm the same in racing I think. I mean, I have big goals, but I tend not to push myself quite to my limit because I never want to be like 'well I gave it everything I had, and turns out... I can't do it.' so I seem to always be comfortable with the 'but I could have gone harder... so I CAN be better. Maybe.'

      I'm still dreaming of my sub 1:40 half. Someday. But I can't wait to train for a 70.3... there's a local one here in May that I want to do, instead of jumping on the IMCDA 70.3 option (because I feel better supporting the small local race... plus... chances of placing are higher?!)

      Woo, excited to stalk your cabo training!

  2. Yes, go you with the Ironman! You are awesome! And also, Yes to coffee! Y.E.S. It's more of a necessity than toilet paper! (OK, as long as you have some kleenex to use as a backup...) Fantastic blog, come check mine out while you sip!

    1. Thank you! And yes, coffee is lifeblood. Or something, you know.. I mean, I can quit any time... maybe.

      Def will check out your blog, and thanks for reading!! :)

  3. Congrats on pushing through incredibly tough conditions. I think that it would be hard to NOT feel disappointment, in some way, while also being proud of yourself for crossing that finish line.
    I hope that you can enjoy some post-IM time as you consider what's next.

    1. Thank you!! Yes, I just like to race to my potential, and it's a hard pill to swallow when I can't. In any distance. But a finish is a finish, esp at ironman!

      So far, post - IM downtime looks like way too much food and couch time :-) Thank you for reading!