My first Iron-distance triathlon is in 26 days. I’ve been training solidly for 20 weeks, the first half of which was fully enjoyable and manageable. Then the hours started to creep up. A couple 20hr training weeks in mid-July and mid-August have left me pining for my yoga mat, wondering if I’ll ever do a full back bend again. When I finally dragged myself into his office, my body worker wasn’t very enthusiastic about the state of my body either. I mumbled some excuse about how my neck gets tight when I’m swimming in rough water while he gently pummeled the knots in my upper back.
The past two weeks have been particularly full training weeks (hence no Weekly News last week). They included several miles of open water swimming, a couple hundred miles of biking, a boulder-hop-hike up Katahdin and my own half-ironman yesterday. I rarely drink alcohol because I hate the hangover, but waking up the morning after hiking Katahdin I felt like I had been on a wild bender the night before. Stiff, tired, queasy and all I wanted to do was return to bed. I’m not very good at taking time to recover, but last week I was forced to lay low between workouts. The girls love it when I’m tired because it means more puzzles and books with them. The house and garden are showing my neglect and Jerome is definitely taking up the slack. (Thanks buddy!)
At this point in my training, when I am so fully committed that it would be an insult to all involved if I back out is exactly when I start to question the worthiness of my endeavor. A significant part of trail running and triathlon feels so utterly meaningless and self-involved. At my low points I start brooding: summer is almost over and all I have to show for it is some bike grease on my calves and a new forehead wrinkle where my swim goggles fit too tight. I mean, I have all these amazing friends who do all these amazing things in the summer – renovating their old farmhouse (and having babies), organizing gorgeous farm to table dinners and building their own permaculture yurt homestead. They are producing beautiful things and making long lasting friendships while I run around the Peninsula like a frenetic Labrador retriever.
I’ve heard that when you’re in the middle of a very long, very difficult training run or race, it’s helpful to have some meaningful reason to be out there. Something that keeps you from throwing in the towel, something wonderful and selfless to dedicate your efforts toward. This doesn’t seem to apply to me. I am really good at moving forward, albeit slowly. Moving forward is my default. Instead, it seems like I need something meaningful to hold me in place. For the most part that’s been my kids. If it weren’t for them I would surely be off wandering the wilds with my sketchpad and gallon jug of water. Least you think I’m heartlessly throwing Jerome under the bus here, have no fear, he would happily come along with his own beat up copy of Lord of the Rings, that’s why I married him, he’s just as happy wandering the desert as I am.
For me there is no bigger meaning, no broader dedication behind what I do. In all of my various practices I move for the in-the-moment feeling of connection to myself and to nature and because it quiets the static of my mind and mood. Also, I love setting an impossible goal and proving myself wrong. I’m not opposed to pain and discomfort, though I’m not as masochistic as some think. When the going gets tough I do say little mantras to keep myself going. I chant to my friends that I know would love to be out moving their own bodies down the trail but for various reasons can’t. I think a ton about the immense privilege I have of choosing my challenges and I try to honor that by not resenting or regretting how I spend my time.
Exactly how have I been spending my time the last 20 weeks? Here are some stats. It’s a little horrifying to see this in writing, but it also explains why my garden and house look the way they do (and why I may have failed to return your email recently):
April 1 – August 17, 2014:
Swim 85 miles (~56hrs)
Bike 2,050 miles (~130hrs)
Run 360 miles (~65hrs)
The numbers average out to 12 ½ hours a week, which doesn’t seem too crazy . . . Not included is the hiking I’ve been substituting instead of running. I’m working with some nagging inner heel pain that gets worse when I run on the road or when I use my shin muscles to lift my feet instead of my glutes and the pain goes away when I hike barefoot on uneven trails uphill, which the girls are happy to do with me.
Two more weeks of heavy training and hopefully the grass won’t be too long to mow during my two easy pre-race weeks. I’ll have a practice go at the Olympic distance Lobsterman Tri on September 6 in Freeport and then the big one in Hunter, New York on September 12. I’ll let you know how it goes.
P.S. Can we change the name yet? I simply cannot identify with or take pride in being an Ironman. Not that Ironwoman sounds much better, but at least I can own it. Multi-Sport-Person is appropriately gender and mineral neutral but still lacking something . . . help me out here.