Sunday, September 16, 2012

Still an Iron Maiden

When I signed up for the Ironman US Championship last year, I thought I had a much better idea of what I was in for.  The vision of racing in my hometown, like the NYC Tri but bigger, with my friends and family to cheer me on, was awe-inspiring.  While logging miles on the treadmill, I visualized running down the finisher chute.  In my planning, I changed things up a bit, joining a team of fellow Ironmaniacs in training, all of us dragging our tired and sore behinds out of bed when many people were getting home, all in the name of surviving seventeen hours of swimming, biking, and running.  I thought this would give me an extra boost of support in the shared suffering.  I thought that this year would be different, that I'd be ready or at least make myself ready, that I would be able to stick with the eight-month regimen and hear those six words all wannabe Ironmen and women want to hear.  What it boils down to is, I thought I'd be able to transcend my previous athletic mediocrity, to push myself, to prove to myself and others that I had the mettle and the skill to do this.  

Boy, was I dead effing wrong.

In all fairness, my situation was vastly different eighteen months ago.  It seems inconceivable that almost my entire life would be thrown up in the air and land in different circles on the Twister board.  New job, new man, new living situation, new kidney for mom have all added up to figuring out which end is up again and again.  It has been exhausting and confusing.  Why did I not anticipate any of this when I hit Submit and dropped more money than I care to admit on a single race?  How could I know that I would feel the tug of all these occasionally conflicting forces, almost like being emotionally pulled apart by four horsemen?  It came down to sheer physical exhaustion and being really honest that my travel schedule for my job would not allow me to log the miles on the bike that I need, especially since I'm still struggling with anxiety on training rides.  What made matters worse, WTC's ticket logging system does not work well at all, and it took escalation to the race director to get my refund.

Don't get me wrong, it was a fantastic experience to volunteer and spectate.  Also glad I did not have the pleasure of swimming in potentially sewage-contaminated water.  I was so pumped for trying again in 2013, even when standing on line to register and hearing about the price increase and the time cut.  After that punch in the gut, the final body blow came when they then suspended and cancelled the race.  

A huge sense of regret and disappointment has subsided but still lingers, as well as burnout.  I feel like I let myself down. In a way, it hurts worse than those thin college rejection letters because I don't think I fought hard enough for it. Maybe that's harsh, but it's what festers in me.  This quote from Ironman champ Chris Lieto gives me some comfort as I ponder what's next:

"There’s a point where you have to realize that Ironman is not your life, and that you have to look at what you want to do with the rest of your career and get healthy. When it’s all said and done, does it really matter if I go to Hawaii or not? Do I come back 100 percent next year versus having a lackluster performance like I did last year in Hawaii because of the same issue?" 

Here's to next year, ever upward (I hope).