You spent your entire year (or is it life) training to get to this one precious moment in time. The first time you saw it on television you were amazed and bit mystified as to why people would spend so much time and effort for this single moment. As time passed and you had some success in your racing, you began to better understand the significance of this moment and perhaps dream of one day hearing those magic words (insert your name here)….you are an Ironman.
And now you are an Ironman.
And now what?
Sure, you’ll probably spend the next two days eating and sleeping and replaying the day’s events in your mind. You’ll probably always remember how good and salty that warm chicken broth tasted on the last few miles of your marathon.
You’ll most likely never forgot how hard it was to start a marathon after 112 mile bike ride. How heavy and tired your legs felt, and how you could not even image running for the next 4 to 6 hours as the sunset and the day turned into night.
You also remember the early morning start as you walked into the water full of nervous tension knowing that you “only” had 140.6 miles to go before you were done. Will you recall looking around at all the other faces as they looked back into your eyes wondering the same thing?
Or perhaps you’ll remember the salty taste of your own sweat as it rolled down your forehead, over your nose and onto your lips as you peddled away in the areo position for 112 miles. Or will you remember how you had to force down that 10th GU or 5th Powerbar, even though your stomach clearly gagged at the mere thought of eating?
Will you recall all those straining faces that you passed or that passed you? Will you remember the kind hands all the great volunteers handing you more food and drink as you just kept going…even though your body and mind were screaming at you to stop.
You’ll probably tell your friends and family that you finished in this or that many hours and hopefully they will be impressed. They probably won’t really get it, as they weren’t there with you on those countless early morning hours in the pool. Or on those long century rides or lonely 18-mile training runs on cold Saturday mornings. But you’ll always know the pain and the pleasure, the very high highs and the bottomless lows, the terror and the boundless joy and that’s what really matter in the end.
And now what?
I have a really sweet little secret I’ll be happy to share with you. For me being an Ironman isn’t really all that important. Sure it may be the cherry on top of the cake but the real treat is being Ironfit.
I walk around all day with this sweet little secret that I know, keep to myself and treasure. It’s not something that I tell people because the telling is not important. The knowing is what’s really important.
For instance, I know that I can run 14 miles at a drop of a hat and not feel all that tired or even winded. I know this because I just did it the other day and I felt so great afterwards that even raced a short indoor tri the next day.
I think back to just a few short years ago, when the thought of running 10K or 6.2 miles seemed like a huge achievement. Every year I would train long and hard to run the local 10 K race, and afterwards it seemed like I had just climbed Mount Everest.
And of course running a 10k race still is a great achievement, but from my Ironfit perspective a 10K is an easy mid week run. This doesn’t make me any better of person; it just makes me happy and warm inside to know that I’ve come such a long way.
For instance, I know that I can swim 10K today. I know this because a few years ago I did it as part of an open water long course race when I was worse shape than I am in now.
BTW: Here’s a funny story from that race. Open water swim rules don’t allow you to wear a wet suit or anything other than a swimsuit and goggles. You also get a support boat. You are allowed to eat and drink, but you can’t hold on to the boat or touch the bottom when you stop swimming to take on nutrition. This means that your support person can throw you food and drinks, but you can’t touch the boat to get them.
I thought that I was being really clever when I invented my swimming nutrition buoy. Basically I duct taped a Gatorade and Ice Tea bottle on a pull buoy and tied a rope around the entire thing. This way (I thought) my support person could through me the drinks and pull them back with the rope. This part worked.
Unfortunately I had never tested my nutrition buoy. The first time I tried to drink the Gatorade, I immediately began to sink and of course let got of the bottle top. Now I had no way to close the bottle. So when my crew pulled it back to the boat, I had a new Gatorade formula that was half Gatorade and half dirty lake water.
But I digress; I did eventually finish the swim at bit dehydrated in just over 4 hours. The good news is that the thought of a “mere” 2.4-mile swim today seems like a walk in the park.
And in a way that’s really the point to being Ironfit. It means that I know I can swim, bike, or run a pretty crazy distance and not feel tired or worn out. More importantly, I think, no… I know, that it also means that I have more energy and drive in the other parts of my daily life. It has become a lifestyle choice for me because I get so much more out of it than I put in.
I could spend 10 hours a week watching television or reading a book, but instead I spend it swimming, biking and running. And the really great trick is that I still have time to read, write, and watch television.
Why? Because I spend a lot less time being sick, because I sleep better, because I eat better, because I can concentrate better at work, because my mind stays sharp, and my emotions stay level, and because I get so much more joy out of life that I have so much more I can share.
So now what?
My next race is Ironman Austria this summer, but really (between you and me) I’m looking forward more to the journey than to the destination.