My friend and fellow Ironman (HELL YEAH) Chris once commented that the only reason people do Ironman races is because of a deathly combination of age and stupidity.
He’s a therapist, so he clearly knows what he’s talking about.
ANYWAY. The Ironman happened. I almost don’t even know where to begin, so I will start by pointing out that I made the “Idaho? WHO’S A HO?” joke about 23 times in my head while riding. Hey, it’s a 7 hour bike ride: you have to make your own fun.
Couer d’Alene Idaho is a gorgeous, gorgeous place. I’m told it looks a lot like Tahoe, with it’s deep lake surrounded by mountains; I’ve never been to Tahoe, but I’ll go with it. It was amazing. The house we rented had a deck that looked out to the lake and the mountains and it was just… I mean, regardless of the race, this was a great place for a week long summer vacation with friends.
Speaking of the lake: It was 58 degrees. That is SO COLD, you guys. But, we got there early so we could acclimate, and we did. By race day (Sunday), the water felt damn near refreshing. We went swimming the day after the race and it was like a full body ice pack; I felt fully recovered after that swim, all my muscles finally cool and relaxed.
Speaking of the race: Oh, hell. There is just no way around it: This was just not any fun. Let’s go step by step:
Swim is my favorite triathlon category. I’m good at it, I get into a zone, I can get it done. This swim was two loops in the lake, and I felt like I was on a good path to negative split, but on the second loop the current and the swells kicked up, keeping my pace even with the first loop. I posted a decent time, but I worked for it. My overall time was 1:20, which is significantly slower than my last IM (1:12), but everyone in our group claimed similar drop off in times; as long as I’m consistent with the field, I’m ok with that.
Hm. Well. Ok. The hills on this bike were not insignificant. We drove the course the Friday before, and all of us got veeerrrryyy quiet, reassessing how we thought we’d do, taking in the sheer mountain climbing that needed to happen. Mentally, this drive really threw me off my game.
It turns out I enjoy climbing hills, and passed consistently while doing so. More tellingly, I wasn’t passed a single time going up hill. (Of course, everyone and their mother passed me going downhill and on the flats. Whatever).
I was worried the climbing would kill my legs for the marathon, so I tried to be as conservative as possible on the first loop and on the flats. I let everyone pass me in the first 20 miles, thinking to myself: “Man, you must SUCK at swimming” (Hey, I gotta let myself feel good about getting out of the water in front of them, right?)
Second bike loop went ok, but I was starting to feel off nutritionally. A nice little low point came for me when I threw up while ON my bike,while climbing a hill. I knew something was off — HR too high, hydration not right, but, what can you do? I tried to triage and get off the damn bike already.
“Run” Ha. So cute. Except for the first mile, I did not run a single step of this marathon. What I wrote to my coach the day after the race:
Got out, ran the first mile, legs happy to be moving, hips happy to be off the bike. And then I threw up. Again. My heart went into tachycardia and was skyrocketing up, and my field of vision was blacking. I was definitely dehydrated, which is usually the main cause of my heart freaking out, so I quickly rescaled my plan to hydrate as much as possible and get my body temp down so I could get my HR down and start running again. Walking briskly allowed me to keep field of vision and keep fluids in, so…that was my plan.
Around mile 10ish I wanted to try running again (legs! felt great!) and immediately lost sight and started retching, and had to take a little moment on the ground (read: I fell over) which was the point the volunteers were like “yeah, you’re done”. Luckily (?) I was able to convince medical that I didn’t need treatment, I’d be fine standing up in juuuuust a second, and could I please have some water?
By that point I was just waiting out the sun, hoping if the temps cooled I could get my body heat down and subsequently my HR. That didn’t actually work; my heart stayed in tachycardia the entire time. I was able to take in (and keep in) exactly zero calories on the run. (“run”), but again, my legs still felt strong, and I was able to walk about a 13 min pace on that back half. Finished the marathon pissed and out of it, and walked myself directly to medical, where me and the cardio doc hung out for a bit, I went home and was all “ironman, bitches!
You guys, I did not care one bit if I finished this race. Not one little bit. When my heart goes into SVT, I can stop it, but not while running a marathon. And I swear to you, I did not care. What do you prove, finishing a race like an Ironman? Especially two hours after you thought you would? You prove nothing. The proof of awesomeness lies in the dedication of daily training, for weeks, months. Training for this race I saw my body get fitter, faster, and I felt more control of it than I ever have. That feeling doesn’t change by the actions of one day. One day, out of so, so many. I swear to you: I did not care if I finished this race.
But. And this is a significant “but”: I mean, I was there. Maybe it was because I saw someone who had already finished wearing a finishers shirt, and it looked nice, and I wanted it. Maybe it’s because my husband was out there, finishing on a broken foot. Or my friend Chris, not having the day he wanted, either, but finishing regardless. Maybe it’s because I knew – after I was done being scared that my heart was really screwy, and when I realized that I could mitigate the screwyness – I *could* finish, and I was just being grumpy that I wasn’t finishing the way I wanted to, and that’s not really the person I want to be.
Walking a marathon is not fun. I did not have fun, finishing this race. I was confused and scared that my heart was acting up, after so many years of not. I shuffled my way down the finish shoot and directly into the medical tent, forcing the cardio doc there to pay attention to me until normal heart rhythm returned.
I felt good, the next day. My legs felt great. I have the muscle for the Ironman, but not the heart. Not on Sunday, anyway.
But you know what else I have? I have wonderful, wonderful friends, who think it is a good idea to spend our weekends out riding our bikes, running up hills, throwing weights around, doing pull ups, and spending their summer vacation by a lake in Idaho, who have built with me this wonderful, wonderful life encompassing fitness and laughter and lots and lots of food. What’s one day of a heart being screwy, when I have a whole life of that? Ironman isn’t the day, it’s all the days that get you there.
And a healthy dose of old age and stupidity never hurt, either.