Mike and I were talking about back when we first met, and how that was kind of the beginning of our mutual triathlon careers (he’d been in it for awhile, but was training for his first Ironman when we started dating; I had heart surgery around the same time and picked up swimming and cycling as recovery stuff and well, if you run, swim, and bike, and date a triathlete, well…)
Anyway, in the middle of this reminiscing (“God, we were in great shape back in the day”) (“Also, 7 years younger”), I commented (whined) something related to the concept of being pregnant forever, and how I know that’s not technically possible, but it just feels like every day now- literally, every single DAY – is harder than the last, and things are deteriorating quicker than they have been. I have been completely spared most pregnancy indignities, but within the last week they’re all rushing at me – swollen feet, hands. Inability to sleep. I’m in full on waddle mode, and while I’d been doing extremely well dressing professionally at work, I’m now in the “look, at least I’m wearing clothes, OK?” zone. (Come at me bro. Seriously.)
Mike mentioned it must feel like mile 22 of an Ironman race – you are really, really so close to done, except that last four miles seems almost insurmountable. And: YES. I’m so close to done, you guys. So close. But I cannot imagine actually making it one more day, let alone like TEN more days.
Pregnancy as an Ironman is actually a metaphor that works quite well:
The Swim Start: Right before the swim start is amazing. You’re there on the beach, with 2500 other fools, jittery with excitement, with all the possibilities of a good day in front of you. You can’t do too much to control how the day goes down, but you’ve done the prep, and you’re about to get your chance to try. Getting to the swim start may have felt like it took forever, but you’re there now, and it’s your turn, and you can’t wait.
The Swim (2.4 miles/ 12 weeks): The start is rough. The 2500 people who were your closest friends 30 seconds before the start are now your mortal enemies as you all jockey for position in the water. You hope you don’t take an elbow or a foot to the nose or head, you hope you aren’t one of those people that randomly comes down with water induced vertigo, effectively ending your race before it even starts. You have moments – many of them, probably – where you’re swimming along and everything feels awesome because swimming is awesome, and you start thinking “hell yeah, this is happening. I am doing a fucking Ironman, y’all”. And then you get to a turnaround and you crash into 2500 other people and the water swirls and things feel out of control and you feel terrible and you hate everything, but no worries: eventually you find clear water and starts to feel manageable again.
T1/ Bike Out (5minutes-ISH / 13 week ultrasound): You made it through the swim. Maybe it was awesome, maybe it was terrible, depends on who you are and a lot of things you can’t control, but either way you’re 1/3 done and it feels good. Sure, there were probably moments where the whole thing seemed like a terrible idea but they were next to moments when the whole thing seemed like an awesome idea, and either way it doesn’t matter, because you did it, and it’s time to hit the hills.
The Bike (112 miles/ 2nd trimester): Oh, things are great. Really totally awesome. You love your bike. You love riding on pretty roads. You get into a groove and it’s like “Oh yeah, I know how to do this, let’s ride”. There are moments of discomfort, but that’s how it goes with cycling and you hopefully have decent enough gear to mitigate it. Modesty starts to go out the window but you’re still pretty sure you can make it through without publicly peeing yourself. Nutrition can make or break how you feel, but again, hopefully you’re doing it right. Things can still go wrong here to derail your day – you can blow a tire, a spoke, crash – some things will just set you back and make it harder day, some things will end the day altogether – but you can’t do too much about it, so you just keep cruising, hoping that your training and planning will you get you through. Near the end, you’re feeling it – 90 miles is a long way to ride and at that point you still have over an hour of cycling left – but you’re ok. You’re doing this.
T2/Run Out (5 minutes-ISH/ Start of the third tri): You made it. You’re off your bike, you’re throwing your running shoes on. At this point, there is very little that will stop you from finishing this race. So many things outside your control on the swim and the bike, but when it’s just you and your feet, there’s not a ton that can stop you. Sure, it can be hard – you could get cramps or blisters or whatever and have to walk the whole thing – but even if it’s not ideal, the odds of you finishing the day as an Ironman are higher than they’ve been at any other point. You can think to yourself “Oh, thank God, all I have to do is run a marathon”, which under normal circumstances is a complete preposterous thought, but after the morning you’ve just had, it makes total sense. All you have to do is keep moving, and the odds of success are really high.
The Run (26.2 miles/ third trimester): This is not the most comfortable you’ve ever been in your life. If this were a training run, you’d bail and go grab a sandwich, but as it is, at this stage, the only way out is through, so you keep moving forward. Food is kind of a crapshoot at this point, so you just eat whatever you think will make you feel the least bad. You might get into a zone, but your body feels heavy and while this type of movement isn’t new to you, you find yourself having to adapt your gait and your attitude to account for the new aches and pains you’re carrying. Parts of this run will feel great, parts will be all about “ok, just get to that next tree (tonight’s Unisom), and then reassess. Your race could still end at this point, but it’s highly unlikely, would be quite tragic, and you know if you just keep your wits about your, you’re almost done.
Mile 23 – 26.2 (Full term, still pregnant): You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me with this. You’ve come this far and you’re still not done. Everything is terrible. Your feet hurt your hips hurt you’ve never felt less like yourself and you have no idea why or how you’re going to find the motivation to keep moving, except for the knowledge that even if you quit the race you still need to somehow make your way back to the finish line, so you might as well run there. It’s only 3ish miles, 30 minutes, maybe less, out of an amazingly long day, but those three miles may actually be too much. You’re getting stupider and the littlest aches and pains that you never would have noticed before are now the only thing you can think about. Everyone is telling you that you look great and while you know they’re lying, you’ll take it anyway.
The finish line (Labor and Delivery): It’s there. You just have to keep moving. The final sprint hurts like hell but you’re excited and in the moment you can almost confuse pain with euphoria. And then you’re done. All that work, all that uncertainty, and you fucking did it. You’re an Ironman. You look like hell, your body is destroyed in ways you’re a little frightened to think too closely about, but it doesn’t really seem to matter, does it?