It's not quite fear. It's not really nerves. Or even excitement or anticipation. I'm not sure it has a single word assigned to it in our language. It's the feeling you get when you've been doing something for so long that you forget it's part of a larger end goal, and that goal is finally in sight. Like when the captain of the plane wraps up the multi-hour flight with 'we've begun our initial descent' and you suddenly remember that you're on a plane heading toward a destination. You haven't been aimlessly floating in the giant metal bird without purpose.
That's what 25 days out from an Ironman triathlon feels like. It's time to store the electronics and return the tray tables to their upright and locked positions. And buckle up, Buttercup, the fasten seatbelt sign is on.
We officially started this season on November 2nd of last year. But with unofficial preseason workouts, meetings and planning sessions, we are well over 8 months into this endeavor. I've never training for anything this long. And never spent so much training time with...people. Other than just me and my brain. My previous races of this distance - iron and ultra - were 22 and 20 weeks respectively. One ultra with a buddy. The other ultra and one Ironman alone. So being in week 35 of the same training program is a little odd. On the one hand, the amount of dedicated time is comforting - I damn sure know I've put in the training. But on the other hand - it's startling to realize we actually have to take the race-day test soon.
Maybe it's in my head now because I got to see the majority of my teammates compete and complete Ironman Coeur d'Alene last weekend. Whirlwind tour of beautiful Idaho. A wonderful race exhibiting some extremely determined people. Walked away from that trip very impressed by the group. My friends became Ironmen for their first and second time. A few were halted by the clock, but are still some of the most inspiring and determined folks I've ever met.
And now the lens turns to the remaining 14 Greater Los Angeles Ironteam racers - the Vinemen. We've got our two biggest weekends of the season lined up. This weekend is a 100-mile ride and short transition run on Saturday. And then an ocean swim (somewhere in the 2-mile range) and a 20-mile run on Sunday. The following week is our mega-brick, 5hrs of riding and 3hrs of running on Saturday. And then another ocean swim and double-digit run on Sunday. Top of the mountain! We'll recover for a week and taper into the race day on July 27th.
I'm as happy-as-a-hamster-on-a-wheel working out for hours. So, barring nutrition or heat fails, it will be an enjoyable climb to the top of this mountain. But I'm also looking forward to our recovery and taper. This season did not go as expected. The demands of my day job shifted dramatically this spring, and a lot of the time I had allotted to balancing my life disappeared. I have done the best I can to handle. And my friends have weathered my complaints and frustrations. The tiny dance parties I held at the beginning of the season are long gone. I miss having downtime, laughing a lot, and having fun outside of the sports world. I'm weary. But everyone who trains for events this extreme deals with these sacrifices. And it's worth it in the end. I have raised funds in good cause, met a whole group of wonderful people, and gotten to do things I never thought I would.
In these last-stretch in-betweens, when the people I talk to daily grow tired of my work grips and my waning enthusiasm... I watch this video. I first learned about John Blais from "A Life Without Limits" - Chrissie Wellington's autobiography. And while I swear I've had my tear ducts removed, this story gets me every time.
When you are sitting on an airplane and going through turbulence, there is something oddly comforting when you look across the aisle and see that your fellow passengers are right there - jangled along - with you. No one is comfortable. No one enjoys the stress. But everyone is in the same situation, just dealing with it. I watch this video and I feel connected. John achieved his Ironman status in the face of the debilitating disease that would eventually take his life. I cannot fathom his pain, but I try to channel his courage. These days, I watch my teammates workout and I am reassured that I'm not the only one going through the tough stretch. We are all in it.
Rarely is there a plane ride that doesn't have a hiccup. It's all part of the trip. And getting from there (who I was in October 2012) to here (who I am now) is the purpose behind why I signed up for Vineman in the first place. To challenge and to change. So, Buttercup, this it is. Put the distractions away and focus on the touchdown. Turbulence or none, fog or none ... stick that landing.
My efforts are for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program. Check it out here.