It is just over 48 hours since I pulled out from the Ironman and I have gained much perspective since. It’s curious in a way for me because although I can solve problems very quickly, it takes me time to arrive to conclusions.
As expected, Ironman Arizona 2009 sold out early this morning. Once North American Sports announced the new registration process a few weeks ago, I knew that races in the US would sell out almost immediately. And like I said before, if you want to do one of these races, you really have to want to do it because odds are you will need to visit the race site the morning after the race in order to register. In the past 4 years I have watched this race grow exponentially in participants. It seems that everyone wants to be part of this phenomenon.
I learned a lot about my limitations, which is something you don’t expect to admit. I know that I am not at my ideal weight and that slows me down. I know that I need to work a lot more on the run. I don’t do well in cold weather or water. And I know that my asthma is more real than I care to admit. It is these factors that make Ironman difficult for me.
But it has been a long time since I have felt good about a race. Two weeks before the Ironman I ran a 5k and felt lousy after it for several days. My LA Marathon was literally a bloody mess. And while Vineman 70.3 was good overall, it was not a great race. The last great race I had was doing a sprint XTerra off-road triathlon in May 2007.
Triathlon only makes up a small percentage of who I am. My world consists of much more than just triathlon. Ironman has consumed my life for the past several years. An old friend put it well several months ago: “You’ve got a score to settle with that distance.”
And while that is true, I think the healthiest decision both mentally and physically is to let the distance go. The stubborn side of me still runs Sunday past me and says that maybe I could have found a way to keep going and finish. But here I am two days later and my biceps and triceps still hurt. My hamstrings are still sore. Even my palms are tired from holding the handle bar for those 74 miles.
Pulling out when I did was a smart idea. I got myself out of a bad situation before it got worse.
That is not an easy decision for ego to accept. No. Ego wants to conquer the world. Ego wants to prove that he is just as tough as anyone else. Ego was glory. Ego would find a way to glorify crawling across the finish line and passing out.
My ego gets me into a lot of trouble these days.
And so 48 hours later, I have accepted my decisions. I am not sad, upset, or angry about the decision. I feel lighter. This score I wanted to settle was something I imposed on myself. I didn’t finish the Ironman but people still think I’m nuts for even trying one. And many others respect me for trying one and getting as far as I did.
But in the moments when I lose perspective I remind myself that on Easter Sunday 2003, three of my friends and I got together to celebrate the end of Lent and that I rode my bike 20 miles on that morning.
I have come a long way since those 20 miles. But every time I ride down the San Gabriel River path and cross the bridge that marks the 10-mile spot, I slow down and remember that moment.
It was only 20 miles, but on that day it felt like I had just conquered the toughest distance I could imagine.