Most people know that I don’t put a lot of weight in numbers. Yes, I keep track of my heart rate and speed and time, all in the effort of quantifying my experience and telling myself that I am making progress and getting better. But I try not to let the numbers let me down. But this past week I was in the doctor’s office and was alarmed and disturbed that one set of numbers went up—my weight. I was 193 lbs in September and now I’m back at 206 lbs. And it seems that most of that took place in the month after the marathon.
But it all makes sense. Things started feeling different in February and things were strange. So I’m not as surprised as I am disturbed. Unfortunately, the numbers for my weight always leave me feeling depressed in some way. A lot of things in triathlon would be easier if I were lighter. In fact, everything would be easier.
And so I’m faced with a challenge again. I was at this weight before; I can bring it down again. I lost some momentum after the marathon. I didn’t realize that the race would take more out of me than I thought. Then I got sick. So it’s at least another week before I can get this body moving the way I want it to. But it will happen.
There are always setbacks, there are always detours and distractions, but the goal must stay clear. I have a lot of plans this year, so I have plenty of reasons to start moving. It just seems strange sometimes that we allow ourselves to fall further than we planned. Not because we want a greater challenge. But it is more that we need to feel the depths and taste the dirt. We need to hurt in a way to give us the strength to get up and exceed what we thought was possible. Maybe we’re strange this way. And maybe this is why many of us never cross the boundary.
We simply haven’t fallen far enough.
The most daunting thing about the marathon is the distance. You never really grasp how long 26.2 miles is until you do it. Even if you train up to a 20-mile run, the remained 10k is still longer than you think. But I must say, that of all the distances I have covered, this one is the most satisfying.
The day began warmer than expected, especially since it rained the day before. The sun had broke through the clouds by 8am but there was still breeze that kept the air moving. One never realizes that there is very little shade in Los Angeles, and very little trees as well. The first 1.5 miles was a steady climb up Cahuenga followed by a steady descent for the next 4 miles. I paced myself carefully throughout the first 10 miles, I walked when I needed to in order to lower my hear rate. But as I approached mile 11, things suddenly started to hurt.
I am well accustomed to the usual dull pain in your legs after moving for 3 hours. It’s all part of the training. But I started feeling hotspots on my right foot –and that was alarming. I have used the same shoe and sock combination all winter in my training and never had a problem, but the hotspots were disturbing because they are the first sign of a blister. Blisters and I do not get along very well.
By mile 12 I was down to a walk. Because my blisters had been forming for some time, I realized that I had been adjusting my gait to compensate, and in turn was wearing down the left side of my body.
There is a point in all endurance events when stopping seems like the only logical choice. It is a point where your body is yelling louder than your mind can handle. It is at this moment you discover what it really means to be an endurance athlete. Being an endurance athlete means that you have chosen to ignore the voices telling you to stop, that you actually dare to go further than you planned, that you have chosen to discover how far you can really go. It sounds crazy and seems risky, but it is an incredibly liberating experience. That’s why I’m out there.
I’m not going to lie and say that everything from mile 12 to the end was easy or fun. It was painful and uncomfortable. And even three days later I’m still limping from a pulled hamstring and dealing with blisters. Some may ask if the experience was worth it. Others may ask why didn’t I stop.
The truth is that I had to know what it was like. I needed to know what crossing that finish line felt like. And it was more than just knowing for the sake of the Ironman, but to actually do it. Even though every step after mile 19 was painful. Even though I knew that every mile meant a longer recovery time and a bigger blisters.
This was the first big event for the year and it seems frightening to say that the events get bigger from this point on. The next stop is a half-Ironman in Northern California on July 20.
This is a year of long distances and fantastic journeys.