After 15 or so weeks of getting up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to train, it is refreshing to get up and know that I don’t have to cover any particular distance on my bike or feet. It’s a strange feeling, however.
It’s been 6 days since the event and I’m still surprised by how quickly I have recovered. I expected to be stiff and sore for several days. Perhaps I am in better condition these days than before. Maybe the training paid off and that I was smart in my racing and didn’t push myself too far. Either way, I feel good and that is what is the most important.
I will have to start training for the Ironman in couple more weeks and this round will be much harder than the previous training cycle. But I know what I need to do for the Ironman. I need to push myself even harder than before for this event. The half-Ironman was hard and the full will be even harder. There will be some very long weekends coming up where I will put more mileage on my body than I will in my car.
But I am looking forward to it. I feel confident that I have the experience and the ability to cross the finish line in Tempe this year.
However, for now, I am going to enjoy the lazy morning and the early afternoon nap today.
Rest is just as important as training.
Sunday morning, I’m standing with the other 40-41 year-olds before the race. We joked with each other about the course, our training, and water temperature. Then at the 10-minute warning, one triathlete casually asked: “why do we do this?”
No one answered.
The question haunted me during the entire swim. Even though I had done the training, put the time in, and worked hard, I still had doubts about the entire event. I’ve been wondering since Friday when I arrived why I had decided to this. Why did I put all the time and energy into something like this, why was I doing this to myself?
At the same time, I found myself dealing with questions and doubts about my ability to complete the 70.3 miles on Sunday let alone the 140.6 miles in November. It all seemed so difficult and painful and I couldn’t find a reason why I was doing it let alone why I decided to do it. I knew that there were reasons of personal challenge but I couldn’t feel them, I couldn’t understand them.
And so I began the event. My goggles kept fogging up which forced me to stop every 25 strokes and try to clear them up. My pace was good, but my mind could not stay focused on the moment. All I wanted to do was get out of the water. All I wanted was for the day to be over.
But I kept going. I finished the swim as was out of transition within the hour, exactly as I had planned.
The bike began quickly but the sun was not out. I dressed for hot weather but instead it was overcast and cold. There was a slight mist that kept me from ever getting dry and my skin from warming up. My legs were warm within minutes, but my upper body and arms would not warm up. At the same time, my left hip decided to tighten up and would not stop hurting. It would become a pain that would stay with me the entire ride.
The first 6 miles of the ride were flat and fast, but that was the last time the course would ever feel that way. I found myself wishing I had my road bike with me by mile ten. The course undulated up and down, it was difficult to find a rhythm and settle into a pace. Every time I thought I could settle down, another hill appeared. Some were fast inclines, others forced me to downshift quickly. At the same time, my rear derailleur decided to start slipping in the middle gears. So I had about two good low gears and two good high gears. As a result, I found myself either spinning or powering up hills, which did not help my pace.
My heart rate would not settle down either. Instead of a 153 heart rate, I hovered around 165. I was unsure if I could maintain such a high rate for the entire 56 miles and still have enough energy to finish the 13.1 miles of running. But I kept moving.
I found the first aid station at mile 18. I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and made a quick bathroom break. I stretched my hip as best as I could standing up. I gathered myself and told myself that I was just over a quarter of the way down.
It was a strange moment, around mile 20. I was moving fast, I felt strong, but most importantly, I felt a fire in heart, a fire I had felt for a long time. I felt a source of energy that was familiar and a heard a voice that told me to keep going. It was exciting for me. I started to remember why I was doing this. There was no logical reason behind all this. This was not a mental challenge as I told myself it was. It was to fulfill a desire deep within my spirit.
I longed to travel far, to move fast, to discover how far I could go. I had to find out what I had within me, what kind of strength lived within me, prove to myself that I could keep going even when I thought I couldn’t.
And from mile 20, until mile 70.3, I never had a moment of doubt. I grew weak at times, I grew tired, I hurt, but I never stopped. I never questioned myself. I knew I could do it. Maybe I could not go as fast as those around me, but I could go.
The bike never got easier. The wind increased and the hills got longer. Everyone talked about the hill at mile 42, but either my odometer was wrong, or there was a second hill at mile 45 that was extremely hard. I had to dismount and walk up the hill. It was the only way to avoid blowing out my legs. The fact that I had to walk up the hill infuriated me, but I used that sudden anger to power me through the remaining 11 miles. I also realized that I was going to finish the bike course nearly 30 minutes sooner than I planned. This meant that I would have more time to finish the run, which is my weakest sport.
The remained 11 miles were fast. I dropped into the aero position and pushed the bike as hard as I could. It responded quickly and inspired me to try harder. Before I knew it, I pulled into T2.
The problem with doing an 8-hour half-Ironman is that when you pull into T2, there is already a large group of people who have already finished the race. It is difficult to pull yourself into the run when you look around and see others walking about with finishers medals. I tied my shoes, took a deep breath, and started running.
I decided that a 2-minute run and three-minute walk interval pace would be just enough to propel me forward and allow me to keep a 15-minute mile pace, leaving me with a 3.25-hour half-marathon. It would not be the fastest run, but it would be fast enough.
It was an out and back run, so I told myself that all I had to do was get to the turn around and make my home. It was not going to be a 13-mile run for me, but rather two 6-mile runs.
I never stopped smiling during those 3 plus hours. I knew I was going to finish before the 5pm cutoff. I knew that I would finish under 8 hours and 30 minutes. I knew that it would be a success.
I’m not going to lie and say that the race was easy. It was not. It was the hardest bike course I have ever ridden and the hardest run course I have ever done. I questioned my training and my weight lifting, but here I am the next morning, feeling strong even if a little sore. My walking is slow but not painful. In the end I finished strong.
And I’m ready to do another one already.
Final time: 08:21:51.
In about 14 hours I will enter the water and begin what hopefully will be a good day. It will be a long day, but a good day nonetheless.
I spent the morning at Windsor High School, where T2 and the finish are located. I have to say that it was one of the fastest registrations I have ever been through. Maybe it was because I arrived just as registration opened. But I have to say that the folks here at Vineman really run an efficient race. I was impressed. I stayed for the race meeting and then made my way down to Guerneville River to investigate the swim course. Plus I needed to time the distance from the hotel to the start.
The swim course looks fine and the water looks calm. It will be a bit warm, close to 72 degrees, which is only a slight concern since my wetsuit can get very warm. At the same time, warm water is a nice thing after dealing with 55 degree water in past swims.
There was lots of discussion by others about the bike course. But all the comments were positive and it appears that the bike course will not be as difficult as it looks. Of course, all that will be confirmed soon enough.
Overall, I feel good about the event. I am nervous, as expected. I am anxious. I am excited.
I just need to stay calm and focused for another 13 hours or so.
It was a long drive, but I am now in Rohnert Park, about 20 miles from the race start. I had a slight late start and all was good until I reached the Bay area. There are a lot of cars in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. And the 101 moves much slower out here than it does in LA. Something I will try to remember next time I get stuck in 101 traffic in LA.
The nights before and event are tense and confusing at times. It's all about staying calm and relaxing and keeping your mind off the event. But at the same time I need to focus on the event and start visualizing the entire event. I have to admit, it has been a while since I've had to do this. It was easier when I was doing an event once a month.
In any case, the primary goal for the rest of the evening is to get to bed early and get some serious rest. There will be more tomorrow.
So it has been 4 months since I last wrote, just sometime after finishing the LA Marathon. I've been busy, I've been active, but I have not been online as much as I have been in the past. However, I will try to make amends in time.
I am sitting on the edge of starting another event - a half-Ironman. The last half-Ironman I did was in Oceanside in April 2004. That was a long day and I have not tackeld that distance then. I have done Olympic and Sprint distances, and even attempted Ironman, but not the 70.3 as it is now known. This race in Vineman (aka Napa Valley) is on the 20th of this month and is the launch point for Ironman Arizona in November. It is a point of checking in as well, to see how I feel and how my mind is.
It really is all about the mind these days. I find myself giving up too easily at times and having to work very hard at reaching deep into my soul to find the strength to keep moving forward. I eventually find source of strength and move forward, but it is not as easy as it used to be. Some times I wonder if I have gotten soft or am not touch enough. I don't know.
But I do know that when I dig in, it is deep and powerful. I am much stronger and tougher now that I have ever been. I can feel the power when I search for it. But doubt holds me back at times. I find myself wondering if I really do have enough energy to go just a bit harder to finish sooner. I worry about fading or bonking.
These are the thoughts that I must deal with this week. These are the doubts I must remove and come to terms with. In a way, I seem to have forgotten that this is not an easy journey. A half-Ironman is difficult, it is supposed to be difficult. That's why it exists. These events are meant to test the body and mind. Doing nothing is easy.
I joke around with the expression: where there is pain, there is healing. Now while it might not apply to all situations, in Ironman and triathlon, it seems to apply well. The pain is a means of reaching the finish, of crossing the line, of telling yourself that nothing is impossible. People talk about the possibility of anything, but few actually believe it or live it.
For whatever reason, I have been hiding from possibility and allowing impossibility to enter my mind. It seems silly, but perhaps that is what has been going on. I don't know if it is my age or some sort of dissatisfaction of where I am with my life, but this has been happening. And thinking that there are limits in your reality will create limits.
And thus I find myself standing on the edge again. I could easily walk away and blame my lack of participation on my age, or my limiations, or my lack of time.
Or I can wear the wetsuit, strap on the helmet, lace up the running shoes and go as hard and fast as I can go and prove to only myself that the dream is still alive. The dream that has kept me up at night wondering how it will feel. The dream that began from the first day I read about an event called Ironman and felt my spirit leap forward and declare that someday I would cross the line.
The moment begins on July 20th.
I am ready.