This race was a pivot point for me.
My mother-in-law (and others) often ask me WHY? Why do you keep doing these races? Why do you put your body through the training? The long weekends? The race day itself? (1068.8 miles of ironman racing since 2012). Why do you sacrifice your time and your energy and your money to do such long races?
The answer is self-discovery.
These races tend to bring out all the feels.
I had a mental victory on this day. I had my slowest marathon time since IM France in 2016, but I had some major wins while I was out there for over six hours. I mentioned that I turned off my run/walk alerts and simply ran when I wanted and walked when I needed. My Pez co-pilot for this race was a wolf. I chose him for two reasons.
"NOW this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.
I was inspired all day by my pack. Jen, Maria and Tonya made me stronger. They made me resilient and tough. In my weaker moments, I remembered our training days. Our Saturdays in the hot sun on country roads. It made me push a little harder and dig a little deeper. The word for this race was TEAM and this team was brave and adventurous and unstoppable. Even though I was the coach, at times, I needed them more than they needed me.
The other reason for the wolf was inspired by this story:
One evening, an elderly Cherokee chief told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, ‘Grandpa, which wolf wins?’
The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one that you feed.’
In races, the good wolf - loves to run. She loves to run with the pack. She loves to lead the pack. She digs in her claws and springs into action. She chases and kind of likes being chased. The bad wolf says: just walk! for crying out Mike. That voice says: give in. It’s worthless. You’re not winning. You don’t even have to finish. She likes to give in when the going gets rough. She succumbs to the pressure. Her mood spirals down like water in a drain.
All day long I fed the good wolf. Wolfie! What a good girl! Look at what you just did! You ran all the way up that hill. And down that one. In the rain! I promised her chicken broth and cola. I told her she was right on track. I complimented her when she kept running. I encouraged her to run through the next timing mat. I told her if she ran up this hill and down that hill that I would take care of her after the race. I’d let her do all of her favorite things (like organize things and sleep late).
Disappointment. What?! You just finished 140.6 miles of swimbikerun and you are disappointed?! Yes. I felt it AS SOON AS I crossed the finish line. I wanted to run faster. And bike better. And catch Jen and Maria. And claim a personal best. And qualify for Kona. I wanted to weigh 15 pounds less. In the race I was fully focused on the process, but as soon as I finished I was focused on the outcome. That shift created a big conflict within and the edginess that I felt pre-race returned as I stood in the pouring rain with my medal and hat and shirt and wrapped in my tin foil. That edginess is produced by pressure, both real and imagined and is always self-induced. It’s also produced by self-criticism. It’s produced by a feeling of NEVER ENOUGH. If I don’t keep this feeling in check, I tend to miss out on amazing moments. I tend to downplay the importance of them. I sometimes take for granted that my body can go farther on one day in swimbikerun than some people will drive in a week. I tend to check it off my list and move on to SOMETHING MORE. In doing so, I downplay myself. I play small.
In the days since, I’ve combated this by celebrating myself. It’s timely that Thanksgiving was this week. I’ve been reading social media posts about gratitude. I’ve listened to a podcast about THE GRATITUDE ADVANTAGE. I have worn my medal! Each day I’ve listed my wins for that day and put a star by them (like kindegarten) and done a happy dance for each one. I might just order this pillow:
This race was pivotal. In the wake of it all, new dreams formed and passions were reignited. Two major goals developed out of this race.
IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS, I want to coach 20 first-timers to their first IRONMAN finish. I have had the privilege of coaching TEN athletes through their first 140.6 training seasons and races. I love it. Even if I don’t see them cross the finish line, I love their victories. I love their new IRONMAN superpowers. I love their journeys and their own moments of self-discovery. I can’t wait to do it again.
I’M GOING TO KONA, BABY! IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS, I am going to qualify for Kona through the Ironman Legacy Program. The legacy program is set up to reward those who’ve done at least 12 MDOT races. Once you’ve done 12 races, your name is put in a drawing for a slot at the World Championships in Kona in October. I have done six MDOT races and I have six to go. In 2017, I went to Hawaii for the week of the race. I went for my Level II Coaching certification and while we were there Ace and I volunteered and spent the day watching the race. We were volunteers at body marking (I met the pros!) and saw the swim and parts of the bike start. Later that day we went out to the run course for a few hours to cheer athletes at the turn-around in town.
The one regret I had about that day was that we didn’t see the finish line. I knew then that I wanted to go back to Kona and for a year I’ve been imagining how it is going to feel when I coach one of my athletes (Jen and Matthew - who’s it gonna be?) across red carpet in Kailua-Kona.
But now there’s another reason. It’s waiting for ME! I have to see it for myself. I am going to finish that grueling race and swim in the Pacific and ride up to Hawi and run down the Queen K highway and into that finish chute and across that line for me! I am going to own every mile between now and then. I am going to celebrate the swims and bikes and runs that will get me to and through that race. And, although it probably won’t be my last race, it will be a testament to my strength and endurance and love for a sport that has taught me so much about who I am and what I’m meant to be. #teammeanttobe