Life has improved dramatically since I re-entered the pool. This morning was freezing cold and I was a mere head on the pillow away from skipping my swim, but because I have joined a group that gives me three solid chances to swim each week, I got my butt out of bed and made it to the pool at 5:45. And I’m so glad I did. I love the feeling of a hard swim and the dryness and scent that lingers on my hands and skin for the rest of the day. They are a reminder of my accomplishment and the progress that is sure to follow.
A friend asked me recently why I put so much into the triathlon thing. Why bother with doing another Ironman? Why try to do two in one year? I was somewhat dismissive of the question at the time, saying only that it’s fun. But it’s much more than that. Much more. Here’s my best attempt to put the why into words.
Life is hard sometimes. People often disappoint, whether intentionally or unintentionally. For many of us, life is a bit of a solo effort and that sometimes feels like a disappointment in and of itself. Work can be rewarding but, like many, I don’t want to be defined by my work. Family is wonderful, but I don’t want to be defined by my family – as great as mine is – any more than I want to be defined by my work. Family had a lot of say in who I was and what I did when I was growing up. My adult life is my time to be my own self. But who is that? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know who I was designed up be or what I was designed to do. I don’t yet know my highest and best purpose. I believe I have one. I believe we all do. But what is that for me? I have no idea.
What I know about myself right now is that the day to day of a solo life is not enough for me. I need big goals. I need a mission. I need something to get me out of my own head a bit and give me something to focus my heart on. Maybe if I had a family – husband and kids – I’d want to put my effort elsewhere, but right now, it’s just me, and I need something more. The Ironman gives me that something more. I like planning my training. I like working my body. I like having a big red letter day on the calendar and putting my heart and soul into making that day happen. I like doing something I didn’t believe I could do – something many others didn’t believe I could do. I like doing something that most people are not willing even to try. The Ironman makes me feel like I’m doing something big. Grand even.
I made the decision to do Coeur d’Alene shortly after getting my heart broken. To call it heartbreak diminishes it. I made the decision to do Coeur d’Alene shortly after giving the best I had to offer to another person only to have that person choose someone else and lie to me for over a year with no regret. At the time, I felt small. Worse, I felt I couldn’t trust my own judgment. I had been very wrong for a very long time and that was very hard to stomach. But I had to rebuild myself. When the opportunity to do Coeur d’Alene came up, I saw it as an opportunity to rebuild myself a million times stronger than I had ever been. It proved to be that and more.
Until you have been there, you cannot know the experience of walking into an Ironman town as one of them, of starting that race in a terrifying mass of bodies, of talking yourself through the swim, the bike and the run, and of finishing – officially finishing – with a nightime crowd cheering so loudly for you that you can’t hear anything negative in your own mind. All you can think is how proud you are of yourself and how worth it every minute of training was and how you can’t wait to eat something and go to bed and get up the next day and start the rest of your life with a different sense of faith in who you are and what you can accomplish.
That is the Ironman experience for me. It is something I want to experience again and again, no matter the “cost.” So I had to skip some concerts and go home early some nights? So I had to wake up early nearly every day of the week to get my workouts in? So I had to get myself out of my warm bed and go out into the freezing cold for a swim? So what? I get to be an Ironman. I get to do another race on May 1, and, God willing, I will get to cross that finish line and experience that sense of bliss and peace and renewal again.
I can’t wait.