June 26, 2009

The Emotional Side of Ironman

So much of Ironman training is physical. It's about pushing your limits and seeing how far your body can take you. We all talk about HR zones, minutes logged and the miles and miles we cover, but beyond that there is another side to training, the emotional side that can be just as challenging at times. Now that we're in full swing Ironman training season, this topic is coming up more and frequently and it seems most of us experience some level of training blues from time to time. The frustrations come from having to give up other aspects of our livest to fit in the ever increasing training load, from disappointment in our training performance, from missing training due to life getting in the way, and from the constant thoughts of making it to the finish line.

Training has been an emotional rollercoaster for sure. My cycle of happiness tends to run about four weeks, then inevitably I hit a rough patch for anywhere from a day to a week where I wonder why the heck I do this and how I'm ever going to be trained enough to finish the race. But then something usually happens to snap me back and it all becomes clear. I do this because I love it. I do this because I can and I know I won't always be able to. I do this because life just isn't rewarding enough without significant challenges and this is by far the greatest challenge I've ever had.

Sure I've given up a lot for this sport. I used to meet up with friends at our favorite local bar a few days a week with Sunday afternoons being our regular time. I can't remember the last time I was able to go because I'm always out on my bike or running on a Sunday now. I don't have time to watch movies, I can't remember the last time I just relaxed or took a nap, I don't cook anymore and I don't watch TV. But I've gained a lot as well. I've met somewhere around 50 new people through this sport and the discipline of training has made me better in other aspects of my life. I still see my friends, I still have a social life, it's just a little more restricted right now.

As far as race day worries and doubts go, I have them occasionally, but I also have days where I feel ready to race tomorrow and I know I'll be in an even better place in 79 days when the time is finally here. Having come from a totally non-athletic background this has been even more rewarding for me and the feeling of pride is unmatched.

Today was another relatively light day in preparation of the big weekend. I ran five miles this morning at an easy pace along the lake and through a semi-shaded neighborhood. My legs felt a bit fatigued but I'm still feeling really good despite the volume. I went to a new lake for my long swim. The water was beyond warm so I did 45 minutes in my wetsuit for the practice and the remaining 30 minutes without. I've never done an open water swim without a wetsuit, it was definitely harder but a relief not to be roasting.

Tonight was one of those perfect summer nights where everything is just right. I went with my family for drinks and dinner at a place with a terrace overlooking Lake Monona. We sat outside and the temperature was finally enjoyable. I haven't been that relaxed in a really long time, just what I needed to get ready for the big day tomorrow.

Distance - 5 miles
Time - 43:47

Distance - 3,800 yards
Time - 1:16:45

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