After you've been racing for multiple hours and 120+ miles, the journey to continue isn't driven solely by the number of miles you logged training and how fit you may be. It's largely driven by your heart and your desire to push beyond limits and keep moving forward. I've completed three Ironmans since September 2009 and each was challenging and rewarding in its own way. My level of preparedness, fitness and health varied for each race, but the common denominator was that my heart was 100% in it and regardless of the obstacles each presented, I knew I wanted to be out there pushing to the finish.
After completing two Ironmans last year, I decided to do it again this season. I loved finishing Lake Placid knowing I had another incredible day around the corner at Wisconsin. The second race turned out to be my best yet so signing up for Wisconsin and Arizona seemed perfect. At the time I wasn't planning a 2012 Ironman so a late season race seemed ideal. But then I signed up for Ironman Mont-Tremblant and have experienced a change in the amount of time I have to dedicate to training. It's been a very difficult season and I'm struggling to fit it all in.
There has been a nagging thought in the back of my mind for weeks about how committed I am to Arizona. Fall is my favorite season, a time for long hikes, bike rides with no real purpose but the enjoyment of being outside and perhaps stopping for donuts, and cool-weather running. I started to worry about how I'd keep up the motivation to train while the days got shorter and everyone around me was enjoying the offseason. Several times I logged on to book a flight or sort out accommodations and couldn't pull the trigger. Then it hit me. Deep down I didn't want to race an Ironman in November, regardless of what year or race it was. It's just not the right race for how I want to live my life.
So while biking for seven hours last Friday I spent at least three of them thinking about my choice. I've never dropped out of a race unless I absolutely had to. I've run marathons with a broken arm or after being hit by a car, I did my first Ironman with a torn plantar fascia. Certainly I could and should do this.... right? But I finally allowed myself to admit the decision was already made. I love this sport and for some crazy reason I love the 140.6 distance. But I didn't love the idea of competing in Arizona and I don't want to risk burning out and not loving this anymore.
It was a hard decision, but the right one. It's caused a bit of last-minute cramming for Ironman Wisconsin since I was supposed to go in undertrained to build for the second race, but it's worth it and there is a finite end in sight. I'm going to use my guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon instead and will spend a week in Italy for Thanksgiving. Feels like a great compromise to me.