April 14, 2016 – 100 days until IM Lake Placid. Many athletes competing in this race react to this declaration with thoughts such as “100 days?! I’ll never be ready!” On the flip side, my reaction is “100 days? Can I survive this training for that long?” 100 days. The questions start to invade my brain. The questions of why – why am I doing this? And is this worth it? Is this journey worth the sacrifices? During the winter and early spring months, I embraced the workouts. I welcomed and looked forward to them – each and every one. I could train for a couple of hours while the kids were asleep or take at most an hour or two out of the day while they spent some QT with dad. I would get a quick break, get my workouts in and get back to the kids without feeling like I missed a beat. The training didn’t interfere with my life.
Now the training has ramped up and things feel different. Now the training is starting to interfere with my life as I know it. I have to take some significant time out of the day to get my long ride in. I have to tell the kids “sorry, I can’t stay and play because I have to go for a long bike ride.” Not that I want to, but I have to. The guilt creeps in. It’s not just a quick break anymore. It’s an entire chunk of the day that I’m missing. Because I’m off riding my bike…
So I am forced to ask myself why am I doing this? Why am I making these sacrifices? Is this what I really want to be doing? As an ironman athlete, you need to be able to answer these questions. You spend so much time preparing for this one single event – hours and hours of training for the good part of a year. You need to have a clear understanding of your motivation, so you can respond to the moment when these questions invade your thoughts.
I can come up with several reasons why I have committed to embarking on this ironman journey. First, as a coach, I need to live this experience along with my athletes. It’s such a unique, inexplicable experience, that you cannot in any way, shape or form understand unless you have lived it. Secondly, I want to see what I can accomplish out there on that race course. I didn’t have a good experience in my first ironman, so I’m striving for better. I want to see if I can put myself in a position to finish this event feeling strong. I want to see what kind of endurance athlete I can be.
When I was out on my long ride last week, these questions of “why” and “is this worth it?” invaded my thoughts. I decided to take a quick break to refill my water bottles. When I walked out of the store a man with a bright smile on his face glanced over at me and said “beautiful day for a ride!” Right then and there something clicked. I realized that I all I can do is make the best of this situation. Focus on the present moment and all the positive things about this journey. Focus on where I am rather than dwelling upon what I am missing and where I am not.
I need to continue to remind myself to put things into perspective. It’s not all about the one race. It’s about the journey. It’s about the commitment that I have made to myself to give this my all and see what I can accomplish out there on race day. And there is a very valuable lesson for the kids in showing them how hard you need to work sometimes when you are trying to accomplish a lofty goal. Sure, I will miss the kids when I’m out on those long rides. But they are only once a week. And the kids will be doing the same things they do every other day — drawing pictures of monster trucks, playing with monster trucks, and perhaps watching monster jam on TV. It’s refreshing to miss them and to eagerly return home to see their smiling faces. It’s energizing for them to miss me as well.
When the journey is over I can reflect and think back upon whether or not it was worth the sacrifices I had to make. But now I’m all in. I need to be all in. I still have a clear understanding of my priorities in life and that certainly won’t change. Family undoubtedly comes first. In fact, I pat myself on the back if I miss a workout when I think the needs of the kids are more important. It reassures me that although I’m on this very consuming journey, it’s not the most important thing in my life.
This past week, my long brick workout culminated in my running with our 20 month old in my arms as we raced the other two boys around the circle back to our driveway. I embrace these moments when my family can be a part of my training. It feels like we are in it together. This is when it feels right. Although these moments are few and far between, these are the moments that keep me moving forward on this journey.