“Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years.” — LL Cool J
Taking on Ironman Wisconsin for a second time in 2018 is a given, right? After all, I have unfinished business. I surprised myself at how close I came to being 100% OK with walking away from it.
In the midst of a really great, healthy season of short course racing in 2017, the annual Zoom Performance Epic Camp happened. And, wow, was it EPIC. Three days of athletes immersed in the sport we love on the Ironman Wisconsin course–swimming, biking, running, repeating. On day one, the weather radar was red with thunderstorms. In the interest of safety, about 30 (was it 35?) of us found our places, shoulder to shoulder, sweat bead to sweat bead, in a hotel meeting room to ride our trainers, intermixed with short runs in the rain, for about 3 hours. It was pretty incredible, actually. That was the warmup day.
The next day, getting back out onto the bike course I have come to know so well, I conquered countless demons at the milestones along the way. Every driveway where I had previously stopped, every neighbor’s house that offered help, every climb where I cramped, every steep downhill where I feared for my life with my head swimming…check, check, check.
I felt great about all of that. Coach challenged me to face every one of those checkpoints, and I did. The bike course was still daunting and painfully slow. That particular day was only 4o-ish miles of the ultimate 140.6 goal (112 on the bike). The pain of that day made me think that I really didn’t need to go back for redemption. “I’m good. This is stupid. No need to try again for the finish.”
And then, a couple of months later, it dawned on me that I don’t quit on myself. I can’t. So, the day registration opened, I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin 2018. 9/9/2018.
Redemption, yes. Comeback…not really. I never stopped. But this time is different. I’ve been actively training (and continuing to race) since October 2016 with a regained Ironman focus as of October 2017. There is, however, a notable difference in my perspective than in my previous Ironman attempt.
While I do love to visualize the finish line, that’s not my focus right now. If I had to pick a word to be my intention for 2018, it would be “present”. Life takes me out of the present so often. Life swirls around us. I am an avid, admitted worrier, even when I try to pretend I’m not, always worried about the next thing. Priorities flail. I become unhealthy in my lack of grounding.
My goal is to place intent on each day of life. Family, training, work, etc, in varying priority depending on the day. In terms of this crazy Ironman journey, this time around I’m going in with much more intention on each day. Fewer guns blazing, more discipline. Less neurosis, more focus. Learning from my yogi friends, to just “show up” and let it be what it is. Although, some days you have to pull more guns out (like this morning when my legs felt dead, ahem).
Whoever said Ironman is all mental is a liar. There is a major element of mental toughness in there, but if that were all that mattered I would have finished in a blaze of glory in 2016. Training matters. Doing each day consistently matters. A certain level of health matters. I’m not a hero, and I’m taking each up and down day as they come.
There are no guarantees. And if there were, it wouldn’t be as appealing.