Saturday, September 13, 2008


I see insanity on the horizon

I read once that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Sometimes, we just can't help ourselves, it's in our nature and haven't you ever heard the saying "try, try again."

This brought me back to a race a good friend had at Wisconsin last weekend. He was completely prepared, he had exceptional training, and went into the race ready to pull off a big PR or something of the like. I was completely convinced that he would do it. I knew in my heart he was capable of it, and unless something major happened, he probably would. That's the scary thing about Ironman though, you can do all that, and still have a not-so great day (according to our own personal goals). His swim was pretty good, his bike was decent, but on the run he began to cramp (and had never cramped previously) and despite taking salt tablets, massaging the cramp, and trying to stretch and walk it out, he was not able to run much at all during the marathon. He's a great athlete, and with 5-6 months of training, that was his day.

I can't help but wonder what type of person it takes to be an Ironman. Yes, he finished, yes, he is an Ironman, but the disappointment was evident. It wasn't the race he wanted to have; it wasn't the kind of experience that gets you raring to go for more.

Yet, though it all sometimes, we are willing to do this, year after year. We may train for an entire 8-9 months for essentially, one day. Sure, we might race other races, but all in all, it is, and has to be, about the IM experience. It's the big one, the one that supersedes all of the other races. It's the trump card that can turn a so-so season into a success, or a great season into something left to be desired and something we will think about many times again until the next years racing season begins.

We have to be crazy right? We really do have to be insane in some ways. We put all this time in, we make the sacrifices, we do all the preparation to avoid potential pitfalls and issues, and yet we could still have a not so great race. I don't care if you are a seasoned pro, or a newbie, no one is immune. It could happen to anyone. Still, we press on. We might question why for awhile, but usually the images of "what if" start to creep back in our minds and make us want to sign up for another race, maybe even another IM. We're not people who give up easily, even when bad races come. We're do-ers, we're optimists, we're not willing to just hold on to the past - we want the future, and we want it to be bright and filled with PR's, podiums, and Kona slots.

I guess it brings me back to my friend. He mentioned he might not want to do another IM. I told him its WAY to early to say something like that. I feel his pain, and I'm right there with him although I would rather it not happen to me - the chances are, if I do this long enough, it probably will. Our wills are strong though, and hopefully, we will draw on a larger perspective and try to learn what went wrong to use in the next season, the next race. Letting those thoughts get the best of you, to me, that is what I would call failing. No one failed in that race, I don't care if you crossed the finish line first, or last... they are ALL Ironmen & Ironwomen.

Some people might view what I did today as insanity. Sometimes it felt like it to me! The roads were wet, the forecast was ominous, and I viewed today as a good chance to practice real Hawaii training. I wanted to see just how tough I really was at this point. How do you test that? Well friends, you get on your trainer for 5 hours and 45 minutes. I'm sure people have done more, but I haven't. My longest trainer ride was about 3 hrs 30 mintues. Needless to say, I knew this would be a bit tough. At about 4:30 I started really regretting my decision, but I wasn't going to back down. Seven soaked towels, 183 ounces of fluid, and three movies later, I was done and I felt I was the better for it. I learned a bit about my nutrition plan in the heat (and hot it was, no fan, this is Hawaii in my living room people), and my run after actually felt decent (which is a surprised because I was pretty sure my legs were left on the trainer when I got off).

I could all this, do everything right, and still not have a decent race (well, by my standards) in Hawaii. Yes, I will enjoy it regardless, yes, I will consider a success if I finish. If I have to walk the marathon though, I'm not going to say I won't be disappointed because it would be lie. I guess we have trust enough, believe enough, and hope that things will work out. If they do, wonderful, if they don't well, hopefully we learned something we can take with us for next time. I don't think the concept of insanity can be applied to Ironman. We have to keep coming back and we will keep coming back - hoping for better results, but doing this because most of all, good or not-as-good, we love it.

I hope there is a next time for my friend. It's too early to tell. I know he's strong in mind and sprit, and if it is meant to be, he will be an Ironman again someday.

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