Why the Ironman? – It isn’t about the medal (or the tattoo).

Tonight marks the end of my first full week of Ironman training. All-in-all, a success topped off by this morning’s beautiful GW Parkphoto-4way 10 miler. There I am with my sweet medal. Averaged 9:30 miles. No back pain. So, yay! This was a win.

10 miler aside, however, this is going to be a rare serious blog post from yours truly. As I began my training this week and after a few talks with some of my closest friends, I really dug into why I am doing this Ironman. I get the question: Why would you ever do something like that?

It is not an easy question for me to answer in the time it would take during these types of conversations. So I usually say something like….”Well I want to check it off my bucket list,” or “There’s no time like the present!” Which is partially true. But not really. No one wants to actually stick around and hear the real answer, because it isn’t glorious and fabulous. It is dark and uncomfortable and uncharacteristic of the me most people know. And if you don’t want to hear it, by all means you can stop reading this at any time. But it is something I need to share for myself as well as for anyone who might have similar feelings or experiences.

For me, this Ironman is not about winning. It is not about faster times, crossing the finish line in X number of hours, going sub 10 minute miles on the marathon, losing weight and looking fab, or getting a medal. It isn’t even about bragging rights. (Maybe a little bit about the tattoo). I have always wanted to do an Ironman, yes, but now is exactly the time! Why?

What is the Ironman for me? My Ironman is about healing, hope, and rediscovery. Two years ago, I lost myself and completely forgot who I really was. I gave up a lot of me for something that never should have been. I lost my sparkle, my smile, my self confidence, and everything that defined me as the person I had worked so hard to become. I was a shell of that strong, independent, sometimes hard-headed woman. I was even told that I used the word “love” too much. However, I don’t think it is wrong to use the word when you really do love people. How can having love be a bad thing? I really do love. Anyway, I lost much of my self-worth and was ashamed for how bad I let everything get. Nevertheless, I slapped on a big grin, and accomplished amazing things! Life goes on despite the background noise. So in essence, not all was lost! Looking back, of course I know better now, but the sting is still there, as well as the realization that I will never let that happen again. During those dark times, I was told that my Ironman was a stupid goal. How foolish it was to have such a goal! At that time, my Ironman goal was about finishing and being able to say I did it! But it was not and has never been a foolish goal. Because it was/still is my goal.

Last summer, I moved to this beautiful new city for a new job. It should have been a perfect fresh start. But the healing didn’t begin right away. It was a lonely summer and although I was far from homesick (the distance was excellent!) I felt lost. I was lost because I was still trying to hang onto that which had stolen my identity. I joined some groups (yay Team RWB!) and got involved in a bunch of stuff, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until my wonderful friend Marty came to visit, that I finally had some sense knocked into me. “You are not you anymore. Why are you doing this?” For some reason, this time it stuck. I knew it in my heart that things weren’t right, but I just kept ignoring it for some reason. I kept convincing myself to push those feelings aside and try to make things work. Because you had to fight for relationships right? That’s what I kept hearing.

The realization that support from my loved ones will always run deeper than anything in the world no matter what – was the straw that broke the camel’s back. For some reason, it was Marty’s visit that made it finally strike home. Many, many of my friends had attempted to get through my thick head, but I kept convincing myself that they were wrong. Loved ones don’t have to be husbands, boyfriends. Loved ones are best friends, family, people that love and embrace you for who you are. My friend Eric shared the following: While they all fall in love with her smile, she waits for the one who will fall in love with her scars. And my bestie in Arizona told me: There’s nothing any man could do to stop me from being your friend.

Their love is overwhelming at times and when I sit and think about it, I can feel myself being embraced by it. I sit and can literally feel the warmth. Thousands of miles away.

Scars? Yep. I’ve got them. For a solid year, every one of those scars was reopened and filled with salt – time and time again. But those scars have since closed again. They are there, they are visible, and they are me. Am I proud of the scars, no. Have they made me into the woman I am, yes. Am I proud of the woman I am today, you bet. I don’t mind having the scars because scars are wounds that have healed.

So how does the Ironman fit into this and have I digressed? I have not digressed. After Marty’s visit, I volunteered at IM Maryland. This gave me first dibs on an entry into the next year’s race. And now it is coming. I signed up. I signed up and this journey is for me and me alone. In no way is it a selfish journey. Those who want to share and support are the ones who have always supported. This is nothing new. What is my training? It is many things. I can go out on a long run, and it isn’t about…I need to get these miles in today. It is…wow, today I can run 10 miles. During those miles, I rediscover myself. I reflect. I remember why I started. This Ironman is my journey. It is my journey into myself. It is reacquainting my heart with my mind and my body. I lace up my shoes and it is  a reminder of self-worth. I slap on a swim cap and follow that black line and it is “I am strong in mind and body.” I clip in and bike for half a day and the wind blowing on my face is love. A bad training day is still my journey. This has always been my goal and it is more meaningful now than it ever would have been before. I choose to see the good in every darkest moment. Now I can look back and say, wow…this Ironman will be even more important than I could have imagined. Before it was to finish….but now it MEANS something much more! This Ironman is for me. Because I am me again. Every mile and footstep is me. Crossing that finish line is for me. My rediscovery, my hope in humanity, my love for all humans, my choosing to see the good in everything, my mind, and dammit my scars. Take it or leave it. I do this for me. And that is what motivates me every single training day.

Do you know what motivates you? Why are you on your journey? Remember why you started.

Here’s some Mumford and Sons just for a little extra end cheesiness….some of my favorite lyrics:

If your strife strikes at your sleeve.

Remember spring swaps snow for leaves.

You’ll be happy and wholesome again.

When the city clears and sun ascends.

Thanks for your patience. 🙂 Rough but real. I’ll be back to singing and dancing next blog entry.

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1 More Week Until the Real IM Training!

I have been slowly building up my volume and base training throughout the winter. Even with the back injury, I feel prepared to tackle the season. I am feeling strong, pain free, and my core is more solid than it was – with still plenty of room for further solidification. 😉 This should prevent future injury especially now that I know how to strengthen the muscles that initially caused the problem. So now I know that despite the injury to my back (THE CORE OF MY BEING!) that I rehab relatively quickly. That speaks to both my base fitness before the injury and also my strict adherence to the physical therapy. Combined into my off-season training, I have been working up to the GW Parkway 10 miler. Being able to run a solid 10 miles pain-free will be a huge deal considering last fall I was told to completely stop doing all physical activity (except swimming) for 8 weeks! That was my goal when I signed up for the race. Recover and run it pain-free. I intend to do that. The race should be a wonderful confidence boost to kick off the official training season. Plus it is a route I run often, so that is even better! The biggest bonus — it’s beautiful! Rolling hills along the Potomac, lovely views…all make for a marvelous 10 miles. 🙂 I am really looking forward to it.

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My “official” Ironman training doesn’t begin until April 20th, but it is so close now I can smell it!

Smells DELICIOUS!

I have been following a higher volume off-season plan, so the volume will dip a little bit at the start of the training season. I am hoping this will allow me to push a little harder and also evaluate the base I have built over the winter. The first triathlon is May 10. One month from today. It’s a sprint and I will be using it as a “pre-season” test. Practice transitions, wetsuit removal, clipping in to the bike, etc., etc., we all know the drill.  I would really like to kill it as much as I can. It’s the only sprint I am doing this year so I just want it to be an all-out no-excuses race (without injury of course).

Tonight though, it’s an early bedtime. 2.5 hours out on the bike with friends amongst the cherry blossoms tomorrow. Bring on the IM training. I am happy, healthy, and more than excited for the ups and downs of the next several months!

Hains cherrys

“Today I will run for pure, absolute joy!” – Lopez Lomong