Monday, April 27, 2009

Hang in there - you're doing great!

Last weekend during my LONG ride, I received support from a very unexpected source. 3:48 into my ride, and I was this close to throwing in the towel, getting off my bike and chucking it onto the nearest tank trail on Camp Pendleton. All while praying that a Marine Tank would come along and crush it (luckily for me, they weren't out on Saturday). I don't normally hate my bike, mind you, but for some reason, Saturday's ride was tough.

Welcome to Ironman training!

There will be good days, bad days, days where you wonder if you'll ever be able to do it, days where you question your sanity/drive/emotional stability/happiness/feel-free-to-fill-in-the-blank-with-your-own-choice-word, days where you wonder how you'll ever get through xx workouts - and then you do... There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. Yes, I am in full Ironman training mode.

Some days are great. Others are, well, not so good. But hey - that's life. We ALL have good days, bad days, in-between days. And let's face it: then there are those special days, where all you want to do is curl up on the couch with your Other Half, sipping early morning coffee and watch...South Park.

Yes - that was last Saturday.

After eating my pre-long-ride breakfast of oatmeal + wheat germ + brown sugar + dried cherries + greek yogurt, I headed back to bed for an hour or two of shut eye before my ride. BIG MISTAKE.

Because when I finally woke up, the single though racing through my mind was: I don't want to ride! I don't want to do this! Why? Why today?

There was no reason for it, absolutely none. Friday was an easy day of training, with just a swim. And I was actually excited about the long Saturday ride... Blue skies, the wind in my hair, going out and just riding for 5 hours with no worry of watts, heart rate, pace, time in zone x...enjoying the sport at its finest and in its purest form.

But I realized that IN NO POSSIBLE WAY could I bag the ride. Because there's no hiding in Ironman.

Let me repeat: THERE IS NO HIDING IN IRONMAN.

If you don't put in the effort, complete the workouts, honestly prepare to your full capacity - the Ironman Monster will get you. I don't care how you phrase it: without proper preparation, you are preparing to fail. And fail to you is different that fail to me. Yes, I realize that I will never cross that line first - and I'm okay with that. But skipping workouts, not training when I don't feel like it, slacking off when I'm tired - that's certainly NOT going to help me succeed.

Honestly - its one thing to skip a workout when training for short course races, miss a 2 (or even 3) hour ride on the weekend...but its another thing to skip your long ride when training for an Ironman. Saturday morning, when I was gathering my gels and nutrition for the ride-that-I-didn't-want-to-do-but-had-to-do, that realization was all the more real.

It was especially tough because in all of my training thus far (knock on wood), I've never been so adamant about not doing a workout.

Which was all the more reason for me to keep gathering my ride clothes, gels, water, salt, helmet, shoes, glasses, etc...keep my head down, and get out the door. And yes, I could hear South Park on in the background and smell the freshly brewed coffee...but I still kept going.

My motivator?

Fear.

What if I'm not prepared for my race? What if I'm just not ready?? Skipping workouts, especially a key one like my LONG RIDE for the week - well, that's just not going to cut it.

Fear can be good. No, fear can be great! It's that little bit of extra that we sometimes need to get our rear in gear.

Barely 30 minutes after I roused myself from bed, I was rolling out the door, yelling to Nathaniel (who was intent on his South Park) that I would be back, "IN EXACTLY FIVE HOURS!"

It was 5:02 to be precise, but 1) not that I'm counting and 2) I'm getting ahead of myself.

From there, I just rolled with it. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fast: then again, it didn't need to be. I just needed to do the time... Screw the wattage, heart rate... just get out and enjoy the ride. Hell, focus on the favorite pair of pants that I can finally pull on again for the first time since my crash last year (post-crash swelling combined with weight gain from not training = a favorite pair of pants gathering dust at the bottom of my closet)...anything to keep you going.

And slowly but surely, the miles and the time, clicked off... It was NOT easy, and there were certain points while riding up Del Dios Canyon and again through Elfin Forest that I questioned why I was doing this. But any and every time negative thoughts or questions crept into my mind, I tried desperately to squash them away. Nope - it wasn't with the usual vigor that I'm used to. But at least I was able to quiet my mind and just focus on the road ahead.

Even if it meant looking to the nearest tree, boulder, or road sign.

Yes, it was that sort of ride.

One of the hardest parts? Passing within 5 blocks of home when I still had two hours left. THAT was tough - but I wanted to head up into Camp Pendleton for a bit, and riding through Carlsbad was necessary in order to do so. Let me tell you...that was tough, but I made myself do it...reminding myself that '3 hours is NOT NEARLY enough time in the saddle on a long weekend ride for Ironman training'...

The second most difficult part of the day? My pit stop at Starbucks a mile down the road from my house. It was my designated re-fueling and bathroom stop...I was giving myself 3 minutes max to do my business and get back on the road. The scones and coffee smelled delicious...and Which Creek Winery was RIGHT next door...

Hhhhmmmmm..... I could kick back, enjoy a free wine tasting, and then consume large quantities of baked goods all washed down with lashings of hot caffeinated beverages...

But I didn't.

Passing through Oceanside and then onto Camp Pendleton was easy. Once on base, that's where things got difficult again. I was alone, off the main beat of 101, away from the sights and sounds of a bustling sea-side city on a beautiful Saturday early afternoon. Instead, I was looking at dusty tank trails, endless stretches of land, and the occasional military vehicle.

And that's when it hit me: I don't think I can do Ironman. I'm scared. It seems overwhelming. And if I can't even get through a stupid bike ride, then how the hell am I supposed to finish 140.6 miles of swim-bike-run? And then the tears started to fall.

I was scared. Really, really scared - of the possibility of failure. What if I can't do it? What if its too much? Suddenly, the grassy fields looked extremely inviting, and I was pretty close to pulling a Norman (circa Ironman Hawaii flat tire), throwing my bike, throwing a temper tantrum, and then calling Nathaniel to come pick me up. I had one chocolate powergel left...not quite the same as a scone, but it would work in a pinch.

And then, something amazing happened.

Without realizing it, I had happened upon Camp Pendleton's first annual marathon. A part of the run course ran adjacent to the road I was biking on, and I had a clear view of the tail end of the field. With 6 miles to go, the few souls that were still out, had probably been running (and walking) for well over 5 hours. I was biking so slowly, that one guy was able to tell that I was pretty upset.

"You're doing great - hang in there!" he shouted as I spun by.

This - coming from the guy who was three places ahead of last place.

But his words stuck with me... you're doing great - hang in there...you're doing great - hang in there...

I looked back, and could still see him in plain sight. No - he wasn't going fast, and in fact, he had slowed to a walk. But he was still doing it. He was hanging in there. He was doing great.

And if a random stranger, who could so clearly tell that I wasn't feeling very good, and who was half running, half walking a marathon could keep going - then so could I.

My pace didn't really change - my 15 mph remained...15 mph. But my attitude certainly did. The tears dried up, and I realized that all I had to do was hang in there - I was doing great.

We can't all have great workouts, we can't all even have good workouts. And heck, we certainly can't choose when we're going to feel like shit and hate our bike. But during Saturday's long ride, I gained something much more valuable than time in the saddle or miles on my training long. I discovered what its like to 'hang in there - you're doing great.'

It's not always pretty...but as long as you hang in there...you're doing great. And sometimes, that's simply all that we need.

17 comments:

Jennifer Harrison said...

Yeah, Marit, it is A TOUGH road...and one paved with tiredness, crabbiness, hungry, thinking you are nuts, hating me, hating Triathlon, feeling great, feeling lousy, eating everything in the house....and at the end of the day - the ones that succeed are the ones that get out there on the tough days. GOOD job to getting out there. There is a difference between being sick and being BLAH....tuck this post in the back of your head as we keep training ! :))) HOPE you enjoyed some good coffee, wine and scones after the ride.

TriGirl Kate O said...

Ok, I think you and Jen have been talking about me and my missed workouts. Sometimes finding the motivation in weeks with tons of workouts looming is a really hard thing, but that guilt of telling your coach that "I didn't do xyz workout" is even harder.

I can't tell you how many times last year I'd freak out trying to wrap my head around 140.6 miles. That's when reading ELF's blog helped...REALLY! You are doing great (better than me!) and will totally rock IMCDA!!!! Now, can you call me on weds mid-2hr run and tell me "hang in there"?! Hugs!

Mama Simmons said...

Welcome to Ironman training! :) Just like kate said, you really can't even think about the whole thing. Even after doing several of them I still wonder how it's humanly possible to go that far. But on race day, you'll be just fine! All the training pays off for sure!

Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

You are doing great. Awesome actually and you are so going to stomp CDA. I think what you went through was normal....Mer diagnosed me with Ironmanitis last summer, like senioritis...when you don't want to go to class but you still want to graduate. Somebody once told me that fatigue isn't just from the waist down. It's when you are cranky, crabby, irritable and want to cry when a motorcycle passes you and makes a loud noise. Let's ride soon.

ADC said...

Hey, you did just great. Last year when I trained for an ironman and was riding with Shaun in Boulder I was in tears climbing up and hating it. But when I did the ironman sick and with fever, determined to finish I was so inspired by those people who were starting their second loop on the run knowing they wouldn't finish within the cut off time. Truly inspiring. Keep up the good work Marit.

Beth said...

I like what Jen said - "the ones that succeed are the ones that get out there on the tough days" - because I think it's so true. I would imagine ESPECIALLY in IM training. So even on a day when you REALLY didn't want to (and oh how we all have those days) you still did which should give you all the confidence in the world that on race day nothing will stop you!!! :) Keep up the great work Marit!!

Elizabeth A. Rich said...

Marit, yep this was a lesson I had to learn as well and am still trying to cement in my brain. Its one thing to get out and do an hour swim or an hour run when we really don't want to, but to give away most of our day to a ride that we don't want is another thing. Way to stick it out and thanks for your honest post... it always helps to see others struggle with the same things as I have. OH and you are going to do GREAT racing CDA and KONA :-) you won't understand why you got so upset over one 5hr ride. Jen always said after a bad workout or day that tomorrow is a new day. I didn't really understand I could move on that quickly until after IMNZ, but now I get it... hopefully you are a faster learner than I and can start today a new day :-)

Danni said...

Marit, this was simply an awesome post. I am tucking it away as inspiration.

Dave said...

Great job getting out there and finishing it off. I'll keep this one in my mind this weekend! (and next, and next... :) )

Laura said...

Way to go Marit! It's funny where we find motivation isnt' it? The group who did IM USA from Memphis last year raised money for Memphis Hope House, a cancer extended stay facility for adults, and the moto for it was 'Stay in the Moment' which may be all someone with cancer can deal with at the time - that moment. This truly resonated with me throughout the entire experience. It's too hard to look at it all at once, sometimes you just have to 'stay in the moment' - this buoy, this hill, this mile - and forget about how much longer it's going to be or where you are on the course or training ride. I can't wait to see where all your hard work and determination takes you. Oh, and can I borrow some of your 'don't miss a workout' motivation sometime? ;)

Runner Leana said...

Marit, I love your posts. You are so flippin' honest about things! You let me know what to expect as I continue on with my training towards my two 70.3s this year and IMC next year. Great job on that 5 hour ride, and how wonderful that this fellow in the race brought some good motivation to you. With the way you are approaching your workouts I have no doubt that you are going to rock CdA and Kona!!

Shan said...

Yep, sometimes IM training can be rather soul crushing. I remember one workout where we had a 5hr ride/45 min run. There was forecast for rain and the wind was BRUTAL. So we did half on the trainer (thinking it would be raining), then when the sun came out, we did the rest on the road. The wind was SO strong, that we made it up to O'side with a tailwind in NO TIME. But coming back I had tears streaming down my face because I was going 14mph down a hill pedaling as hard as I could. Demoralized, we got off the bike and started our run in Solana Beach and it started POURING. I was like NOOOOOOO WTF!?! And then I cried for the next 30 minutes, and then again after the workout was over. I felt like a loser (especially because I was training with 2 guys...)

Truth be told, workouts like that made me mentally stronger. I had many a moment wondering how I would make it through those 140.6 miles.

But you will do it. And you will be STRONG! And I also imagine...fast! :)

Keep going Marit!!!! Love ya!

Missy said...

Guuuurl, you're so right! You got to get out there (for IM) even when you don't want to, there's no luxury for don't wanna, not gonna. You got to save 'skips' for days when something is really wrong that needs to be dealt with or you get sick or somefin. BUT, even when you're tired, down, out, 'last place', you're out there..hell, still more than most of the general population!!!

Yep, no skips on workouts:)

runningyankee said...

great post marit! i love that you share all the parts of your training and really let us into the experience. both good and bad. i cant imagine the mental stregnth needed to train for and then complete an ironman, but by golly you've got it! and you know what, us folks reading take a little bit of that from you each time. :)

Nikee Pomper said...

Way to hang in there! Long IM rides are, in someways, more mentally challenging than physically challenge. You stuck it out and THAT workout will take you to another level. Congrats on a breakthrough training day

Sherry Lynn said...

Hi Marit! This is my first (and overdue) comment on your blog, but I've been reading for a while. I found you through the blogs of some of the girls that I met at tri camp this past February. I have to tell you, I find your story to be completely inspiring...from your initial succcess to your accident and how you are just ROCKIN' the road back.

Your post today... awesome! You inspired me to stick with a workout that I just might have 'missed' today b/c I'm tired, sore (and all of the other excuses that I can think of).

Way to gutt it out...

Ordinarylife said...

wow, well done!

Yip, it is not easy.

I have heard it said that one of the hardest part of Ironman is the training and I would have to agree.
Getting out there and staying motivated is sometimes harder to do than the actual race and most definintly prepares you mentally for the challanges you will face.