“Dad, do you know what happened eleven years ago today?” I asked out of the blue sitting on the beach last Saturday afternoon.
“Eleven years ago?” He replied.
“I know, it’s a little random, but I raced my first Ironman on August 31st, 2008.
“Oh, that’s right! Back in Louisville. That was a fun day.”
This Sunday I will be racing my fifteenth Ironman in Madison, Wisconsin
Early last week, when I was finishing up the last batch of challenging workouts, I was nervous my lungs might flare up again with pneumonia, and I would have to miss the race. Again. However, I learned a valuable lesson about how my body displays/handles stress and anxiety, I experience shortness of breath. Once I realized that my lungs were fine, (there was no gurgle or crackle that is felt or heard in the lungs as a tell-tale sign of pneumonia), I flipped the breathing distress into a way to relax and center myself, verses a reason to panic. While pedaling, running, swimming, and/or just sitting or standing, I inhaled deeply about 3-7 times, exhaled deeply, feeling light and calm, and ready to move along with my day.
Then on Saturday morning, I thought my lungs were toast.
I swam in the ocean with the SMOG group for a little over a mile, and then rode off toward Palos Verdes to take on some hill repeats. I felt woozy in the water, probably due to sleepiness from two lackluster nights of sleep in a row, and fatigue from a stack of intense workouts days prior, but mostly I was anxious about the bike ride.
I had ridden so many hills in August, most of which were much tougher climbs than what lay ahead of me on the famous “Switchbacks,” which I had ridden many times before, I wasn’t sure why they were weighing heavier on my shoulders than usual? Then while swimming my fifth out six laps in the ocean, it hit me, that ride would be the last “hard” workout of my build into Ironman Wisconsin, and I was simply sad that my training was almost over.
A few weeks ago, I spent one of the coolest mornings of my life talking with two people I had never met, but felt at ease sharing space with instantly.
I was a guest on the YogiTriathlete podcast, an invigorating podcast for health and mindfulness hosted by the endurance and Yogi power duo, Jess and BJ Gumkowski. I have been following them for years, as they are fixtures in the triathlon community, we share mutual friends, and they are Vegan, BJ even passed me a few miles into the marathon at Ironman Boulder last year, but until that morning we had yet to meet in person. As soon as we did, we clicked, and had a very honest and hopefully entertaining conversation that you can listen to now by clicking here:
One of the questions BJ asked me, was if I am a “racer” or “trainer?” My gut responded that I am a racer, because I do enjoy that part of sport the most, I train to compete. But, I also live to train; it is ingrained in my lifestyle. Which is why I think the ride last Saturday loomed so large over my head and heart, for the first time in a few years, I do not have any Ironmans in my sights for next year, and even though I am running the New York City Marathon in November, (I am not completely done for the year), I am the most content while training for an Ironman. That said, I know myself well enough to know that I probably will race an Ironman or two in 2020, but for now, I am only looking as far ahead as my next one, and that is just days away.
On that note, if you’d like to track me on Sunday, the best way to do it is the download the Ironman.com app, or go to the Ironman.com page, and they should have live tracking link up on the main page all day. My bib# is 154.
Finally, to circle back to my breathing distress/breakthrough, (which I know my mom is worried about reading this), while pedaling the eleven miles or so from Redondo Beach to the base of the climb in Palos Verdes, I felt terrible. My breathing was labored, my legs felt weak and tingly, my energy level was low, (even though I refueled after the swim), and my eyelids were drooping, but then I made a left turn, pressed the “Lap” button on my Garmin, and went to work.
My legs were fine.
In fact, they felt stronger than ever climbing the hill. My breathing was even and easy during all four repeats of the “Switchbacks,” and my energy level was brimming near the top when I rolled back into Redondo Beach over three hours later, calm and content that I cracked the breathing code. In fact from now on out, I feel confident to use my deep breathing exercises as a method to relax verses rile me up during any stressful occasion that crops up in the future.
Honestly, I do feel differently about this Ironman than any of the fourteen before it. I only have about four solid weeks of “Ironman” training under my belt, by far the lowest amount of focused training going into an Ironman so far. On paper, it looks a little bleak. Then again, I have been at this for over eleven years, (see pop quiz above), and I have a wizard for a coach, (the training I have put in all of 2019, and since September of 2016, has been incredible), I trust that. Most of all, I know my body well, and I know she is ready to race.
Thank you so much to all of you who have followed along and supported my goal-chasing efforts this year, I appreciate your positive energy more than these computers keys can relay, and I promise to give it everything I have on Sunday, and beyond.
The song and video choice this week is from Ed Sheeran and Khalid, Beautiful People. The song is excellent, and the video is endearing and hilarious.