Two weeks ago, as I got ready to embark on my first PEAK workout of Ironman training season, my parents stared at me, quizzically, as I gathered the many materials, belongings and equipment I would need for the day’s brick: An 80-mile ride and subsequent 30 to 40-minute run.
I was not in a good mood. I had arrived at my parents’ beach house nearing midnight the night before to learn I wasn’t sleeping in an actual bed, but would be spending the night on the futon in the living room — and that was after a three-hour solo drive from northern New Jersey to Cape May Point, where I had plenty of time to contemplate the aftermath of a painful breakup. (You can think of me as bratty or spoiled or whatever you want for this anecdote … I know, I know — who complains about going to the beach?! … but I have the right to complain on my own blog!)
So, upping the ante on my already-crummy mood, which is almost a staple for me at this point given the circumstances, was a comment from my father as I half-heartedly prepared for the long day ahead of me. As I begrudgingly answered my parents’ questions, like, “Are you sure you know the route?” and “How far do you have to go again?” and “Will you call on your way back?” my father, in light of my less-than-stellar attitude, remarked, “Just remember: This is all for fun, right?”
Though made in a lighthearted manner, this comment immediately struck a wrong chord with me. There I was, about to do one of the hardest workouts of my life, riding over 20 miles further than I’d ever ridden before on a road bike, on an unfamiliar route, and my father was just joking like it wasn’t a big deal. His comment made me feel like my training — the grueling, difficult training plan I’m following that leaves me with little time to sleep or even do laundry — was just a fun little side activity that anyone could essentially ‘pick up’ for fun. I wanted to yell: “Who the heck embarks on a potentially body-crushing six-hour journey, solo, for fun? Do you think I want to do this alone today?!”
O course, I didn’t say any of these things. After all, I was willingly setting out for this workout. Instead, I said, “Sure, it’s for fun. My sarcastic tone hinted otherwise.
His comment stuck with me, though, and during my five-hour ride (don’t worry, I took a pit stop in the middle) and subsequent 32-minute run, I had plenty of time to contemplate exactly why I signed up for this challenge, and why I followed through with waking up that morning to finish the first half of my peak weekend.
Here’s what I came up with:
I signed up for this Ironman because while I do enjoy swimming, biking and running for pleasure — and yes, I would even say I have fun experiencing each of these activities on their own — and I have a competitive spirit. I have finished 9 marathons now, and I’m ready for the next challenge. I had thought about taking on ultra-running, but a few overtraining setbacks last spring made me pick a challenge that would force me to cross train more. I signed up for this Ironman because I enjoy pushing my body to limits that make other people shudder, and I have a community of people that I know will support me as I take on these ‘crazy’ endeavors. I like knowing that I can do something that not everyone else can do, and I like knowing that I can do it well.
I signed up for this Ironman because I believe that if you’re good at something, you should at the very least try to be better at it, because what if you end up being great? And, a little conceited part of me likes reveling in the fact that, to many, an Ironman is an impressive challenge.
I admit: I was skeptical to sign up for the Ironman. After finishing the Lake George Half, a 70.3-mile swim, bike and run in Lake George last summer, I had no drive to sign up for the full 140.6 challenge. But with some encouragement from friends, workout buddies, and my ex boyfriend, I really believed that I could do it — and that I would regret it if I didn’t.
Those were my reasons for signing up — for forking over $800 in one push of a button on a then-$40,000 salary (a cost I really couldn’t justify, but budgeted for anyway). Today, the reasons I continue to train have grown beyond those initial motivators.
I continue to train because I have an amazing coach who takes the time to carefully plan workouts, answer questions, and provide support.
I continue to train because I have a kick ass support group of fellow triathletes who are also training for a race (either the Maryland Ironman, like myself, or Lake George) and I feel good knowing that we are in this together.
I continue to train because the good people at Specialized Bikes have equipped me with an incredible tri bike that I am not worthy of riding, but have access to anyway.
I continue to train because I like the changes that are happening to my body, and how much stronger my legs feel during an upward climb compared to two months ago.
I continue to train because that feeling of exhaustion after a hard effort — and the beer I usually pair it with — is so, so satisfying.
I continue to train because in light of recent events, sometimes I feel like sticking to a training plan is the only thing that I can control in my life right now.
I continue to train because I’m heartbroken, and sometimes riding, or running, or swimming, is the only thing that makes me feel alive.
I continue to train because I’ve found out the hard way that the only person I can 100% rely on is myself, and working towards a goal makes me feel like I matter.
And lastly, I continue to train because, after all, I signed myself up for this endeavor, and I have something to prove.
Having “fun” is, of course, a nice perk that accompanies some of these reasons. But it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why I signed up for — and continue to train for — an ironman.
Oh, and as for the peak itself? It took all day — but it went well! And OK, I’ll admit it: I did have a little fun.
Until next time, follow my endeavors on Instagram.