Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Fallout

In my past life, I ran marathons. For ten years, that's what I did. Run two or three marathons per year and some short races in between. Once I was in marathon shape, I maintained the long runs throughout the year, and then threw in a 8-12 week build-up period with hard weekly sessions before a goal race. But with marathons, there was always another one on the horizon. They were all over the place, even nearby: Cleveland, Columbus, Akron, Towpath, Toledo, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, etc. If you had a setback or bad race, you could even comprehend dropping out, regrouping, and getting an entry into another race a few weeks later.

It's not the same with Ironman. Finishing an Ironman (or other ultra-endurance event) is usually the end result of many, many months, or even years, of training and planning. It's not something you can do again tomorrow. The logistics alone are mind boggling. I remember standing next to a fellow athlete on Sunday morning in Coeur d'Alene. He looked at me with ten minutes to go before race start and said, almost incredulously, "THIS is the EASY part" -- I think I looked cross-eyed at him so he felt the need to explain. He mentioned the logistics of arranging travel, the registration process, the bike transport, the bike and bag check-in... all of it, to HIM, was more exhausting than setting out on his Ironman experience. I think I responded with the following: "Have you ever DONE the Ironman swim?" in disbelief that he thought the hard work was already done.

For me, though, it's NOW that the hard work begins. The self-evaluation. The "what-ifs." The post-race analysis and split recording. The race replay in my brain. The post-race depression. This is what I call "the fallout." Being the Disaster Magnet, my fallout usually triggers some irrational behaviors. The day after I dropped out of Ironman Florida, I went running for 40 minutes -- on the beach. It was punishment. I did not evaluate the reasons behind my having to drop. I just felt that I had failed. It was a bad idea for me to even have started the race only six months after being hit by a car. But in my mind, it was a failure.

Now that I'm older and more experienced at Ironman, whether I have a good or bad race, the fallout is still there. But this time, the fallout comes from having no other Ironman qualifier available in 2009. All North American races are sold out until 2010. And Coeur d'Alene only triggered a greater desire to compete in another one. Regrouping is therefore a little more difficult, and I'm on a desperate search for other races that will lend meaning to the rest of my summer.

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