This past summer, I embarked on completing something that has always been on my bucket list – a half ironman. Most people know the symbol, respect the athletes insanity, but think of completing one as being “way too difficult for them”. After speaking with one client regarding their re-introduction to triathlons, I realized that I had been training for essentially nothing for the last year. As a prior varsity athlete, this idea seemed weird – I have always loved fitness, but mostly because it made me much more of a threat in whichever sport I was competing in. So I decided to put my will power into training for something that I have always dreamed of doing. Before I started training – I looked at the races that were possibilities; Muskoka Ironman (giving me 5 weeks to prepare), or one in Atlantic City (4 months away). In doing what I have frequently told my clients not to do – I decided to register for the one in 5 weeks – giving me not nearly enough time to do adequate training prior.
During those five weeks, the part of my training schedule that helped prepare me the most was my flexibility and rest time. This gave my body enough time to recover from each extremely hard training session and prepare properly so I could push myself on the next one. The majority of people assume that more is better – recovery is often overlooked which will inevitably lead to burn out, chronic soreness or just a cessation in the enjoyment of what you are doing.
The week before the race I was kept up every night panicking about if I was ready, if I was going to embarrass myself, if I forgot something. But race day – when I woke up, I was confident. I had done lots of training and had my nutrition down to a science and was ready for anything the race could throw at me. That was until I got to the race start, I looked around and all of the other athletes intimidated me – everyone had six packs, were sponsored, already had ironman tattoos, and just seemed like they were up for another day of training. I had to constantly remind myself that I had as much right to be there as anyone else did. I was doing this for “fun”, and was going to enjoy myself.
It wasn’t until about 20 km’s into the bike ride that I finally got comfortable and could ride my own race – enjoying the beautiful hills and views of the Muskoka area. As I finished up the 100 km ride, the day was starting to get quite hot and hills somehow seemed to get quite a bit steeper. I was doing anything to keep my hands and legs from going numb and had to mentally keep my mind off of what I was doing. Finally I arrived at the transition zone – and on very wobbly legs took off running (or maybe a slow jog…) but regardless I was moving still. I had never gone that far on such difficult terrain in any of my bike training and was just pleased with myself that I completed it. As I was running – the crowd kept me going – I was trying to high five everyone or wave and interact with them, it was keeping me distracted and powering through. With only 5 km’s left in my run – I realized not only was I going to finish but it was going to be about 45 minutes less than my anticipated time – I AM AWESOME! The last kilometer I had way too much juice left in my legs (probably should have gone a little faster – woops!) and sprinted the entire way up the hill and through the crowd across the line.
6 and a half hours – 5 km run, 100 km bike, 21 km run. I was finished and did it with a smile (majority of the time). I was hooked, it was a high I’ve never experienced in any other sport. I’ve already decided to register for next year and shave off at least another half hour off my time. I suggest everyone should push themselves – try and do what they think is “too hard”. You will always surprise yourself with how much strength and power you have inside of you.