This weekend past was Ironman UK at Bolton, and once again – hundreds, if not a couple of thousand, of hardy souls lurched into the breach of pain, suffering and achievement in order to hear those much sought after words – you are an Ironman.
I admit it. More than a couple of times over the weekend I reflected back to where I was one year ago at that moment. ‘This time last year I was racking my bike’. ‘This time last year I was just out of the water’. ‘This time last year I was still on the bike’.
So what have I learned in the year since becoming an Ironman?
I want to go again
I went back and forth on this one immediately afterwards, but my overwhelming feeling now is – I want to go back. It was a great experience, even though there is a definite risk that I am suffering from ‘pregnancy brain’ – otherwise known as the concept that enough time has passed now since the significant pain, that I only now remember the positive stuff. There are just too many fantastic races over the Iron distance that I want to experience that mean that I really want to go back to it. Lanzarote, Nice, Roth, any US race – these are all on my race checklist. I also don’t want to forever be a ‘one and done’ guy; I feel like a lot of people could do this if they wanted to – but it wasn’t just a bucket list thing for me. I did Ironman because I love triathlon, and I want to do it again. There is also another reason…
I’m still pissed about my bike leg
I really thought I could go around sub-6 hours for my bike leg at Bolton, and my 7:17:42 bike leg was the most disappointing element of the whole day. It wasn’t just the disappointment in the physical effort either – psychologically it was the most down I felt all day, and the only time at which I felt like quitting. For the effort that I put into the bike leg in the leadup training, I was really disappointed that I didn’t do a better job, and I’d really like the opportunity to set that one right. I really feel that if I worked at it, I could be a slightly better than mediocre biker, and that is where I would like to be. The only way I find out whether or not I have that talent in me is to go again – and really look to smash that bike leg.
I still have the base fitness?
This one is a little more open to argument. In retrospect, I don’t think I trained enough for Ironman, but I also think that, and just bear with me on this one…it might not take all that much for me to get back into a place where I would be able to do another one *wince*. Look, I could run a marathon tomorrow if I needed to – no problems. And I didn’t do all that much swim training, so I could build up the endurance again in that area. It is really the bike that would take the work – so give me a few months, a cycle trainer, a backyard shed and a looped video tape of the NBC coverage of Kona – and I’d be ready to go again.
I don’t know how I got the training done
That being said – how the hell did I do that? How did I get up at those ridiculous times on Saturday mornings to ride 100km before rolling home at 930am and spend the day with the Tin Lady? Granted – I’m neck deep in 3am nappy changes at the moment (except for last night when I *completely* slept through one, much the chagrin/humour (hopefully) of the Tin Lady), so it seems all the crazier, but how did I do that? A lot of people get by with social networks, leaning on each other to push through the training – but with few exceptions, I really did it all by myself. I didn’t do a single training session focused on Ironman with anyone else. That’s a bit crazy; and I’d likely have to do it differently the second time.
I’m proud that I stopped
It was the right decision. It was hard, and it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do – but stopping to focus on non-triathlon things was the right decision. I know this because I am two and a half chapters progressed in my PhD, and I would have had to stop anyway because of the arrival of my little boy. I’m proud for a pretty immature reason, which is because I did what I had to do, rather than what I wanted to do. While this might qualify as ‘adult behaviour’ for most people – I still consider it a minor achievement for me.
So what have I learned in the year since Ironman? Well, I want to do it again, and I want to nail the bike. The biggest difference is that now I know can do it. That confidence is still there. A marathon doesn’t fill me with fear in the way that it used to – because it isn’t prefaced with a 3.8km swim and a 180km bike. I have a sporting confidence that comes from having gone to the deep dark places and coming out the other side. I’m not as fast as I want to be – but I know that with the right focus I can get faster.
And everyday that passes gets me closer to the day when I have the time and space to get back on the bike, having signed up for an Ironman the night before.
In honour of a recent television premiere – Ironman is coming. Again.
Listening To: ‘You Know You’re Right’ by Nirvana