Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Iron Commitment

It's just 18 days before Ironman St. George and I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the commitment I made this year. Sometimes in life we take on tasks and goals without fully realizing the extent of the commitment we have made and the impact on our lives. Last year I did my first ironman, and finished it. It was an accomplishment, especially completing an ironman just 6 months after breaking my hip and clavicle. I patiently recovered and then decided that I wanted to not only do another ironman, but to do St. George again. As work took over my life last summer and fall, and knowing that there was a light at the end of that tunnel, I decided in the late fall to make my commitment to St. George more than just finishing another ironman. I committed to doing my best at this years race. Whether that brings me a qualifying slot for the World Championship at Kona, I don't know. Ironically, while that is what pushed me to give this years race everything I've got, I am once again confronted with the reality that it still is about the journey. Everything else will ultimately take care of itself.

Ironman training can be all consuming, especially, if you are pushing your limits. It's one thing to train to finish the race, and it's another thing to train to be ones fastest an best in each discipline on race day. That's what I have done. I have achieved new heights in my run, bike and swim training. I've realized that I can be competitive on race day. But this has come at a price. While I'm only working 3 days a week, training 16-17 hours a week ultimately takes twice that amount of time. There's the preparation for workouts, there's the cool down. There's the recovery and yes, the fatigue, an almost constant fatigue. I've handled it pretty well, but at times I'm sure it's made me a bit irritable. My wife and family doesn't really deserve that, and I will be needing to make it up to them in the months following this race.

My wife says that ironman is an addiction, and she is partially true. The highs of realizing that ones body can take more than it ever has is probably an addictive experience. However, it is also a reminder that we can achieve whatever we set our minds to. I'm not sure why I have to prove that to myself, except that achieving physical goals has always been something that seemed out of my reach. Maybe my childhood with asthma has something to do with this. Who knows?

To complete an ironman is one commitment. To be competitive at an ironman is a completely different type of commitment. My mind is now trained to react positively when confronted with the fatigue I will feel on the bike and certainly on the run. Instead of slowing down and "enjoying the view" as I did last year, this year I will remember that I can keep running despite the fatigue.

I am trying to avoid having time goals this year, but I know that they are still in my head. I want to swim faster than last year, and I absolutely am capable of that. I must ride my bike faster, and my training suggests that this is doable. Finally, I want to run the entire course, rather than just walk the uphills and run the downhills like I did last year.

The one thing that I know I can control and do faster are the transitions. Last year was a daze, and I managed to spend almost 20 minutes between the two transitions. This year I will use my obsessive nature and move quickly through both transitions, and they will be much faster.

I will not be defined by my results at St. George. I won't even be defined by my effort, although I expect to give it my best, as I always do. I will be defined by my commitment. However, when St. George is over, I will be defined by my commitment to my wife and family. For, so often, my other commitments in life have typically come before my wife and family. I've always made a good excuse for that, but no more. That will be my primary commitment.