I wrote part of this 28 sleeps before the Ironman and I was truly at my wits end. I wrote many of my thoughts after a terrible ride that was supposed to be 160km or for my American friends 99.41M, it was a gorgeous sunny day and only about 27c (what the heck you want conversion here too?) which is much cooler than it had been....it was what a cyclist would call a "perfect day for a long ride." Well let me tell you, until you train for an Ironman and hit the peak of your training (i.e. 17-20 hour training weeks), there is no weather that feels perfect when you are this exhausted. Truthfully, I felt fried, tired, depleted, exhausted, sore, sad and fed up; at 20km into my 160km ride I started to bawl my face off and I couldn't hide it -- I was with 4 friends. As I was cycling my legs were burning up with lactic acid, my neck was already sore and I was thinking about how far I had to go and how long I would be in that godforsaken saddle....it was a full on breakdown -- bawling, not just a simple 'tearing up'...I was bawling.
I never could sleep before my long rides; so worried about how I will feel, my nutrition, how much I will have to drink, where are the stores to get more drinks, do I have enough gels, am I going to get nauseous, will my undercarriage hurt, how bad will the hills feel, can I keep up with my friends, will I make the cut off time in the race (I had a dream days before the race that I missed it by one minute!!!)....it's all a bit of a mental gong show. Needless to say, I had to talk myself down from the mental hell that I was feeling so early on into our ride but I kept going, albeit slow, I did continue...and today I am in that same place yet not training for an Ironman.
Let me continue... about 70km into our ride myself and a friend continued cycling south while my other friends took a right....we all got separated and eventually I found myself totally alone and I had another 95km to go; the thought of scooting directly across the main street back home was not lost on me but I knew I would hate myself if I didn't continue on. Let me tell you something....when you cycle alone for nearly four hours a lot goes through your head, when it's a good day and you feel good you think about how gorgeous the countryside is, how grateful you are to be healthy, how much you love this freedom -- that day wasn't the day for those thoughts. That day my thoughts were continually bringing me to a place of negativity, I fought with my mind the entire way -- I wanted to quite so badly and I don't just mean the ride, I mean quit training, not try to complete the Ironman, to go home, to go back to running, heck I knew running inside and out... I didn't know biking or swimming, this was new, it was horribly uncomfortable. I wanted out. My mind was saying things like; "who do you think you are trying to do an Ironman?" "Go home, go to bed, this is silly" "I hate how I feel," "just stop no one cares it won't matter."
I knew that I had a choice; fall apart, give up, or pull something from inside of me that I know exists from years of falling down and getting back up again -- I played the voices of many mentors and friends over and over in my head telling me; 'its normal to feel terrible at the peak of your training' 'we all felt the same way' 'you are doing great and will complete this Ironman' 'don't give up', these are the words and thoughts that got me through 7 hours of one of the toughest days physically of my life and seems to be carrying me through on a daily basis as of late.
So, after writing this down, here is what I have learned from completing the Ironman and just my life in general; you will make friends in on your path and some will be genuine and others not so much but regardless of what you think they can bring to you, you will likely end up alone on a long stretch of road with no support at one time or other. You will feel scared, you will want to quit, you will feel like its all pointless as they didn't even come to find you when you were lost. It is in those moments that you will draw out from yourself a strength and self reliance you never knew existed. You will keep on peddling that bike and you might cry a bit along the way, you may feel terribly sorry for yourself but you will not quit, you know you have what it takes to get you across the finish line with or without support. Everything you need has always been deep within you, you will not give up and you will succeed.
Life will give you exactly what is meant to be here in your life today, no, it may not be what you want but you will eventually see there are lessons in each moment, you will see how your pain expands your consciousness, your vessel, your capacity, your life and your overall personal growth.
I got through an Ironman with not nearly enough training and I believe that I can get through anything -- it was not a physical training requirement, it was a purely mental game to conquer. If there is one thing I have learned in my life and consistently have told my son since he was a small boy;
"Whatever the mind can conceive the mind can achieve"
I know that this mind isn't going to give up, give in or sit still. I will be perfectly fine no matter how the pieces fall.
Long live the internal fight with self as it's the only fight that will ever matter.
Get up and get back in the game with a big fat smile on your face!