Thursday, July 14, 2011

the village

It takes a village for me to do most things.  
Even though I've stopped mentioning it here on the blog for, ohhh, at least 3 days, it doesn't mean that I've stopped thinking about it, and it definitely doesn't mean that I've stopped talking about it.  I worked through it with a friend, and was convinced that I wanted to sign up.  But then another trusted, reasonable, logical friend presented me with the undeniable fact that I get injured, often and a lot, and I mean, of COURSE I can do an Ironman.  Just maybe I shouldn't do one this (next) year.  And the logic got me - the logic always gets me, it's just so....LOGICAL.  So I told myself no.  Not this year.  Have a healthy fall season, rock some more 70.3s, and then maybe.  And I realized that IMAZ sign-up would happen after this "healthy fall season," so I started thinking about IMAZ 2012.  Or even IMWI 2012.

But then I looked at courses, and I read race reports on top of race reports (OMG WIND IMAZ), and I looked at some more courses, and none of them fit, not nearly as well as IMCdA, the one that first caught my eye.  It's big and hilly and beautiful and fits what I do well and that stupid race just kept nagging at me.  I couldn't shake it.  It was waking me up at night, "just to talk."  So I talked through it some more with my extremely patient friends and wrote down all the very reasonable reasons why I shouldn't sign up for an IM right now.  But I just had this gut feeling.  And let me tell you, I hate gut feelings.  They go against every part of my type-A, sanity-only, there's-no-room-for-silly-emotion-here, ENTJ executive self.  Gut feelings should be taken out back and shot by good sense.
So I dithered and I dickered, and I went back and forth and couldn't decide and just generally drove everyone around me completely crazy.  And it got to the point where I was annoying the shit out of myself.
And then a letter showed up in my inbox.  A letter designed as a guest post from one of my favorite cupcake-eating triathletes, Susan Lacke.
"OH DEAR GAWD, KATIE.
I can’t take it anymore. The “will she or won’t she?” drama is getting old. This dawdling is toying with my emotions worse than this season’s “Bachelorette.”
You keep going back and forth about doing an Ironman. One day you will, one day you won’t. Then you drink a beer and change your mind…then you drink another beer and change your mind again.
It’s time to man the fuck up.
You’ve proven you’re made of some pretty tough stuff, not because you’ve had some really high points, but because you’ve had really low points, too. And THAT, my friend, is what Ironman is all about.
You think it’s about being able to swim 2.4, bike 112, and run 26.2 miles? Puh-lease. That’s only a small part of it. Almost any reasonably fit person can do that.
But most reasonably fit people don’t, because they find an excuse not to. It’s too hard, they don’t have the time, they don’t own the right gear, they’re scared of swimming in lakes…there’s always an excuse.
No, being fit is not all it takes to be an Ironman. The people who do Ironman have cojones, and you, ma’am, have brass ones.
Ironman takes commitment to a full year of laying the groundwork to avoid injury and burnout on your way to the starting line, and flexibility when your groundwork takes a sudden and unplanned detour. 
It takes knowing that you are going to have some really crappy days in the water, on the bike, or in your running shoes, but you’ll log it in the training books, slam the cover, and move on to the next day anyway.
It takes a sense of humor to balance out the Type-A tendencies that you didn’t know you had until you began training for the race.
It takes a support group that understands why you are skipping happy hour in favor of an 8 PM bedtime, or is willing to meet you at the door with a beer and pizza after a 5-hour ride. 
It takes mental fortitude to keep your body going when every single muscle, bone, and nerve ending in you wants to quit.
You have all of that.
Ironman is not about covering 140.6 miles in one day. It’s about achieving something that most people would never even dream of doing. It’s about having that swagger in your step that says “Bitch, PLEASE…I’m an Ironman!” It’s about having the confidence that comes with knowing that if you can accomplish this, you can accomplish anything you damn well please.
Is it hard? Certainly. Is it scary? Oh, yeah. Will you doubt yourself? More than once.
Is it worth it? Like you would not believe.
As the saying goes, shit or get off the pot. If you decide not to do it, fine – we’ll high-five and never speak of you doing an Ironman ever again. But it’d be a shame for you to waste all the essential tools you need to be an Ironman…because you have every single one of them.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to man the fuck up. 
It’s time to sign up for an Ironman."
She’s right, especially about the beer (I bet you hear that a lot, Susan).  And that last part really got to me.  If I were to decide not to do it, to put it off, no one will think less of me.  Except me.
My life isn’t awesome because it’s easy.  I’ve been through some stuff that is hard as fuck, and I don’t let it knock me down.  I had this whole post written for today about how pissed I was earlier in the week, when I rode in last at a cycling hill workout and then huffed it in last the next day in a running workout.  Last last last last last.  But after a few days, I'm not that pissed, and I'll keep going back -  not because I have something to prove anymore, but because surrounding myself with people who are stronger than me is what makes me stronger.  

And you know what?  I do get injured a lot.  But I sure don't get injured from sitting on the couch.  I get injured because I go out, day after day, and I work hard and I'm tough and I don't give up, and I don't know where that part of me came from or who feeds it while I sleep, but it's there.  I did seriously consider waiting to do this.  But a year from now, I won't have any more of the tools I need to make this sound easy.  My legs might be stronger, but my heart sure won't be.  I'll borrow words that I read when my friend Ron (I hope it's okay that I call you my friend and not "that scrawny guy from twitter with the awesome bike jerseys") completed his first Ironman last year, also at Coeur d'Alene.  I stayed up late on Sunday evening, cheering on twitter and stalking ironmanlive.com and watching him finish his incredible race.  And when he recapped it later, he didn't focus on the idiosyncrasies of the race, he instead focused on the experience:

"I’ll leave you with this my friends - we are all athletes embracing a fever that just won’t break; we can not talk about our glory days because we are too busy creating them. I will stop listening to you if your story begins with “You should have known me when..” I want to know you NOW. If I can do this, then YOU can do this. You just need to ignore the negative voices in your head because they are WRONG. Those voices are not YOU, NEVER were and NEVER will be. Those voices are anomalies of others that fear your success. Let’s face it, in life, sometime the one person you need to stand up to is you. I stood up to myself at Coeur d’Alene and found that I had less than 900 seconds to spare…"

When I'm 82 years old, I won't care about the fact that we had to put off getting new carpet for a year so I could register for an IM.  I won't really even remember my tight hip flexor that was plaguing me a year earlier, or the fact that when I signed up I had a bruised heel from being stupid about shoes and 4 stitches in my abdomen and had just had my iliacus Graston'd until it was purple.  I probably won't care about the $600 I spent signing up and the $400 I spent on a year's worth of running shoes and the God-even-knows-how-much I spent on Clif bars and Fritos and Gu.  I want to be able to look back on a life that is rich with adventure and this, today, doing it now - this is how I make that happen.  And I sure as hell hope I'll be able to remember the finish line.

So to everyone else that sent me a "You can do it!" in the past week: holy hell, I hope you guys are right.  And to Susan, while I'll most definitely be cussing your name at some point over the next 12 months, I'll always be thankful that you held up the mirror so I could see that it wasn't a question of doing or not doing this, but realizing that if I didn't, my life would be forever changed, that I wouldn't be living the life I am so goddamn proud and lucky and grateful to be living.

(Someone should probably tell the poet that I signed him up for the Philadelphia Marathon to make myself feel better about all of this.)

50 comments:

  1. I was hoping I'd wake up to this post, because I was already planning to be in Idaho next June cheering you on...

    Congrats on taking that leap :)

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  2. Yessssss! I am SO effin proud OF you and excited FOR you! And as promised, I will BE THERE to cheer on your brass balls!
    Can't wait to read about your training!
    Yeehaw!!!!!!

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  3. You've got this! Your determination alone will pull you through. So excited for you.

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  4. Awesome work :) You'll do very well.

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  5. FUCK YESS!!! I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!!

    IDAHO here we come!!! (Obviously Ill be there to cheer)

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  6. Finally, thank god. Now we have to listen to you yammer about IM training for the next year :)

    You know more about physiology than most PTs, by the way, so at this point you can fix your own injuries. Why do you have 4 stitches?

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  7. Yes!

    I am not sure I would've put it *exactly* the same way Susan did, but I share her ultimate sentiment -- you have what it takes, and you have the support network it takes.

    I can't wait to stay up and watch ironmanlive.com and cheer you on!

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  8. congratulations! My brother and sister-in-law did this race last summer. it is beautiful!!! I am doing my first half-ironman this fall and i hope my first full will be at Coeurd'Alene! You will rock it!

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  9. I knew exactly where this post was going, but I still teared up with excitement when I saw the registration confirmation.

    And Susan's email makes me want to go sign up for one. I'm almost positive J would divorce me though.

    Good luck chica! So pumped to follow your journey!

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  10. Great post and motivation 3 days before my first 70.3!

    Congrats!!!

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  11. WOOOO HOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Congrats, Katie! You ARE going to do it and you ARE going to kick some IM booty. You know what, there will ALWAYS be reasons not to do it, and there will always be the risk of getting injured, and always be other stuff going on in your life, but like you said--you won't remember any of those things, you'll only remember the regret if you didn't do it.

    I totally know what you mean bout the gut feeling. While doing a HIM this May doesn't seem like much of a big deal to me now after reading about all you crazies doing IMs, it was a BIG deal for me at the time signing up for that thing. I thought I was crazy to sign up for it during grad school, but I just had the feeling that i had to do it, and one day I just filled out my information, closed my eyes (literally), and pressed the register button...and then never looked back!

    Congrats!!

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  12. Oh and PS, are you guys really doing the Philly Marathon? I'm not sure if I knew that yet. I am signed up for Philly! Now if only my foot would cooperate so I could start running again at some point. That might help.

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  13. Haha, you are fucking crazy and awezing all at the same time. I want the record to show that you ASKED me to talk you out of it. That was all I had. I suspected it wasn't enough. ;)

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  14. I think I saw this coming, just sayin! So excited for you--go get it!

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  15. I just went to the race website and it looks amazing! Nice choice! I'm so glad you pulled the trigger and I'm excited to go on your training journey with you as you blog about your experiences.

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  16. Fantastic. Just fantastic!

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  17. yesssss. good decision or great decision? i say: greatest decision.

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  18. Yay!!!! Now, after I spend a year reading about how awfully hard and yet ultimately rewarding training for an ironman is for you, maybe I'll be ready to sign up for a sprint tri! haha. or not.

    Seriously though... great decision can't wait to follow along...!

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  19. Woooo Hooooooo!!!!! This will change your life forever, in a good way. Your mental toughness will be challenged and surpassed. BTW awesome post and I love the letter you received too! It's funny I was just trying to convince my significant other that we should go volunteer for IMAZ and sign up for the 2012. He nixed it :-( But I've had my chance to prove myself already and I'm excited to follow you on your journey!

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  20. Katie, don't hope people are right.

    Just believe that you can do it.

    Also, 4 stitches in your abdomen?

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  21. You continue to rock my world. Can't wait to support you through all this girl! You CAN do it. And will.

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  22. Well then. So it goes. Can't wait to read about many burrito rides.

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  23. I guess I'll be the gentle voice of dissent, as this is not the choice I would have made in your shoes (or mine, either. Definitely not mine).

    I have the sense that you're doing this race to prove something to yourself; thing is, I don't think you have anything left to prove. NO ONE could doubt your drive - I certainly don't.

    That being said, I will be cheering for you the whole way :)

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  24. Yahoo! I wish I could watch on t.v. or something to cheer you on.

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  25. Awesome! I know you can do this. I'll be cheering you on the whole way!

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  26. Totally agree with AKA Darkwave et al there. I tend to think that extreme athletes (yes, IMs are extreme) have something burning in their souls that the rest of us do not - and don't understand. Doesn't make your decision right or wrong but sheds light on why it's consumed you.

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  27. YES! I wish I could sign up with you.

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  28. There's a certain level of crazy one has to embrace to do these things, and I love that you Own every ounce of it.

    You'll cross the finish line, and that's all YOU need to know. :)

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  29. Well, I knew it wouldn't take long. As katekirk observes, you can't live happily without all consuming passions, whether it's a full time job + school + new puppy + secret wedding, or training for an IM. :)

    I have no doubt you can do it, and do it quite well, and get to that starting line healthy, strong and more amazing than ever.

    Just realize the place you are now (IMCDA or bust!) is the complete opposite of the place you were a few months ago (I am just happy to be able to run/bike/swim). And accept the risk involved for what it is: You simply need big goals and demanding training to feel like you are really ALIVE.

    And nice work signing the poet up for the full mary!

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  30. You will love it - congrats!

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  31. I knew you would do it!!!! You are a rockstar for signing up and if you want a riding partner or do some TRX to make sure those glutes are ready just let me know!

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  32. HOLY SHIT!!!! Best. Post. Ever. So freakin' excited for you.

    1. Yes you can do it.
    2. I think beer makes lots of people indecisive.
    3. I want to come watch.
    4. Did I mention, yes you can do it?

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  33. So happy and excited for you! You are definitely going to rock this :).

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  34. Way to take that ridiculously terrifying plunge. I hope I'm brave enough to follow in your swimming, biking and running foot steps one day :)

    You are going to kick some srious butt and I will definitely be twitter and ironmanlive stalking you on race day!!

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  35. Fantastic! It was inevitable. Glad you took the plunge.

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  36. This is so inspiring and I love it! So excited for you!

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  37. Congrats! Welcome to the most awesome journey! I did my first IM last year and I am 9 days away from doing it all again. And we r signed up for Mont-tremblant for 2012. It's addictive!! Your friend Susan said it perfectly.
    Enjoy the journey, Katie! And please feel free to consider me part of your village. I'm only too happy to help in any way I can.

    Congrats and have FUN!

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  38. Oh man, rarely do I ever read a blog post and get chills, but this one did it. I AM SO FRICKIN EXCITED FOR YOU and you have some great friends to lay down the truth like that. I will be cheering you on the entire way!!

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  39. ahhh what a great post. I'm so excited slash terrified for you. Can't wait to follow along for the ride. :D

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  40. WOW, I just saw this post ( i am behind sorry) amazing. this is just the inspiration i need for tomorrow's run. I am so proud and amazed at your determination and I know you are going to rock it and we will be here right along with you helping you through this crazy ride!

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  41. Damn - this is amazing. I can't wait to follow your adventure over the next year. INSPIRING.

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  42. Well, I'm just catching up with everything that happened last week, so I'm a little late, but congratulations! I can't say I'm all that surprised, but I am excited for you!

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  43. I'm SO late to the party here, but in my head, you'd already registered. I'm glad to know reality reflects the way I thought things should go down. I'm planning to use your "When I'm 82" line of thinking to make a lot of decisions over the next week or so—how I spend my time, who I spend it with, what goes through my mind. Cannot WAIT to live vicariously through you on this incredible journey!

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  44. I pretty much went through a similar thought process with IMAZ. Plus like you said, the CdA course is going to beautiful and I'd prefer rolling hills esp on the bike. I hear the waters cold though...

    Looking forward to comparing notes w/ you through the next year...

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  45. A friend sent me your way- thank you for writing this!

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