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.
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 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.)