After a day or two I hit up a doctor for some antibiotics, which did nothing except be my most recent contribution to creating super bugs that will one day wipe out the population, The Stand-style. We drove back to Philly, we flew back to Boulder, and for the next several days the only reason I left my bed was to go to work and cough all over everyone (you're welcome). I was inclined to blame the fact that I rinsed most of Mirror Lake through my sinuses while getting pounded on in the swim, but it really doesn't much matter why I got sick, I got sick and it whopped me good. And you know what? I had nothing to do, nothing to worry about, so I let it rage on. It's certainly about a billion times better than what I did last year in the weeks after ironman. I drank five thousand cups of tea and ate whatever sounded good and NyQuil'd myself into congested oblivion (obviously I will be wearing this hoodie in every picture taken of me for the next four months so just get used to it now).
August was always going to be a bit of a break and I embraced it. I carried around some soreness for a few days, and some odd pips and tweaks popped up, but nothing really lingered. After the first week of laying in bed, I spent another week happily paddling back and forth in the pool for 20-30 minutes before declaring all done! and climbing out. I made sure to "help" my body deal with all the inflammation by living on ice cream and doritos and don't even twist your mouth to say granola bar to me for at least two weeks. I'm always a bit torn after a race - on the one hand, my body feels like crap and I know that feeding it lots of fruits and veggies and good proteins will help it recover. On the other hand, I just did an ironman for crissakes, pour me a beer and make it a big one, actually make it two or maybe even 14.
And I'll say that in print, I think that's healthy and I think it's part of balance. You can't just train and sleep and snort kale and count calories and stare at your Garmin day in and day out. (Well, maybe YOU can, but I sure can't). As someone who lost a lot of weight quite a few years ago, there's always some lingering fear in the back of my head that if I eat this or that or the other thing, I'm going to gain it back. But somewhere along the way, I figured out that my weight is not a permanent state of being, and man alive was THAT a revelation to me. So for a couple of weeks, I hoovered up the crap that I usually avoid, and if I'm carrying a few extra pounds because of it, then so be it. I'll start training again and I've already reintroduced vegetables to my diet and the pounds that are mine will settle happily on and about my oft-photographed ass and the rest of them I'll leave in a puddle under the trainer or trailing in my two-beat-kick'd-wake in the pool (damn you, two-beat kick, damn you straight to hell).
I'm hoping that I nailed the mid-season break this year. Last year I came back a little too quickly from ironman. I had a great race in September but after that I was done. Kaput, toast, no more bicycle for me, and I wasn't lucky enough to realize that before I stood on the line in North Carolina. I've made sure over the last few weeks to turn off my training brain and just live life for a little while. I've gotten to see my husband when the sun is up and hang out with friends without goggle eyes sometimes after the late late hour of 8pm and I even managed to get myself down to Albuquerque this past weekend to
And that, to me, is a delectable treat. People that I generally only communicate with over texting gChat Skype FaceTime Facebook Twitter email, people that both make me laugh and want to bang my head against the wall on a semi-regular basis, to instead get to see their faces, hear their voices, have sincere conversations about the state of being of all things, that is so valuable to me. I'm lucky that these relationships have found their way to me, that coaching has added this dimension to my life, coaches say it all the time but I have learned so much more from this wacky family I've created than I could ever hope to pass along to them. They have given me a place, space and opportunity to learn and to grow, even if growth is sometimes disguised as a 600-comment thread about boobs. I feel like it's likely they have no idea how precious this really is, I'm the person on the receiving end of all the questions and thoughts and snarky comments that cross their mind as they make their way through their own journeys, but they fill up a part of me that I didn't even realize was empty.
I still can't tell you why I ever wanted to do an ironman. People ask me why I signed up for Coeur d'Alene for my first ironman and I tell them well it seemed like a good idea at the time. I wrote about it when I signed up, that race was haunting me for weeks, I was tossing and turning at night trying to talk myself out of wanting to do this thing. I still don't know why, I still don't know what it is about the distance or the place or the day, but my desire overwhelmed every piece of logical reason, every person that said, It's actually kind of far maybe you should wait a few years. Sitting here on the couch typing away after ironman number two, I am glad I didn't wait. I am glad my life has taken the turns it has, even the ones that I haven't been able to understand at the time, I am glad that I've had people in my life to push me and pull me and sometimes shove me over uncomfortable barriers, kicking and screaming and cursing like the foul-mouthed sailor I must have been in a past life; but this life, my life, what it is, I am lucky.
I do know that part of the attraction is that being able to stand at the starting line of an ironman is such an opportunity. A few days before the race, I had a chat with Sonja, and when she asked how I was feeling I told her, I am feeling curious. In a year, in a lifetime, how many chances do you get to rip away all the crap that you've put up to protect your heart and take a peek at who you really are? So far in my lifetime, not that many. I was curious about the thoughts and questions that would pour into my mind in some of the darker moments of the day. I went, and I stood, and I swam and biked and ran (and pooped) but more importantly, I listened. Everything that I can remember from the race, I stored it up inside me and let it simmer for a few days and then I dumped it all on the ground and poked through the smoking heap. And after I was done sifting through all of it - and there was a lot - I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to do this to myself again. So I let myself be for a while, knowing that desire would rise to the surface. And now it has, and that's a damned good thing, because way back in May another race climbed into my brain and sank its stupid little ironman teeth into me and instead of shaking it off, I said what the hell, why not and signed myself right up (and now I see that I need to change my registration name so I don't listen to people yelling Go Katrina! for 26 miles and think to myself, who the fuck is that?).
Desire is an emotion that I may never completely understand. I know very little about life, only having reached the grand old age of 32, but I've learned that there is a need within me to chase things that I don't understand, to search for extremes inside myself even if the clock will never reflect the demons I fight. One of the many race reports I read before I signed up for Coeur d'Alene talked about this sport, this distance, this journey, and came the closest to describing it how I really feel, how it is a fever that just will not break. So come December, I will swim (GAH jellyfishes), I will bike, and I will run, and I will be blessed to stand on the line yet again, curious about the ugliness that will rise up to greet me. Curious about where it will take me next.