After Boulder, Michelle and I had a good talk, and hopefully she won't mind me sharing a piece of it. She told me that she didn't want me to drop out of the marathon because she knew it would be excruciating to walk for six hours, which it was, and because she wanted me to hit rock bottom, which I did. And she didn't want me to do either of those things because she wants to torture me, she did it because she wanted me to finally start figuring out how to change.
So now a month has passed, and a lot, in fact, has changed (not puppies, they are the same).
The first thing I did after ironman was reach out for help in dealing with all of the crap I was going through. Which maybe was long overdue with my specific challenges related to sport, but for whatever reason, I wasn't ready until now. And maybe that's why the universe dumped me on the doorstep of IM Boulder, so I would keep dealing with my shit. I accept that. I know that I've been lucky in life in that I've never had anyone close to me pass away. To lose both of my grandparents in such a short time overwhelmed me with grief. I didn't know how to handle it. Looking back, I can see that I spent most of June and July being numb, trying to bury my pain and to hide from everything that I was feeling, and I was flailing, and hurting, and cowering. All that accomplished was pushing off the moment when I was finally forced to feel everything, and it was awful. I'm sure that anyone who has ever lost a loved one understands, I know that my grief is not unique to this world, but when it showed up a few miles into the marathon, it took me down.
The weeks after ironman were tough. I had hard conversations with a lot of people in my life. I cried, a lot, and I really hate crying. But it was also a relief to finally be working through it all. My trip to Vancouver was perfectly timed, I landed in Canada still a sniffling teary wreck, and over the course of the weekend I found a lot of light-hearted joy: in friends, in the community, in brightly-colored running shorts. I came home from the race feeling hopeful, peaceful, ready.
The TP box on Monday following the trip said, okay, back to work! and I made it through a few days of training before realizing that a hard-ish half marathon two weeks after ironman had done a number on my body and I needed to dial it back a bit. I got a chance to ride with Marni and Karel while they were in town, I went back to masters, I gently reentered the weight room, and I stopped hiding from my friends. It felt like the air had cleared a bit. Still work to do certainly, but clear, like I am starting to find my way back.
And I feel ready to think about racing again. It's easier to see on the back side of this summer that training and racing, especially ironman, is a privilege, and that makes me feel even more ashamed that I wasted it at Boulder. For a while, I couldn't decide if this was a when the horse bucks you off get right back on him and ride situation or a situation where I needed to take a few years off and go back when my head was straight. So I did my research and I pow-wow'd with Michelle and the poet and the short story is that we are going to head back to Cozumel this winter so I can give this distance yet another try. Because right now, feeling successful at ironman is what I want more than anything else in the racing world (taking pictures with the GoPro on an easy run definitely means I am starting to feel like myself).
And, to be sure, feeling successful has nothing to do with placement or qualifying or even the time at the end of the day. Sure, looking at the line-up in Boulder, I had vague dreams about those things, but when I think about races where I've felt successful in the past, it wasn't because of where I landed in the field or what the clock said. It was about how I felt, most particularly on the run, and out of six ironman races - how in the world have I done six? - I've only felt it one time. And I want to find that again.
Before Boulder, I didn't tell anyone I was racing, and I thought that was because I wanted it to be for me. But now, looking back, I think it was because I was afraid. I've seen what a life looks like when it is lived in fear, and that is not the kind of life I want for myself. I want to live out loud. If I make huge mistakes, if I fall flat on my face, I've learned that I have people that love me and will help me pick up the pieces. And I'd rather share my path, as flawed and screwed-up and insignificant as it may be, then hide under a rock, afraid to make any choice, any move in any direction because it might be the wrong one, afraid, all the time, of everything. In the weeks since I've started working on all of this, I've slept better than I've slept in a year at least, and that has got to mean something good. I want to figure out how to let the people that love me, do. I know the world is full of plenty of people who don't, and I am trying hard to not give a shit about them. But instead to focus on being thankful for the circle I am lucky to have, the ones that listen to me when I cry and never say, well that was fucking stupid and want to lift me up and be proud when I succeed. It has been hard for me to see that my life is vivid and full of so many who honestly do want the best for me, just like I do them, but I'm working on it. I'm trying, and that's all I can do. (Sofie judges me hard for taking so many selfies).
So I'm doing it. I'm chasing another starting line, and I'm going to work my tail off to get there as healthy and happy as I can, both physically and mentally. The last few days have been spent saying ooooof as my body has adjusted to training again. Pace is low, HR is high, watts are in the basement and my body does not feel like my own, it feels like it's full of bricks and marshmallows and everything I do makes me sore. But this morning, I rode so hard that I thought I was going to barf all over myself, and that felt good. I ran, hard, off the bike, and I didn't judge the numbers, I just ran, and that felt good too. So I know that while my fitness is still bouncing back, my brain is just about ready for another round of bobo bars and long rides and sweet potatoes by the pound and getting lapped over and over at the fast masters and running twenty miles when I feel like crap. I'm going to write about it along the way, because that's what I do. I'm going to make mistakes along the way, because that's what we all do, although many people aren't ridiculous enough to leave a tiny but permanent trail on the pages of the internet like I am. A lot of this scares me, I won't lie about that. But it scares me and I'm doing it anyway, because that is what I want my life to be.