Tuesday, December 29, 2015

on December

I've never finished an ironman feeling quite so peaceful.  It's different than feeling done kaput finished, I'm not ready to wash my hands of this distance no matter how I felt at mile 60 of the bike.  But, like everyone posts haughtily on instagram all the time, I do think that I have finally learned how to honestly be in love with the process.  With where I am, just me, not comparing myself to anyone else around me and where they are and how fast they got there and what their story looks like and how mine doesn't measure up.  My day went how I wanted it to go, start to finish.  That's what I care about, not about the time, or the heat, or the chafing, or the gut bomb, or the blisters or whatever else I could use to bring it down.  And with that comes peace.  Maybe I'm growing up.  
The week after ironman, I did almost nothing.  I had this idea that I would have so much extra time in my life since I wasn't training, but instead my body ate up all those hours with sleep and limping up and down the stairs (I'm 2 for 7 on this now: running the marathon makes you a hell of a lot more sore than a 6-hour walk).  I was home a day or two before hopping back on a plane (thanks, Southwest points!) down to Tucson to support my athletes running half & full marathons.  One week after ironman, I ran somewhere between five and eleven miles at a variety of paces back and forth between miles 19 and 26.2 of the race, and I am here to report that it was a fucking terrible idea although I did have a blast doing it.  I medicated with tequila and went back to bed, my abs sorely disgruntled with how much I laughed over two days.
Home again in Colorado for a minute before boarding yet another plane (seriously, travel points are the best) out to Philadelphia to visit with family for the holidays.  I spent some good time with them, I got to catch up with more than a few dear friends and start drinking at 9am on a Sunday morning.  The Eagles backed up my joy with a win (rare this season, hopefully more planned for next season now that Kelly got the boot).  This is what my teeth look like up close when I'm drunk before noon (hashtag balance).
Coming out of the second ironman of the year, I usually take the full month of December off so that I can spend all of January feeling fat and bitching about how few watts I have on twitter.  But I felt like I got that break with everything else that was going on in my life following IM Boulder.  I wasn't burned out going into Cozumel and regardless of what social media proclaims we all should be doing this time of year, I didn't need a full month away from training to recharge my batteries for 2016.  So I didn't do that.  I took that first week off.  The second week I asked Michelle to dump a bunch of swims on my schedule and I would bike or run if I felt like it (ha).  I did some mobility work and I swam almost every day, that was enough, it felt good.  And by the third week following ironman, I was ready to be moving again.  It was what I needed and it was right for me.  Taking a bunch of time off never makes me feel happy, it makes me cranky and my hips hurt and I miss the 5K swims and being able to shoehorn myself into tiny running shorts.  Moving my body is part of my life, it's a rhythm that I crave and if it ever stops making my life better, I'll stop doing it, but until then, here I go.
That said, I have been a bit more casual throughout the holiday season.  I shut down a couple of sessions when I wasn't feeling like a superstar instead of digging for mojo to finish it out, I had movie popcorn for lunch, I climbed into the shot closet along with all my swimming friends, I lifted hard in the gym, I said yes to every holiday party, every mimosa brunch, and I filled the days between with enough spinach and kombucha to keep my immune system happy.  It's a weird sort of balance, but it worked for me this year.  And one day of twizzlers and blueberry danish pancakes is pretty amazing but after two days of sugar over-consumption I feel like shit and want to go back to eating vegetables so my headache will depart.  I only put on an as-of-this-morning six pounds as opposed to some of my month-off-blitzes of the past, which means I will only be moderately crabby over the next few weeks instead of homicidally angry from sugar withdrawal.  I know.  I'm getting so boring in my old age.
I had a great talk with Michelle sometime in the first couple of days after the race about how it went down, where my weaknesses are and what the plan was for next year.  I still haven't pulled the many-hundred-dollars-trigger on a few things, one due to hesitance, most thanks to the financial holocaust of December.  But I felt good about our talk: where I am now, what we have accomplished and where I want to go from here.  The first thing that's going down is that she has turned me loose in the weight room to lift myself senseless for a while.  I'm only two weeks into it but it's making me really happy to experiment and lift heavy and wreck myself without worrying about what it's doing to my swim/bike/run.  The first day back I moved about 16 pounds and was so sore that I couldn't sit down unaided for a few days, but my body is used at least some level of this kind of work and I feel like I've adapted pretty quickly to the expanded sessions.  I'm taking time to work on things I really suck at (I'm looking at you, squatting), to be precise about form and correct some movements that I've glossed over or ignored as I've lifted through so many seasons of ironman training.  It's interesting and different and I'm enjoying the shit out of it.  I'm curious to see the result at the end of what I'm guessing will be 6-8 weeks of this before it's back to all bicycle all the time, which makes me equally happy but in a completely different way.  
I'm not going to take the time to do a year in review post.  I've spent enough time recording this year already and I'm tired of talking about how hard it has been.  And, to be sure, it wasn't all bad, a lot of that hard has taught me about real friendship, and love, and grief, and all the other crap that goes along with feeling my feelings instead of stuffing them down and shoveling rocks over them with sarcastic comments and dirty jokes.  But I've done enough looking back.  I'm ready to look forward to what comes next, to the next adventure.  I've planning a few trips with my bicycle to warmer places in January and February, I'm hosting a run camp for my athletes where I'll get to share some awesome people in my village, I'm hoping to catch James Taylor in NYC with a good friend, I'm going to run a 5K so I can remember that it hurts more than ironman.  And the small stuff, too, I'm going to finally teach Hunter to drop it and leave it instead of drop it and pick it right back up again, I'm going to cook the bison sweet potato thing five times a month, I'm going to swim outside in below-freezing temps and take selfies on the bike and grudgingly try to make peace or at least find a way to coexist with my run, I'm going to keep eating vanilla almond butter out of the jar with a spoon, I'm going to get to race, maybe a little, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to love the people (and puppies) that love me right back.  No resolutions, no sweeping declarations of change, no strict insane diets or detoxes or new regimens, simply just moving forward.  Working every day to make myself better, to help other people make their lives better, to keep asking question and listening and learning, chasing joy and discarding anything and everything that may distract from that.  That's all I need.  That's all I ever need (puppies say Merry Christmas).