Okay, so - in case there are people who want to get caught up on my illustrious triathlon career without wading through all the old posts (vastly entertaining though they are), I'm posting my IMOO report here in all its glory. Since it's a bit, umm, long, I'm breaking it down into 4 parts. This was what I posted on the CTC message board, and it pretty well sums things up for last year.
“You do have to train for that you know.”
People have a lot of different reasons for signing up to do an Ironman: to set a challenge for themselves, to prove something, to attempt to achieve what seems impossible, and so on. In my case, I also wanted to not suck at something. While I love playing hockey, taking classes and clinics and playing rat hockey and not improving was getting a bit frustrating; triathlon training seemed like the kind of thing that if I put in the time, I’d see a linear progression. Ha, little did I know.
I didn’t even tell anyone that I had signed up for IMOO last year until a tri friend asked me straight out, after which I got the remark of “oh, I thought you were joking” plus the above comment. It’s not easy being the Lowest Common Denominator of your tri club, but clearly that’s where I was at.
“I’m waiting to see how you do, because I figure if you can do an Ironman, anyone can.” Umm, okay I guess. Thanks?
“Hey, I met someone who might actually be slower than you at IMOO!”
“IF you finish Ironman....”
The best was when I went out to dinner with close friends, a couple who used to do tris but haven’t had time lately, and when I mentioned that I had signed up to do IMOO the next year, the response was an incredulous “you’re not serious, are you?” Ouch. That hurt. I even got a baffled/alarmed look from Robbie at VQ when I went in for their fitness assessment, and said that my goals for the next year involved an IM. In fact, the only people who had a positive response were Bridget and Colleen, who emailed me to say hey, that’s great, how can we help you? For that one small vote of confidence, I will be eternally grateful. Though, it was also illuminating to see that the view that others had of me was so very different from how I thought of myself. I thought, these people don’t know me at all, don’t know that when I put my mind to something, I’ll do it.
So Bridget came up with a plan for me, helped me figure out heart rate zones and so on, Colleen recommended her gym at DePaul so that we could start swimming together, which we did, I started VQ cycling classes last October, bought stock in GU, and things got going.
Then my typical Schleprockian life asserted itself, bit by bit. The worst was when my dog Hudson, my best friend and companion, my heart and soul, died in January. I think training saved my sanity, because I could run, and cry, and run from my sadness and anger, at least for a little while. In fact, I think I’ve cried more in the last eight months than I have, well, in the 8 months before that. At least. I was definitely in tears when I found myself on the Ozark Mountain High Road in Missouri in April, on an evil and possessed bike (D-POD, aka Damien, Prince of Darkness) that wouldn’t shift, defeated by 8 miles of extreme hills, feeling like a complete and total fraud.
I also recall being in tears during Galena, when yet again in spite of many hours and weeks of training, I was going to be one of the last to finish in part thanks to a horrendous swim that had me gasping for air and coughing up blood right then and for days afterward, looking to all the world like yet again, I hadn’t done jack shit in the previous months. And again, D-POD decided since it wasn’t an alternate Tuesday, it wasn’t a shifting kind of day, so I found myself very close to pitching him into a cornfield – yes, during the race. So much for my triumphant racing season, where I’d be the antithesis of my usual slow, lumpen, plodding self. During my miserable bike, I had decided I wasn’t going to wear my camouflage swimcap for the run, the one I had stashed in my T2 bag, because I didn’t want to make any more of an ass out of myself. Of course, that thought has never stopped me, so I did decide to wear it, and seeing the smile it put on people’s faces I discovered that sometimes all you’re left with is the chance to lift the spirits of the rest of the BOPers.....and that’s a heck of a lot better than having nothing more to show for your efforts than a crappy race time.
This was the time when I suddenly became unable to breathe while swimming, and while a doctor recommended by Ruth (thanks Ruth!) eventually figured out that I had acute/chronic bronchitis and asthma, it left me with zero confidence in my swimming abilities, positive that these breathing problems could and would crop up at any moment.
Tri-shark. Horribly Hilly. Alcatraz. None of these went particularly well in my mind, since I didn’t do much better than people who hadn’t been training for hours on end. At least by now I was borrowing Bridget’s Orbea, so I didn’t have to deal with D-POD issues anymore. I went to dinner with that same couple, who asked me “how’s the training coming along?”, and I could see in their eyes they didn’t think I was seriously training. Maybe I wasn’t. I had added hours to my training plan, but maybe it still wasn’t enough, even though I look back at my summer and recall it in terms of long rides and long runs, in an endless procession of weekends at a race or ride of some sort, and a constant state of feeling like Forrest Gump, just running and running and running.
There was still fun to be had, however, and it was found in spades at the inaugural Beater Bike Classic, held at the Firecracker Triathlon in St. Joe, MI. I was slow on the bike then, but at least I could use as an excuse the fact that I was riding my 30-year old, 150-lb. Schwinn 10-speed. Oh, and wearing a Catwoman costume. I say, if you can’t have fun while carrying a whip, then when can you?
Then, Evergreen Lake, an Olympic distance. Where I finally felt that I had a good race. The swim seemed effortless, even without a wetsuit, and this was huge for me. The bike and run were fine as well, and I was happy with my race. Life was good. I made the critical mistake of saying what a perfect day it had been, so of course, while driving back to Chicago, some assclown on I-55 slammed into my poor car with only 25K miles on it, and totaled it. Lesson learned: don’t tempt fate by having too good of a day, because fate just might be compelled to restore balance to the world by saying “fuck you” and raining pestilence on your weary head.
With Steelhead came a new problem – burning/painful/numb feet on the run. What fresh hell is this, I thought? Another sucky time, and I had truly thought that this was going to be my summer of sucking LESS, at least marginally. It gets tiresome after a while, though one does get used to it. This is why when friends tell me they had a bad race, or got dropped on a ride, I’m sympathetic, but I also think hey, welcome to my world. Where I can’t even pick out a key limiter to focus on, because I don’t seem to be good at any of the 3 sports. Oops. How did this happen, when I’ve always thought of myself as being at least somewhat athletic?
I know, I know, po’ po’ pitiful me. Actually, a lot of the training was fun, especially the long rides where I’d wind up riding from IL to WI, across much of southern WI and its cornfields, back to IL, finding an ice cream shoppe along the way, stopping to chat with locals about the robustness of this year’s corn crop, agreeing
to do some heirloom tomato seed swapping later in the year, repeat. If anyone wants to know anything about the growth cycle of corn, talk to me. But it’s just a wee bit frustrating, to spend all this time training, and still....just......suck.
Then, the Dairyland Dare, or biking until the cows come home. This was where I finally felt the training was starting to pay off, because when I got to about mile 55 of this insanely hilly ride, and people were talking about doing just the 100K instead of the 200, I didn’t even consider it; 55 hardly seemed sufficient. So I finished the 200K as the sun was setting, keeping an eye on the cows grazing and noting that no sir, they had not yet gone home so clearly I still had some time left.
I then had Pleasant Prairie as a relay, doing the run part, and managing to pull a groin muscle in the process. Great. Next up, biking in IN, where I got stung by a wasp, caught in the rain, and lost in the ghetto. I had planned to go up to Verona the next Monday to ride the IMOO course, and decided to go in spite of the still-pulled muscle, since the forecast called for no rain. Some hours later, I had had breakfast, toured the Mustard Museum in Mt. Horeb, researched and wrote a lengthy dissertation on the architectural styles prevalent in small Wisconsin towns, learned how to make cheese at a local dairy farm, and it was still pouring buckets. Sigh. This was getting ridiculous. Do you ever feel like you’re jinxed, or that someone is trying to tell you something? In my case, I can never figure out what the message is – maybe I need to start eating alphabet soup. The pinnacle of it all was when I brought my bike to GAG for a pre-IMOO tune-up.....to find out that the fork was cracked and the bike was unrideable. I mean really, what the hell? What next? Since the chances were high that if I had gone riding in Verona the fork would have snapped out from under me, I couldn’t figure out if I had very bad luck, or very good luck, or bad luck with a balding, pudgy guardian angel named Stan who was running around conjuring up thunderstorms out of thin air, so that I didn’t wind up killing myself. I think I’ll go with Stan.
By two weeks out, the sudden random pain in my shoulder that made it hard to move, well, that was almost to be expected. Big thanks to Laura Lane, the massage therapist who some of you remember from our CTC post-race tent at Accenture, who worked out the kinks as much as possible. I had also taken a hiatus from hockey at this point, figuring that with my luck (or lack thereof), I couldn’t be too careful. The Watch of Doom was ticking away, and I had one week left in which to panic. My goal at this point was to just finish – though again, that was kind of a depressing thought, that I had given up my whole summer to training, just to finish. I refused to give anyone a time goal, because my view was and still is that anything can happen in an IM, and you never know what’ll crop up. Sure, in my mind I thought I could do the swim in 1:40 (at best), the bike in 7:00 at most, and the run in 5:00, for a time of about 14 hrs or less. But I also knew it could be just as easy to not finish at all, and how much would that just.....suck?