Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ironman vs. Real Life

A lot of people think I'm crazy to train for Ironmans. Or, if not exactly crazy, they don't understand how I can find the time let alone the motivation. Or maybe they think this sort of training is too hard on the body and humans weren't meant to do it.

I can't say these people are wrong.

I went through an interesting thought process during my forced time off from training.

The first two weeks
For the first two weeks, I didn't mind the time off so much. I hurt for the first week of it, for one thing. But at about two weeks out, when I was starting to feel better in the head and my bruises were fading and my road rash healing, I decided to go on a bike ride and I was RARING to go.

I think this is how people feel who truly taper for events. I think before my next big race, I may try taking a little easier and see if I can recreate that feeling. It's not that I never tapered before; it's more that I was so used to working out that I didn't realize I wasn't resting enough.

The no gain, no pain period
The next couple of months were interesting. Over time all the little aches and pains that an athlete experiences almost non-stop and soon takes for granted went away. I didn't have heel pain. My back didn't bother me. My shoulder didn't ache. Even my calf, that's driven me crazy for going on three years now, got better.

I started to have doubts. Perhaps humans aren't really meant to push themselves to the limits I had pushed myself. Maybe when I came back, I'd restrict myself to 5-10 hours a week of training and do mostly Sprints and Olympic distance races with the occasional Half-Ironman as a challenge.

At this point, I still had a fair amount of fitness. I could tell I'd lost some but the base was still there and I was still much more fit than I had been when I first started down this path over four years ago. (It was during this period that I did that WDW Half-Marathon on no training whatsoever.)

Having a life
Another shock to me was seeing  how much better my household ran when I was around all the time. With my kids being older, it didn't seem to be a big deal to train as much as I did. Often, they were not even home in the evenings. If they were home, they were in their rooms communicating with their friends. We still had time together on the weekends and did stuff as a family though at times it was like pulling teeth to get them to join in -- are were too old for that sort of thing, is what I think they think.

But when I was home more, the house was cleaner, the chores got done. Things weren't falling through the cracks. It's not because I was doing all this work either. It was just me being around that was a catalyst to it getting done. Or maybe I'm just a better nag than Mr. Mac.

The kids are at critical ages too. Mini-Mac starts High School in the Fall. MacBoy is still trying to sort himself out after his hospitalization for depression. 

Again, the idea that maybe I shouldn't train as much when I do start back to it creeps into my head.

The no gain, have pain period
But then another funny thing happened. As my fitness faded away even more, I got to some sort of break-even point. And the aches and pains started coming back. In particular, I've had a lot more issues with my lower back as I've lost my core strength. But I'm having heel pain again too. My shoulder is back to having a dull ache much of the time.

And my calf isn't fully healed either. This sort of injury isn't one that resting makes heal faster as my doctors have told me over and over and as I've seen for myself. Once the area is stable, then all that helps is the passage of time.

Ironman Tahoe
Then a funny thing happened to me the other day. I started day dreaming about doing another Ironman. Not a dream while asleep, but a day dream where I started plotting out my race strategy and figuring out my training regime.

Then, yesterday, I got an email from Ironman.com. There's going to be a WTC Ironman in California next year and registration opens up on Monday. It's in Tahoe which is beautiful and only five hours from my house.

Oh, how I am tempted to sign up.

Sanity Prevails
Two things are keeping me from doing it. One is that I wasted so much money last year signing up for events thinking I'd be uninjured by the time I had to start training for them and then not being able to do them. The second thing is that now that I've done an Ironman (or two), I don't have this urgent need to do another right this second, like I had when I signed up for my first one.

I can take my time and build my base back up slowly and heal up my calf (finally) and not re-injury myself. This would put me on a two year plan for Ironman, not doing one next season.

I might feel differently if I was swimming, biking and running RIGHT NOW and if that third spot on my calf wasn't still bothering me and if I hadn't lost so much fitness that I feel like I'm right about where I was during the beginning of my first triathlon season and so have much fitness to make up.

But doing an inaugural event? Oh so tempting.
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