The second Ironman, and training for it, is a funny thing. The first time, simply covering the distance is a major accomplishment. You spend months chasing the chance to hear yourself christened an Ironman. But once you’ve already done that, what’s left? Many people are confused about the fact that I am “doing another Ironman” – haven’t I already done that? Why do this again?
One colleague who asked the question even followed up with, “Are you just doing it because it is there?”
As if that isn’t a good enough reason…
A major part of my motivation was that I loved training for IMKY last year. Maybe not every minute of it, but there was something about setting aside 5-8 hours every Saturday to bike and run that was just amazing. Every morning, I started out unable to wrap my head around how I was going to bike 80 miles/run 7 miles or whatnot, and every time, I got it done.
And then promptly showered and changed back into my pajamas for the day.
NOW you see why this Ironman training thing is so appealing.
And aside from my ongoing frustrations with my bike that I don’t really care to talk about today, I enjoyed training again this time around. But is that enough to go and do the race? Couldn’t I have just biked 5 hours and run 2 hours every weekend just for fun, and saved myself the registration fee and travel hassle?
Sure. But there’s something else I really want, and that’s to actually run the Ironman marathon. In a way, I felt like I missed out at IMKY because it was hot, I overbiked a little, and I wound up walking about 30-40% of the marathon. Hobbling through the streets of Louisville as the sunset on that scorching 96F day was not exactly exhilarating, to say the least, and I finished the day feeling a little defeated despite covering 140.6 miles in just over 14 hours.
I told my coach the next day that I wanted to do another one, but that there was no way I was ever “running” for almost 6 hours again, unless it was part of a 50 mile race, and that I NEEDED to improve my run speed. She said it was a deal, and we launched the effort to improve my standalone run PRs over the winter, which wrapped up with a 47 minute marathon PR in February. That wound up translating to some speedy run times off the bike, including a nearly 30 minute improvement on my half ironman run split in April, and I started to believe that I could actually, really, truly execute the Ironman run the way I wanted to last year.
I still feel a little dread every time I run off the bike, both in racing and in training. Will this be the day that I struggle along at 12 minutes per mile? Will I run out of steam after 45 minutes? And while I’m sure that dread will be sitting with me at mile 110 of the bike next Sunday, I’ve only had one difficult run off the bike this season (after the Garrett County Gran Fondo, when I was horribly underhydrated and had nowhere to run except around the parking lot.) All of the others have been (relatively) fast, effortless, and enjoyable.
And during many of those runs, including the 2 hours I ran after biking almost 50 miles last Saturday, I start to think about how much fun it will be to actually RUN toward the finish line. Sometimes, I even catch myself smiling like crazy – probably scaring some people on Massachusetts Avenue and the Capital Crescent Trail in the process.
I hope that’s how next Sunday ends up. Because I realized that it’s what I’ve been chasing for almost 50 weeks now.