My first Ironman triathlon event was a half-Ironman in Indian Wells: IM70.3 Indian Wells. I had trained on my own, and after a bunch of shorter distances races, I thought I was ready to try a longer distance race. Indian Wells seemed like a perfect fit. After months of training and one incredibly restless night of sleep, I was finally in the water and working hard to shake the nerves as best I could. The swim and bike portions were hard but uneventful; my back hurt, my hamstrings were tight, and my rear end was sore, but I managed. However, I knew that the run would be the troubling part for me. For this particular race, the run portion consisted of two laps around a golf course. A cruel joke that is played out at most multiple lap races is that the finish line is also the beginning of the second lap–you get to watch in envy as the early finishers elatedly cross the finish line while you brace for another painful trip. Soon after I began my second lap, I hit the “wall.” My run slowed to a jog, which turned into a walk. Before too long, I was joined by an equally exhausted athlete. We commiserated with each other as we questioned our sanity, and talked about our training programs. Finally, he turned to me and asked, “so, do you think you’re going to do the full?
If you’ve ever seen the replay of the Indianapolis Colt’s then-coach, Jim Mora, give his famous “Playoffs?” rant, you can imagine what went through my head (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2R2sH2ScBM). Am I going to do a full Ironman?!? Are you kidding me? We’re walking the half! My legs are throbbing, and my feet hurt so badly that I cringe every time my foot hits the ground. I’m doing everything I can just to finish this stupid race. Do the full??? You’re outta your mind.
(Note: I did finish. I started running again and managed to cross the finish line in exactly seven hours. 7:00:12, to be exact. The addiction hook was set, and I signed up for my next 70.3 the next day).
Just like everything else, the harder I worked, the easier things became. My next half-IM was faster and slightly less painful, as was the next one, and so on. It was time for a full distance Ironman. 140.3 miles: 2.5-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run. The decision wasn’t trivial by any means. I knew that while it was possible to brute force my way through a half-Ironman distance, there was no way I’d be able to finish a full-Ironman without proper training and nutrition. Will power alone wasn’t going to cut it. This next adventure would require an intense focus and commitment, certainly at the expense of other things. Deep down, I had to do this. I don’t know why it’s so important to me, but it is.
I am now five months into my training for Ironman Arizona. I work with an excellent coach who helps keep me motivated and injury-free (knock on wood). My fitness has significantly improved, and I’m seeing the results in all my numbers. There are days I still question my ability to get through a full, but I know I’m on the right track, and if I just stay focused, everything will work out. In many ways, my life revolves around my training and my upcoming race.
But, my race will be canceled. I know this. All races are being canceled. As COVID ravages the country, there is no question in my mind that Ironman Arizona will ultimately get pulled. Even if the race isn’t canceled, it’s not like Arizona is doing a stellar job of managing the Pandemic, so I have to consider the risk for myself and my family by participating. The race takes place on November 22nd in Tucson, AZ, fifteen weeks from now. Ironman (WTC) has done a poor job in managing race cancellations and has continually chosen to cancel races as close to the race date as possible to withhold refunds. It’s a poor business practice, but it’s been pretty consistent, so I imagine that Arizona will be canceled sometime in September.
Until then, I will continue to train as if the race is going off as planned. I don’t actually know what else to do. I’m stuck.