Beyond Iron
Life … when the training is finished

The Final Countdown

Me, Beckett and Brody – McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park – October 2010

It’s come down to this. No need for workout reports or training updates. There are 8 simple days remaining until Ironman Arizona.

Nothing has gone according to plan since October 29. I’ve worked out a total of 4 times in the last two weeks. That’s not the way it’s supposed to go. And I have to live with that.

In the interim, life has happened. Grandma died. I unexpectedly packed up with Heidi and the kids and 24 hours notice and went to New Jersey. I contracted a nasty cold, complete with exhaustion, respiratory problems and lots of lots of mucus. I think I’m on day 10 of that.

I’ve had to let go of my OCD, let go of the control and trust that the previous 8 months of rigid training – the combined 54 miles of swimming, 2,200 miles of bike riding and 675 miles of running since March 15 (yes, that’s accurate) – has paid off. It hasn’t been easy.

I set a goal; and through all of the insanity of a calendar year, I’ve been able to stick to that goal with remarkable steadfastness. Hot weather, cramped schedule and family demands be damned, each day, with the exception of a rare few, I was there, each morning, ready to train.

But the mind plays tricks. It tells you: you’ve fallen off the wagon. You will fail.

Logically, I know that’s not true. Emotionally, I’m conflicted.

But above all else, I know I must get healthy. I must clear the cold. I must rest a very weary, achy, tired body.

I have slept, in the past two weeks, an incredible amount – 8, 9, 10, 11 hours a day. Every day. Without fail.

And something has happened. In the last few days, I’ve become incredibly more positive, more social, more kind, more patient – with my children, with the bumps in the road, with everything. I’m generally calm.

I’ve rediscovered the simple joys of my children. Yesterday, I played hide and seek in the yard for an hour; then I played “baseball” with the kids – pitching to them while a) Brody swung wildly at everything and b) Beckett knocked the crap out of the ball. Today, Beckett and Brody and I went to Gameworks, played video games and won lots of tickets. We ate frozen pizza for dinner. I had a couple beers.

My niece, Blythe, is spending the night here. We read bedtime stories on the couch together. We cuddled. It was fantastic.

I reserved my wetsuit today. Went with a sleeveless suit, despite the predicted low water temperatures. I opted for freedom of movement (versus the sleeved suit) and the motivation the cold will provide to get out of the water, over a little extra comfort. And, for a little bit, I meditated on the task at hand – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run.

In all honesty, I’m looking forward to it. I think next Sunday is going to be fun. Yes, I set this 12 hour goal. And yes, I stand a pretty good chance, still, of making it (if this weird left low shin muscle bruise that seemingly came from nowhere heals) if everything goes okay.

But even if I just rack up another 15 hour finish, instead, I’m cool with it. In the end, who gives a shit? Is that a failure, to simply finish an Ironman? Certainly, there are some crazy pro-types who might say yes, but then again, most of them don’t have a family with a 5- and 3-year-old, and a full-time job.

Race day is the reward for a year of hard work; I won’t – nay, cannot – lose that perspective.

I can’t quite say yet what I gained from my 7 days in New Jersey for the funeral. There were many key moments – watching the real meaning of death dawn on my son; understanding the depth of friendship and support my father and uncle have within their community; grasping the sense of unease and confusion death can deliver to individuals.

I sort of expected – knew – I would experience many of those things. Maybe what I was less prepared for was the concept of just how complex we are as individuals. I knew grandma one way, the same way a sizable number of people knew her. But many others had completely alternate interactions with her: the way a grandson knows his grandma is not the way a son knows his mother, or a daughter-in-law knows her mother-in-law.

An old business acquaintance of mine, David Leibowitz, recently quoted Plato on a Facebook post: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Without knowing it, Leibo found the quote that sums up the essence of my mind’s focus for the past year or so, because that’s what I’ve been seeing, thinking, feeling for quite some time now.

My battle, honestly, has been no different than yours. I’m always stunned by the people who fixate on the singular task I’m aiming to achieve: Ironman number 2.

They say crazy things: you’re an inspiration; I don’t know how you do it; Dude, that’s crazy. As a person who once thought the same thing about people who do extreme racing, I once thought the same thing.

I don’t any longer, because most of you who read this blog are dealing with your own insane battles; there’s no need to call each of you out individually, because you know what they are.

The point is: everybody else’s life seems crazy or different or awesome or insane or sometimes sad and brutal from the outside. But for those of us living it, we’re often dealing with pretty much the same thing. We face infidelity and divorce, job loss and health issues, financial problems and fears; and we revel in fantastic days, our children, a sports win, an unexpected cash windfall. Few of us are as rich as we appear on the outside, or as vapid as we sometimes appear on the inside.

We’re all in this crazy battle; just trying to make sense of life, and get by, and feel safe.

Ironman for me is about control; controlling addiction, fighting off a bizarre fear of weight gain; quelling an unease that I’m never good enough, that nobody likes me. My brain is a messy, messy place that’s always questioning where I’m going, the choices I’ve made, the person I’ve become.

I’m an imperfect mess who feels blessed for the life and friends and family I’ve been given.

And if I’ve learned nothing else in the last eight months, it’s that most of you are right there with me, dealing with the exact same shit in your own way.

So I’m working to take Plato’s advice – “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” – while at the same time prepping for my own battle in 8 days.

But unlike an all-out war, no matter what the outcome, I win.

Peace, friends.

– Ed

One Response to “The Final Countdown”

  1. This was good, Ed. Really, really good.

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