You Don't Know What You Got Til It's Gone

Well, this is not the post I expected to write today. Although my posts have been scarce lately, and non-workout recap even more so, I've been planning a few Ironman training wrap-up posts for weeks. Today I had actually planned to do something a little different and talk about the music that has inspired me, motivated me, and kept me going throughout training - my IMNC playlist of sorts (even though music isn't allowed on the course so I'll just be singing the songs in my head rather than listening to them). Something light and fun before delving into my long, thoughtful race plan and my final training post before the big day.

But that's not what I'm writing this morning. Instead, I'm trying to process the 12-hour-old news that Ironman North Carolina will, in fact, not be a full Ironman. Due to flooding in the area from Hurricane Matthew, the bike course has been shortened to 50 miles, making the race total 78.6 miles rather than 140.6. It's not a full Ironman. It's not even close. Ten months of waking up every day with this goal in mind, and it's going to end over 60 miles short. I can't believe it. I don't want to believe it.

This is something I was half expecting, but I was still shocked when it came to fruition. Hurricane Matthew hit two weeks ago and the Wilmington area received a lot of flooding. There has been speculation ever since about it and how it would affect the race, and knowing that IM Texas was shortened to 94 miles earlier this year for the same reason, I knew this was a possibility. Still, I did my best not to worry about it - taper crazies are bad enough without having to stress over whether or not the race would actually go on - and by yesterday, four days out, I was starting to let go of some of that anxiety that I could get an email at any moment.

And then...I did get an email. And even though I knew in my heart it could be coming, I was floored when I read it. I barely had to read the subject line to know what it was, and I immediately skipped to the part about how short the distance would be. The swim and the run course are to go on as planned, but the bike course is 50 miles. FIFTY. Out of the 112 that I was supposed to ride. Fifty is even less than I rode last year for the half! When I knew this was a possibility, I thought it would be shortened to 80 or 90 miles like IMTX, and I could live with that. That would have still taken some time to process, and I still wouldn't be happy about it not being the full distance, and I'd still have to do another one eventually to do a real Ironman, but I could have kind of accepted that. When I saw 50 miles on the bike, I just didn't see the point. I thought about all of the hours and hours and hours that I spent this summer, all the weekends away from my family, all the time I sacrificed to go out and train when we could have been sleeping in, exploring our new city, and just...being together. And for what? A race that it ultimately going to be 8 miles longer than the one I did a year ago?

What's most upsetting to me is not that I don't get to do the full race on Saturday, but that not doing the full race on Saturday might mean I don't do a full race ever. Or at least not the way I wanted to. I signed up for IMNC for specific reasons: I loved the half course last year and wanted to do a full in a place I was familiar with; it met all the criteria I had for a full (in the fall so nice weather, flat, etc.); my B2B crew from last year, including my dad, were all on board to do it. The last one is one of the most important things, and my dad has already told me that this was a one-and-done for him and that he isn't going to go through another training cycle. So when I got the news that this wouldn't be a full Ironman, I started grieving the death of my Ironman dream.

That may sound a bit dramatic, especially given that there are people that have lost their homes and even their lives, but this is something that has been a part of my family for nearly a year. I have lived with it, eaten it, breathed it for four months of official training, plus the six months before that since I signed up last December. I never claimed this would be a one-and-done for me, and I did plan to do another one. Eventually, at a time still to be determined, and after I'd had sufficient time to emotionally recover from the toll of training, I did think I'd do another one. Training for this has been the hardest thing I've ever done, and honestly, I'm not sure it was worth it. I wasn't happy for a lot of it. I didn't feel like myself for most of it. But I made it through and I was looking forward to doing the race so that all of that training could culminate into something and finally be worth it. I'm just not sure I have the energy or the strength to do it all over again, and it is killing me knowing that that's what I'll have to do. Two entire Ironman training cycles for one Ironman medal. It doesn't add up.

I was looking forward to the bike portion the least, but I think I might be most disappointed about that part getting cut short. I am not a cyclist. I don't really know what it is or how to explain it, but something about cycling feels very hard to me, and I don't like riding my bike. Actually, I like riding my bike 20-30 miles but even that can be tough for me sometimes. I really, actually don't like spending 5-6 hours on my bike. I was hopeful that a new bike and Ironman training forcing me to do to that would help me like it more, but it hasn't. I am able to tolerate riding longer but I still don't particularly enjoy it. But all my hours in the saddle have made me a better cyclist, and so even though I wasn't exactly looking forward to those 6.5ish hours on Saturday, I was looking forward to passing the test. I have worked so hard to be able to ride a bike that far and for that long. I worked so hard to be able to ride 112 miles. Fifty miles is still a long way, but it's not an Ironman bike. I rode 50 miles on the trainer after work one night a couple weeks ago for crying out loud. And I think that's the thing that is really killing me - I don't even get the chance to put all of that hard work to the test.

I walked home from work last night with tears streaming down my face as I told my sister-in-law about this on the phone, and when I hung up with her I was pretty sure I wasn't going to do it. There was no point. It would still be a long day, and so much work, with no real, legit race distance achievement at the end. I don't mean to diminish the 2.4 miles I'll have to swim or the freaking full marathon I'll have to run or even the 50 miles I'll have to bike (still a long way!), I just mean it's not legit in the way that a 78.6 race is...not a thing. I don't want a medal for it, I don't want to run on the red carpet at the end, I don't want to hear Mike Reilly's voice, and I don't want the finisher pajama pants. I don't want any of that.

When I got home and could finally sob for a bit after trying to keep it together at my desk this afternoon, I went running. I had 40 minutes on my plan anyway, and I truly didn't know what else to do. This was supposed to be my last run before the race and I expected there to be tears and there were, just not the happy kind. Those miles were the first time since I'd heard the news that I felt kind of normal, and the only time since then that I've really felt okay. I know I was feeling a lot of emotions and may have been thinking irrationally, but over the course of 5 miles I decided to just do it. And even though I'm not really trained for this and it's probably a pipe dream, especially considering that oh yeah, I do still have about 4 hours worth of exercise to complete before I get to this part, I decided to fight like hell for a good marathon. I don't know what that will end up meaning - the marathon has been a huge question mark this whole time since I honestly don't know how I will feel at that point. This whole time I've been saying it could take me 4 hours or it could take me 6, I honestly have no clue. But now, if I can't have a full Ironman, I want to try for a marathon PR. Or as close to it as I can run. I have 20 weeks of Ironman training under my belt, 62 fewer miles to bike before I run, and a whole lot of anger at this situation, I want to see how that translates into my legs. I have a perfectly good marathon course to run on Saturday, and I just need something to make this whole thing worth it so I don't just collapse into a puddle of tears.

If you've read this blog for a while and/or know anything about Ironman, you know that the whole day boils down to four words at the finish line: You. Are. An. Ironman. Those words are the reason I have gotten up at 4am. They've kept me in the pool until 10pm. They've made me keep pedaling when I've wanted to stop. They've helped me recover from an injury. They're everything I've worked for. Four simple words that require so much to be earned and that can never, ever, ever be taken away. But you know what?

They're just words.

And maybe I'm just saying that to make myself feel better, but there is a part of me that knows and believes that that's true. I don't need them. I have a great life, with a great husband and a great dog and a great job and a great apartment and great family and friends and in the grand scheme of things, being an Ironman won't make or break me. It's something I want, but it's not something I need. I still don't want to hear those words until they're true, though.

I knew 140.6 miles was going to be hard. I just never imagined I'd only be doing 78.6 and that somehow that could be even harder.


  1. Again, I am so, so, so disappointed and angry for you. You worked so hard for this victory lap and I'm mad as hell that it's been taken away. But in a way, isn't it fitting? Like you said to me yesterday, maybe it never felt real because it wasn't meant to be. Maybe the training was the test you needed right now—and I think that's enough. I do. If it's about doing hard things, well shit, training like you have this past year is way harder than doing it out on the course, don't you think? And if it's not about doing hard things, it's about reconnecting you to yourself, and I think it's plainly clear that that's only going to happen when you're putting one foot in front of the other.
    I'm proud of you for every inch you've swam, biked, and run this past year, and proud of you for giving 78.6 a go. Any new distance is a PR, right? You're still a champion in my book, M-dot or no.

  2. Such a bummer that after so many months it will come short, but nothing can take away your victory in the race you DO run, and I have no doubt a marathon PR is within your grasp. And I know racing is personal and you're just concerned about your own race, but I'm sure you aren't the only one who is doing their first IM and is devastated by the shorter course, so you definitely aren't alone in your frustrations!

  3. That seriously stinks that you have had your heart and training set for one thing and now you are going to be doing something else. I get why you are upset about it. Either way though, if you decide to do it...I know you will give it your all and rock it because that is just who you are. I think it is incredible that you even have the drive and want to complete the race and that makes you a champ in my book!

  4. I'm so, so sorry this happened and I don't think you're being dramatic at all in your feelings. I don't even know what to say. I hope you still have an amazing race even if it isn't the one you wanted/expected.

  5. i am really so angry for you, and disappointed and just... ugh. so unfair, so rude.

    but you are right, they are just words. you don't need them. if your life ended right after the race, and it was a full ironman, would you feel complete and happy and ready to go? or if there was a choice - do the shorter distance but continue living with your life, husband, pets, family? which one would you choose? obviously that is ridiculous and not going to happen, but you know? it puts it into perspective. doesn't make it any less sucky and i am still so angry for you, but this is out of your control (but really why couldn't they just make the 50 mile loop or whatever like back round again? then at least it's 100? but i know nothing about triathlons, i'm sure there is a reason) and it's not like YOU gave up. it's still your journey and you are still an ironman by doing this race.

  6. So disappointed for you. Came to read your recaps today and while I already read this on insta it still stings for you. Still, Im so so so proud of you girl. You rock and you are an ironman!