IMNC: All These Things That I've Done

It's here. The day before Ironman. I slept in this morning, a real rarity since I started training back in early summer. I'm sitting on the wraparound porch of the beach house we rented for the week, sipping coffee, writing my training wrap-up. It's the morning I've been looking forward for months, the last calm before the storm, and everything is as it should be. Except for one thing.

I'm allowing my emotions to go where they please and not passing any judgment about where they end up or how wildly they swing back and forth. This is a huge loss for me, and while its impacts might not last as long as more serious and permanent losses, it's still a loss. Ironman training became another member of our family, and not just any member but the most important member. Ben and I both worked so hard every day to do everything we could so that it survived - and we did! We made it. We made it all the way to the end, when all we had to do was set it free and watch it fly. Instead we watched it fall to the ground, by no fault of our own and with absolutely no recourse. It's going to take me a while to process that. I know it's not going to happen this week or maybe even this month and I accept that reality. It's sad. It's just going to be sad for a while.

But it's not all doom and gloom. It's been better being with my team, and not just because misery loves company. Our coach came down yesterday en route to Florida for IM 70.3 Miami this weekend, and he spent the day with us as we went to athlete check-in and checked out some of the course. We enjoyed a great lunch together (including dessert, coach-approved!) and walked around Wilmington and saw Mike Reilly speak at the welcome ceremony and, aside from the times when I felt like I got punched in the stomach, it was a really good day. 

But today isn't about the race. Today I wanted to talk about my training. Especially now, because even if I don't get to use all of it for a full distance race, I still completed it and that is still something. The news of the shortened course happened 4 days before the race. All of the training was done at that point. It's really been done for the last couple of weeks since I've been tapering, but this week especially wasn't true training. I had a few short workouts just for maintenance and mental sanity reasons, but the training was already done by the time I found out I hadn't been training for a full Ironman after all. 

I registered for this race on December 20, 2015 and my official 20-week training plan kicked off on June 6, 2016. The breakdown of the 20-week plan is as follows:

96446 yds (55.8 miles)
30 hours
83% of planned yards

Training: The swim has been the biggest surprise for me - and not in a good way! The swim has always been my strongest of the three disciplines (not that I'm very strong at any of them), and even though I had only ever swam about 3/4 of the Iron distance, I wasn't worried about working up to it. And, really, that part wasn't the problem. Instead my problem ended up being pool swimming, which I've never been a huge fan of, but it got so much worse when I had to swim in a more popular pool. I developed some serious swim anxiety that caused me to cut short or skip more than a few swims.

But my swim training wasn't without its victories, and overall I think it was more positive than negative. I started regularly swimming farther than my previous farthest swims. The full swim is about 4200 yards, and I swam 4000 or more 6 times in training, with two of those being 4500 yard swims. My technique improved so that I naturally swam better and faster. And although I definitely had days when my emotions got the best of me and I didn't complete my swims as planned, I also had days when I overcame that: namely, the time I forgot my goggles and swam 4000 yards without them. It was the slowest swim I've ever had, but I knew that if I could make it through that hour and a half of constant looking up to sight, wiping my eyes, and trying not to bang my arms into the sides of the pool, I could handle anything on the swim during race day. That's Ironman. 

Goal: I am hesitant to give time goals this year for several different reasons, but if I had to, I would say my goal for the swim is anywhere from 1:07 to 1:18. That's a big gap because I really don't know what the current is going to do this year - I don't think it is going to hurt, but I'm not sure how much help we are going to get either. But regardless of time, the swim is where I hope to find calmness, to find some rhythm in this day, something I can hold onto for at least 2.4 miles. The swim used to be the thing I looked forward to and enjoyed the most, but swimming has taken a strange turn for me during this training. When I developed a pretty serious anxiety about going to the pool and finding the lanes crowded, that turned swimming from an activity that calmed and relaxed me to one that filled me with dread. However, I do love open water swimming and had one truly amazing open water swim in training, so my goal for the swim is really to just find that. Find that happiness, find that peace, find that feeling of home. 

1679 miles
98 hours 6 minutes

98% of planned miles

Training: The bike training was the part I was looking forward to the least. Getting up to 56 miles for the half Ironman last year was a lot for me, and it was really hard getting there. I can't explain what it is about the bike - it's just hard for me, and it gets boring being out there for hours, and it's especially lonely doing solo rides. I'm still not sure what possessed me to sign up for a 12+ hour race where half of it will be spent on the bike. I struggled big time, especially with riding alone. I did several long rides with my training group, but I also did some by myself and it was a constant fight to get them done. I have cried so many tears on the bike this summer, but I always managed to push through. Even if it meant dragging the ride out for an extra 2 hours to call Ben, stop on the side of the trail to cry and check Facebook, call my dad, call my coach, and stop at gas station for coffee and a candy bar. That was the longest, worst day of training but somehow got through it and got back to my car with 90 more miles in the bank. That's Ironman. 

This is definitely the thing I had the most trouble with in training, but as I look at those numbers, I can't help but feel proud. Over the last 20 weeks I have spent almost 5 hours a week on average on the bike. For several weeks I spent 7-8 hours/week on it, with 6 or 7 of those hours being on one ride! That is insanity. I can only think of one ride I cut short and one I didn't do at all, and both were fairly early in training. I felt like I did a lot of bike training, but I actually thought I'd do even more than I did, mainly super long rides. My longest ride was 110 miles, and I also completed two 90-milers, an 80-miler, a 70-miler, two 60-milers, a 56-miler during IMAC 70.3, and two 50-milers (which I think are worth mentioning since they were both on the trainer - one on a Friday night after work). And I don't really count this toward training since it was more casual than a real training ride, and I wasn't at all prepared for it when I did it, but I did also ride 100 miles during my first century about a month before training officially started. 

Goal: Ugh. Ugh! You would think that I'd be happy the bike got shortened considering how much I hated the training, but now all I want to do is ride my bike. I worked SO hard to be able to complete this task and to have it taken away from me is devastating. I was ready to ride. I have to keep reminding myself that the bike course is still 56 miles, not zero, so I do still have to be ready to ride. It's just not going to be the same experience that I trained so hard for. I completed the 56-mile bike in 3:09 at B2B last year and in 2:55 at IMAC 70.3 last month. Considering that I have a full marathon to run afterward this time instead of a half, I think my goal is to finish somewhere in between there? I am afraid of going out and hammering it like I did in AC because I don't want to toast my legs, but I would also like to do better than I did last year. So I don't know. It's also supposed to be very windy (15-20mph), with a headwind on the way out and hopefully a tailwind on the way back, so we will see. I know it's going to be tough, especially if it's windy, but I really want to harness all of the work I've put in, both mentally and physically, and as Mike Reilly advised, don't cheat myself.

449 miles
70 hours 16 minutes
100% of planned miles

Training: The run was the biggest question mark when I started training. I took two months off of running from March-May after injuring my foot during the Shamrock half marathon. I was able to start using the elliptical in place of running in April, and by the time training started in June I was only just beginning to transition from the elliptical back to real running. My first "long run" of training was a 10k during the Jamestown International Triathlon, and I was scared to death of running that far! But somehow my foot held up, and even though it's felt a bit off ever since (some days are better than others), I managed to make it through all 20 weeks of training. I did skip a 2-hour brick one run day (I had such a bad day on the bike that I couldn't handle anything else afterward), but since a lot of my runs were either a little or a lot over the distance I was supposed to run, I ended up with 100% of my total planned mileage.

As with the bike, I didn't get in quite as many of the long runs as I expected to, but I did what was on my plan! I ran a half marathon 3 times, a 14-miler, a 15-miler, two 18-milers, and maxed out with a 20-miler. The long runs were tough, especially in the heat of the summer, but looking back they're my favorite part of training. 

Goal: I have been cycling through emotions about the run at hyper speed since I first learned about the fate of the race. Part of me wants to just take my time, get as much of my money's worth out of the course as I can, and take it easy. That part of me knows that running a full marathon almost 7 months to the day after getting injured is a feat I can and should be proud of. The other part of me is so, so angry and wants to run like hell so that I will have something to show from this illegitimate race. That part of me knows I am not as trained as I probably need to be to run a solid marathon, but it also doesn't care and thinks that the only way I'll feel better is if I have something real to show for all of this.

But either way...there's the finish line to deal with, and that's the part of the run that's breaking my heart. Getting to the finish line was supposed to be a celebration. I can't count how many times I have imagined it, tried to place myself there, seen the red carpet, smiled at the spectators lining the chute, heard Mike Reilly's voice....and though all those components will be there, I'm in an alternate reality where I'll still finish but several hours and 56 miles prior to when I thought I'd get there. 56 miles less of an achievement to celebrate than the one I worked so hard for.

I haven't decided yet if I will take a medal. Or if I will even cross the finish line at all. I have no idea what place I'm going to be in emotionally after a 9+ hour day, and I am not sure I will be able to handle the extreme bittersweetness of all that pomp and circumstance. I don't think that makes me a bad sport, I just think it might be too much for me to handle at that point. I really won't know when I get there.

The race is now part of my grieving process, and I don't think I can know the correct way to handle it until I'm actually in that situation. And I may end up making the wrong decisions in the heat of the moment, but I'm on this roller coaster and I can't get off so I have no choice but to ride the emotions as they come. My goal for the whole race but especially the run, since that's where this whole thing will end, is to do whatever I need to do to get through it and make it something I'm proud of in that moment. I just have to trust that my decisions will be ones that I'm still proud of in the hours, days, months, and years after the race is over.

There is so much more I want to say and so many more memories from these past ten months since I got on this train. Since I signed up last December, I've done 65 miles of swimming, 2530 miles on the bike, and 850 miles of running - that's over 3400 miles and hundreds of hours of memories I won't soon forget. And the approximately 84.6 I'll make tomorrow aren't the 140.6 I signed up for, but they're what I'm getting and I might as well make the most of them.

You can track me here - I'm bib #367 and will be in the water by 7:30am!


  1. GOOD LUCK TOMORROW!!!! That's such a huge hit to have the bike portion of the race shortened. I can't even imagine how you're feeling about losing 56 miles out of your race. It would have been nice if the 56 miles they DO let you ride they'd let you ride 2x so you still get all the miles in. Either way, you've accomplished so much through your training and you're still going to kick some serious tail tomorrow in your race. I hope everything goes well & I can't wait to hear about what you decide to do at the finish line!

  2. i wish i could say something, anything even remotely helpful. i really am so sorry that this happened and i would be sad too. and angry. i would probably give up entirely, but that's kind of in my personality and i don't think in yours. i know it doesn't help but you really did accomplish something amazing and you worked your butt off. you deserve the medal and the pomp and circumstance, but you also deserve to do whatever you want and what is in your control, and if that's not take the medal, you do you. i will be following along and i hope you have an amazing day, as good as it can be. good luck, and well done for everything you've done so far.

  3. Tracy. I know tomorrow is not the day you planned, and I'm still angry, sad, disappointed for you. Especially since I was planning to celebrate (or maybe now it's mourn?) this day with you too and life won't let me be there to cheer you on. But whatever happens tomorrow, and whatever has happened to change tomorrow already, you have done something so incredible. And I'm not just talking about this intense training—I'm talking about how you have inspired people here on this blog, on your team, in your life, and me. Every day. You deserve to enjoy and live fully in every single one of those miles you'll cover tomorrow, and I hope that you are able to. And when you get to that finish line, I know you'll let your heart and body guide you to the right decision that you'll be comfortable with and that will make you happy. Go get 'em, my friend. I'll be rooting for you, like I always am.

  4. Can't imagine the emotions (read major disappointment) you are roller coaster-ing through right now. But HOLY COW! Your training, dedication, and passion has been SO inspiring for everyone following along, and we can't wait to see you crush those 84.6 miles tomorrow.