April 14, 2012

This kick training has done something to me. Sparked something within me. Lit a bit of a fire inside.

I noticed it late last week, as I was executing my weekly 50 kick time trial (down 3 seconds by the way). It was a feeling. A burn. In my swimming days we used to call it “Mister Lactic Acid” and honestly it feels like ages since I have felt that. When you do Ironman you don’t feel that, you feel this long slow ache that creeps up and becomes what you work through.

But that feeling of my legs are going to fall off my body. That feeling of that might have been my best 50 kick ever but I don’t think I can even cool down feeling.

Hello fast twitch…. it’s been a while since we’ve met.

I felt like I was cheating on something, someone. I was cheating on Ironman. Ironman doesn’t use this kind of effort, it’s an entirely separate demon. At the end of an Ironman your hair hurts and your spirit soars and it’s exhilarating beyond exhilarating. Unless you’ve been at it for over ten years. This dip into the land of fast twitch has me intrigued, has taken my blinders off, has caused me to wonder….. is there something new for me around the corner?

I have always said I wanted to make a return to shorter course competition. For the record by the way…. when did a 2 hour race become short? For many that’s almost a marathon.

I had a good race at Texas 70.3. Still well off where I should be, but did you see me on the run? I wasn’t hurting, I was having a party. When I saw Jennie I was too interested in her performance than my own. For the record I will always be more interested in the performances of my athletes than my own but during the race couldn’t have I just found some focus for myself?

When I was kicking that 50 last week, the harder it got the harder I pushed. I wanted to feel buried. And trust me I did.

The rest of the day I wanted that feeling again. I wanted that burn.

My athletic career is long and storied. It’s been ten years since I felt the terror and thrill of my first Ironman finish. The sixth Ironman felt completely different from the first one, and yet each one is a huge feeling of awesome. At the moment I have a roster full of athletes doing Ironman, and I love it. What’s begun to change though is that my focus for Ironman has become my athletes rather than myself. I am more excited about the data from their 6 hour rides and tend to forget to load up my own.

Perhaps that for ten years I have been an Ironman athlete? Perhaps my focus has changed? Perhaps I have been away from Mister Lactic Acid for far too long?

It’s not that I am not into the distance anymore…. it’s that I am more into it for them…. rather than myself. If there is one thing I know it’s how to get them ready. If there is one thing I know….. I know what it’s like to qualify, DNF and what it’s like to be at mile 20 when you find God. I have pissed myself, shat myself, fallen down, gotten up and nearly been literally knocked out. At the same time I have bounced back bounced up and nailed it from start to finish.

If I know anything…. I know the Ironman. I know what mile 23 feels like on that marathon and like I said I know what it’s like to promise you your hair will hurt but your spirit will soar like a star rocketing across the sky. It’s a feeling indescribable but unescapable. And it’s not just in the Ironman, it’s across races of all distances.

For myself as an athlete right now I have exhausted that feeling as it applies to distance racing. In Texas I was having much too much fun. I stopped to ask Jennie her time and about her race…. in the middle of my run. Later on I was thinking….. what was I doing?

I was doing what I love doing. I was coaching.

I am not retiring. Hell no. That will never happen. But I am shifting my focus this season. Ironman and I have reconciled and broken up more times than a Kardashian. The fact of the matter is though for ten years we’ve danced and I know myself from the inside out better than most people who spend years looking for who they are. And I am constantly learning.

I am shifting my focus to short course this season, but still planning on Vegas. Then the Kona Underpants run. I want to see if I can redevelop my fast twitch muscle fibers. I want to throw up on the track. I want to run by Jennie (when she’s spectating, please, I am not totally out of my mind) and not be able to answer her because of the effort.

I have a craving for that lactic acid again.

And I have a craving for time. I have spent more Saturdays on my bike for 6 hours beginning before sunset than anything. I know every mile of every route from Erie to Skaneateles. I know every lake, every pee stop, every gas station. I know it all. So it’s time to go back to what I don’t know… or remember much about anymore. The fast. How fast can I run a 5K? How fast can I complete an Olympic Distance Triathlon? Do I have a shot at a podium spot at age group nationals …. ever?

Can I free up more time for coaching? Because I love coaching more than I love breathing. I love coaching more than I love coffee. I don’t think my athletes have any clue how much I look at their logs and their data and analyze what they do (I am actually a bit obsessive). I am obsessed with learning. In fact I am in the middle of three certifications, I watch more webinars, talk to more coaches, and bug my mentors here at Qt2 then you can imagine! (Thanks by the way coaching team, I love you more than you know, you teach more more than you can imagine!!!!)

I just LOVE it.

Frankly, not being on my bike for six hours on a Saturday allows me time to be a better coach. This morning in fact before 8am I have spoken to six athletes and Jesse. I love learning not just about the physiology but about people. I love understanding what makes athletes tick. I love figuring out what makes my athletes tick personally. I love connecting with them.

This whole 50 kick thing awakened something within me on the athletic field. Not only did it awaken my fast twitch, not only did it shift the focus of my entire season, it’s challenged me to be more than just an Ironman athlete. It’s challenged me to change a rut I have been stuck in for a long time, and to find something bigger and better inside of me. As an athlete, a coach, a mentor, a personal trainer……. everything.

Don’t worry Ironman, we have broken up before….. our reconciliation is always pretty damn awesome though. We make a dangerously good pair. Even if it’s for 72 hours.

Time to kick.



  1. How FUN, Mary!! You’re absolutely right, they’re two totally different beasts. Going short AND fast is going to be a blast!!

  2. Oh, Mary. Something’s gone wacky (or wonderful) in the world. The night of the morning this got posted, I had crazy 50 yard kick dreams. Hmm.. Lots of people in the UB pool. The TLC kids doing it, etc.

    Hmm…. Have a blast, and hope this brought a laugh! 🙂

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