Running straight at myself

September 20, 2012

I woke abruptly at 3am with one gasp. That feeling again. Breathless but in a bad way. I don’t remember having a bad dream, I don’t even remember being restless. In just one swoop I woke up with that feeling of terror again. That feeling of loss. That feeling of grief. About Gary. About Heather. And then began the parade of memories and thoughts of lives that have been ripped from us far too early. Far too young. Far too many good people just wiped away.

As I walked into the gym I had a hard time saying hello. I smiled and waved to all the usual people with the fear that if I opened my mouth I would just begin to cry. Again.

I had some PPT’s on the bike to do and I knew that would help me through this feeling. PPT’s on the bike are a special kind of hard and for me that’s what walks me through the middle of the fire. It lessens the pain in the heart and allows me to smile. It helps me move forward. I can never say past…. but forward.

Sometimes  I like to ride the spin bike on the gym floor. It’s not in the spin room, just out on the floor. I have a perfectly good spin bike in my home gym, I have a beautiful bike and a computrainer. Sometimes I just need that big open space and people around me. That change of scenery helps me.

I shed some tears on that bike. But by the end of the ride…. when it was time to get off and hit strength class….. I felt better. I felt like I moved forward (never past). Like a good hard effort settles the soul.

Later that afternoon as I was finishing up a run, my neighbor was out working on his lawn. He waved and walked to the sidewalk.

“You workout a lot. Are you trying to avoid or run away from something?”

This was my answer, and it’s the God’s honest truth:

“I am not running away from anything. What I am doing…. is running TOWARDS something. With everything I have.”

That is the ONLY way I can explain it.

“Interesting.” He said, he might have even sort of understood it. “I also notice that you tend to leave your house fully clothed and come back half-naked. What goes on out there?”

I smiled. “A whole lot of awesome.”

As I walked inside I thought about that question. Not the half naked one, the first one. It’s valid. If you look at small windows of my life (any triathlete’s life) you see us training. A lot. It’s not uncommon for us to do three straight hours. Heck there are days we put in 8 hour training days.

The thing you don’t see or realize is that we are very structured in training. Here at QT2 our workouts are essentially laid out for the season. We never wake up and think: what shall I do today? We know the schedule. We have planned rest. Active recovery. We fuel those workouts with 50+ carbohydrates an hour.

We only do certain workouts at hard intensities. Most of our training is very steady aerobic work.

And I can see how it might appear that we train to hide from something, avoid something….. or even ourselves.

When I look at a body builder what I see is something I do not understand. I see them putting hours into lifting weights in front of mirrors. I think that’s insane. But wait….. that is not ALL they do. In fact it’s just the window that I see. I don’t know what goes on after that last rep. I don’t know what they do at home. I don’t know what they even do for cardio.

See what I am saying? Just because I might pop off three hours at a time doesn’t mean I am doing that all of the time. You don’t see the ice baths. You don’t see the recovery runs and rides. You don’t see the days off. You don’t see what I do after 8am. You just see that small window of me leaving the house to run or that few hours at the gym.

And many assume that’s all I do and I do it because there is something seriously wrong with me.

Which I suppose could be debated.

What I can tell you is this. I am the way I am….. and I have been this way for the past 18 years. It’s the direct result of a pretty big event in my life (too long to write and most people know…. just ask… I am very open about it). I am really comfortable with who I am. I shoot straight from the hip. I don’t try to fit in  so I just fit myself in anyway. I don’t have an agenda and I don’t have a plan. I don’t play games and I don’t …. this is not going to sound how I want it to….. I just don’t care. If I am upset I will tell you I am upset. If I am sad I will tell you I am sad. I am at baseline….. even in these times of sorrow…. I am a baseline happy person.

18 years ago I got a second chance at life. Because of that I live every single moment. I live the sh*t out f it.

I am running away from nothing. If something is not the way I want it in my life… I change it. Simple as that. No bullshit.

I have lost this sport once. I lost the ability to be an athlete. I was okay. I didn’t lose my mind. What I did was grow a deeper appreciation for what my body is able to do. I am able to do races that last 10-11-12 HOURS. I have that kind of health. THAT kind of durability.

What a GIFT.

I swim, I bike, and I run because I am heading towards something. My 7th (or 5th? 8th? I forget) Ironman finish. I am heading towards personal goals that I set for me and I have the capability of achieving.

What a GIFT.

I am running towards that. Not away from something. Before the event of 18 years ago that changed everything…. I did run away. I stuck my fingers down my throat from age 10 to age 20 and I ran away from everything. Now I run straight AT. This isn’t my first rodeo. This kind of volume is not new to me. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

Welcome to the life of Iron.

I have to realize and accept that to the outside eye that seems completely crazy. Just like body builders might seem to me (I actually don’t think they are nuts, but you get the idea). Explaining the nature of endurance events like 70.3 and Ironman sometimes feels as natural as explaining why I want to nail my finger to a table.

But it is what I love.

I love the feeling of being on my bike for 6 hours. I love the journey I get to take. I love… as much as I hate….. swimming 2.4 miles with 3,000 people grabbing ass. I love being at mile 20 of that subsequent marathon with my teeth stinging from too much power gel and my hair hurts and knowing I have just a 10K to go. I love that feeling of turning myself inside out. I love that feeling of coming through the finish line of a race. I love that feeling of chasing.

And I love going after it with every piece of my soul.

I am an athlete. I have been all my life. I chase competition and I chase a clock. Sometimes when I am in the grocery store I call out “On your left” and I time how fast I can go from pool to being dressed and ready to go. When we do running drills in strength class I like to beat that one guy. I don’t care who it is or even their gender I love to be neck and neck and gunning for it.

I get off on that kind of stuff, I will admit.

It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like I am touching every part of my soul. It wakes me up. And sometimes….. shelling myself and my body helps my heart grieve for people who have left here far too soon. It’s me moving forward. Towards. Never away from and never avoiding. I am too old for that sh*t.

As I walked out of the gym that morning I felt so much better. I felt settled. I felt like I moved forward a little. I felt relieved. I felt a bit shelled. When I finished my fifth hill bound later that afternoon I relished in the way my legs ached. I have an ability that I will never waste and that I will never take for granted.

This ability and this sport has also given me a platform in this community to make a difference. Which is the most important thing of all. I owe a lot to this body. It’s been around the block more times than I can shake a stick at.

When I do get to those pearly white gates….. what’s that saying….. I want to slide in on my mountain bike, dirty and bruised to the bone. I want to wipe the sweat from my brow, grab a drink and say….. “wow! WHAT A RIDE!”


See…. I rest!



  1. Mary I just love this. You hit the nail on the head. Part of what you said explains a lot about me too. I shoot from the hip and tell it like it is also. Can’t wait to see you at PITA.

  2. I, for one, am glad you are who you are. There’s a reason for that.

  3. Perfectly put!! I would not be where I am today with my workouts! They keep me sane and stable. Today we buried my neighbor and friend at just 46years old. He leaves behind a wife and two young girls to grieve. Today I ran and ran and ran. It was a good, sweaty, hard run! I left myself 15minutes to shower and get ready. But without that run I would not have gotten thru the rest of the day. I have friends who understand me and friends who think I am crazy to go ride my bike for 5hours or run for 2. Thank you for putting it into words.

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