Tuesday, April 28, 2020

5/4/24 & All the Feelings

I don't know about you but quarantine has been an emotional roller coaster for me. If I were to sum up my experience, it would go something like this:

1. I feel more grounded and purposeful than ever and also like I'm free-falling into an abyss.
2. I feel a sense of freedom without my regular commitments and also completely lost without them.
3. I'm happy about my extra introvert alone time, and also lonely and missing my people.
4. I miss the regular pace of life and I'm also scared of going back to it.
5. I want to make sure I get the most out of this experience and use this time to grow as a person. And it is so fucking hard.

So that brings us to 5/4/24. I've always made life decisions based on how each direction makes me feel more than anything else. So when Julie asked me if I wanted to run 5 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours and my entire body pulsed with excitement, it was an easy "yes." No overthinking, just thank god I have a reason to push my body again.

I didn't really train for it other than my usual higher-than-average volume of weekly exercise because I needed it to be hard. With all of the aforementioned feelings swirling around in my brain, I needed my body to be the focus again. I needed to have a reason to remind myself that I'm strong and I'm capable of pushing myself when things get tough.

When this idea was birthed only about a month or so before the actual event, I wasn't sure how to approach my athletes with it so I didn't push anyone towards it. More of their races were still on the table and I didn't want to take away from their other goals, but 5 of them decided on their own accord to join me and I'm so grateful that they did. I don't know how I got lucky enough to be aligned with the athletes I work with, but feeling like a coach again and maintaining our group text throughout the event gave me life. When we plan the next one of these, I'll be more deliberate about "inviting" everyone (and they know what "inviting" means).

I've never done an ultra-marathon or a Ragnar relay or anything like that, so I really had no idea what to expect. I didn't know how my body would hold up and I didn't know the extent to which I'd be angry about completing 2 of the 5 mile segments past my bedtime. Ryan reluctantly agreed to participate along with me, even though his longest run up to this point was only 13.1 miles. I think part of his reasoning was that he didn't want me to be alone in the dark. There was also a small part of him that wanted to see if he could do it. And there was a BIG part of him that wanted to spend the whole rest of the day eating carbs.

The first 3 segments were pretty easy on my body, and I was starting to feel like I was coming out of the depths of quarantine and back into my life as an athlete who competes in actual athletic events. Myself and the other D3 coaches who were part of this event (Julie & Alison) had the idea for Mike Reilly, THE voice of Ironman, to hop on a Zoom call with our athletes before starting the second half of the day. Julie reached out to him and he actually said yes! We told the athletes we'd have a surprise guest and it was unbelievable to see the looks on their faces when they saw who the guest was. Mike is the guy who coined the phrase "You are an Ironman!" and pronounces it to all the athletes that cross the Ironman finish lines of the events that are lucky enough to have him. "You are an Ironman" is a declaration of transformation. It's the signification that you are now a new kind of person: the kind of person who doesn't take no for an answer; one who fails over and over again until they succeed; one who may have excuses and hardships, but never lets those things stand in the way of their goals.

For me, Ironman is the arena in which I prove to myself that I am that kind of person. Hearing Mike's voice on our Zoom call caused the deep void I've been feeling without Ironman to surface. I was teary-eyed on the call but I was focused on soaking in every single word he said and listening intently to his voice. Then when the call ended, I completely lost it.

The last 3 segments were both fun and challenging. If I'm being honest, the running part was easier than I thought it would be. The difficult part was waiting 4 hours between each and trying to figure out how much to eat and how to fit in sleep and rest. I didn't love when my alarm went off before starting the final segment, which started at 1:00am, but my legs handled it like the badasses they are.

I got so much more out of 5/4/24 than I anticipated. I truly love training and I love the process, but I miss racing. This event filled a little piece of that void for me. It gave me the community suffering that comes along with races- the extra strength that you get from pushing yourself alongside other people and not just on your own.

But it also made me acutely aware of what I've been missing. Whenever we are finally able to race again, these are some of the things I'll never again take for granted:

  • pre-race nerves
  • getting kicked and pulled and swam on top of in the water
  • the palpable love and support from the volunteers
  • setting up transition so that everything is just right
  • completing the second half of the bike course and all of the run course in shorts soaked in my own urine
  • words of encouragement from random strangers: both spectators and other racers
  • aid stations
  • sitting my bare ass onto the porta-pot seat in the middle of the race because that seems like a better option than using my quads to squat over top of it

And more than anything else: finish lines.

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