The road to recovery from an Ironman is a path filled with contradictions. You are stiff and sore and have trouble getting into cars, or rolling over in bed, yet you are saddened when the soreness wears off, your physical attachment to the day fading away with it. You loate the annoyingness of the cheep plastic bracelet around your wrist that leaves a mark when you sleep and somehow got secured one knotch too tight, yet you wonder how long you can get away with wearing said cheep plastic wristband, even though nobody around you knows what it means. The cutting off of the band is the signal that you are moving on, no longer expected to be treated special.
The first run back is another right of passage. You run a few steps, then a few more, and a few more after that you realize....you are still YOU. At first your excited because you're realizing that the Ironman didn't break you, then you are saddened because you realize it didn't bestow upon you any sort of special magical powers either. You are still the same darn you as you were before you raced 140.6 miles. Only you know what you have been through. Only you know what it was like for you to run down that finish chute.
But it's a good thing that time fades most things...excpet love of course. It's a good thing that we are able to come down off the "wow I did an Ironman" cloud and reenter society. Our family and friends thank us for that. But we will always know, and when we are in need we can always conjur up that memory of running down towards that finish line, of grinning like nothing hurt. So maybe the Ironman did give us a little bit of magic.
As I ran along this morning I pondered what the next year will have in store for me. What trials and tribulations will come my way? What weaknesses will I be able to overcome? What strengths will I strengthen? Will my heart continue to soar, will my body remain strong, healthy and happy? These are the things we wish for as athletes. We don't wish for an easy road, we just wish for one that is paved with small rewards along the way. We hope for a road that takes us to places that we haven't been before, that reveal to us our soul. We yearn for energy labs, sweaty bathroom trainer rides, mile 18 on the run, and downpours during training rides where we forgot our coat.
Some people think we are possessed, self absorbed, able to talk about nothing other than Ironman or triathlon. And you know, they are right. But we are also strongly convicted, passionate, tough, inspiring, and great in bed. You win some, you loose some! Glass half full? Glass half empty?
This Ironman business is a lifestyle. Some are able to dabble, some are able to flit in and out of it, but for most, once you have done an Ironman some part of it is ingrained in who you continue to be. Every year I train I feel like I continue to up things a notch. I get more serious (as if I wasn't serious enough), I get more focused (as if I wasn't focused enough). But this year has been different. I learned so much this year and it's made me very excited for next year. It's like I was given a taste of what works for me, and now I want more. I'm very Type A, I know this, but how can I not ask "What if"? I love "What if"!
So, here I go, a little rest, and recoup, and then big smiles for 2011.