You know what happens when you are trying NOT to think about something? Now add to that, trying not to think about something AND having oodles of time on your hands. You pretty much just sit around thinking about what you aren't supposed to think about.
After Kona, the idea was to rest, let everything sink in, don't worry about the future. Ha! Between the seasonal effective disorder I experience every year, my birthday and the realization I'm getting older, some pent up issues I ignored through the Ironman build, and very little endorphin highs, I was sliding off the deep end. Depression set in nice and strong. Ahh, lovely.
I have gone to Kona the last 5 years, and I have also structured my years around qualifying for said Kona and then racing well there. At the end of this season I refused to think "after Kona" thoughts because I wanted to put all my energy into doing well. So after the race was over, I felt a little empty, and lost. I have had a set north star in front of me for so long and I've let it guide most of my decisions. What now?! Muddy totally warned me that this would happen.
This year's Kona push felt like the end of something. I did things this year that weren't sustainable long term, like being away from home, dedicating lots of $$ resources, cutting back my number of coached athletes, training like a pro. They were shorter term, end game decisions. When I was on the Kona course this year I felt like I wouldn't be back in 2015, but when I got home and even thought about not being there next year I cried huge fat tears. I really love that race.
Sadly, I know that I hold onto it for more reasons than I like to admit. The race has given me the opportunity for focused purpose. I liked that. Sometimes I'm afraid I won't remain active without that purpose (the last 4 weeks have been evidence of that). I feel accomplished when I tell people I've raced Kona 5 years in a row. I have an ego, it exists, I admit it.
But both Muddy and I knew that at least for this year, an emotional break was in order. He didn't tell me flat out No, because he's not like that, but we both knew that this was a good time to take pause and reevaluate. There is a bigger picture to be had here, and long term emotional health is important to me too.
Still, I was looking for something to do with myself to keep busy and if I wasn't going to go all Kona next year, I wanted some adventure in my life. I love to travel, I love to travel to races, I like to see new places. I was scanning the list of Ironman races and I settled on IM Taiwan. Sounded like a fun adventure, I have good friends who are living in Shanghai who agreed to help me make it happen. Muddy gave thumbs up because I just wanted to go on an adventure. But in the back of my head I was nervous about what I would do if I raced well enough to get a Kona slot. I couldn't reliably see myself turning it down.
Then something kinda magical happened. The day of my birthday the Norseman lottery application period opened. I spent the night before watching all the videos and reading some blogs. I knew about the race, had watched with interest this year when Maggie got second (read her report, it's awesome), and was pretty intrigued. I just envisioned all the training I would get to do for a race like that and just how well it suits those of us from Colorado where I have 54 unique opportunities to end my bike rides with a run up to 14,000 feet. I got really excited.
I asked Troy and Muddy if it was okay, and then I applied. They have about 2,200 people apply and they can only accept 260 athletes. This race has no aid stations, you have to bring a support crew to attend to your needs out there. They reserve 15 male, and 5 female elite slots that you can apply for if you meet the minimum standards. I met them with flying colors so I applied for one of those. Then I waited, still rather sullen, but a little spark was lit within me. I had this deep inner feeling that they were going to accept me. Not because I was super qualified, but just because I really felt I wanted it, and I don't know, I felt good about it. I knew that a break from Kona was good for me and I knew that if I got into Norseman, there is zero financial probability of me going to Kona as well.
Then one day before they were to announce the lottery results, on Nov 8th, I woke up like I had come out of a fog, Troy even said, you are so peppy today, yea!! Later that day I get a congratulatory text from my big brotha' Beeson. I responded "???" and he told me I was in! He saw the press release well before me. I was ranked 3rd behind last years winner Line Foss, and multiple Ironman champ Heleen Bij de Vaate who has gone like 9:16 for IM distance recently. I felt honored. Also ranked 4th nd 5th were Charlotte Knudsen and Kristin Lie, both Norwegian ladies and veterans of the race.
I was the only American in the Elite selection for men or women. THE WHOLE OF USA is on my shoulders!
The moment I found out I literally FREAKED out. Honestly, I surprised even myself as I ran around squealing and jumping and smiling. Just being selected felt like such a huge win.
So, if you ask me "What next?" I shall say Norseman. A race that is half way across the world, against 260 folks, mostly tough sturdy Norwegian men (only 41 women on the start line), that ends by by running (errr...walking) 5,000 feet up a mountain. There are no prizes, no money, no trophies. You either make it to the top and get a black shirt, get turned around on the climb by race officials and end up with a white shirt, or don't make it at all and get no shirt. That's it. It's raw, it's hard, it's cold wet and windy, it's a family community of a race, and there are naked people in transition. This is what I know!
For me, the excitement comes from the thrill of the adventure. Pair that with the tough training I get to do, and I'm a happy girl. I'm going to Norseman to give my absolute best to get through the race with a smile and up that mountain where I hear there is hot coco and waffles at the top (as long as you bring cash for them), but I plan to have a lot of fun along the way this year. It lets me breathe a bit and get back to my trail running, mountain climbing roots. It also give me some space to work a bit closer with my athletes this year, and Muddys girls team as well. That really feels awesome.
I plan to mix in some races that help me get tougher this year along the way, and I want to have some epic training days and trips this year in the mountains I love so much. As for what happens after Norseman, not a clue. And for now, that's A-ok.