Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ironman has become a marker, and so, let's go!

 Ironman countdown day four, or three, not including race day.  Some years, about now, I'm giddy and silly and dancing around the house.  Some years, I'm chewing through the walls I'm so cranky and nervous.  Other years, I'm so frazzled from trying to pull everything from different compartments of my life together, that it's just one insane swirl.  This morning, I woke up to what I can only describe as a hint of nervousness (can I have waited three hundred sixty days before getting nervous before such a potentially nightmarish day?) mixed with a hefty wave of melancholy.  Sprinkle with world news that can leave no sane person without a terrible stomach ache, and that's where I am.  Now, to wolf down my last meal before leaving in our beloved mini-van towards Madison, Wisconsin.

First, a discussion of gear.  Believe it, this photo-array of the packings that I'm taking is a typical selection of what Iron-geeks bring to their lodging prior to race day.  Two of just about everything, and one of every sort of race day weather attire.  Bike, swim, run gear galore, plus three days worth of weekend-er clothes to enjoy what is a bit of a retreat, reunion, celebration, as it might be called.

The Unencumbered Woman does one better, which is, as usual, I can't imagine leaving for five days without a selection of yarn projects.  I'm taking three (or is it four?)  yarn works.  One, my needlepoint benchcover; two, a pair of worsted weight socks that I started yesterday, and an Doris Chan motif skirt. That, along with a Joyce Carol Oates novel, my training log and calendar, camera, smartphone and sundry chargers, I'm all set for leisure time.

And what about race preparation?  I'll jog a bit in Madison, swim on Saturday morning, perhaps tool around on my bike, but for the most part I'm finished with exercise.  Yesterday, I got up early enough to swim with my team, and that felt nice.  Then, in accordance with the fact that I've been primarily walking since I crashed my bike, I went for a long walk at around noon.   By the end of the day, I was wondering what had happened to me.  Where is that fighting spirit?  Do I care how fast, how hard, how long I take?  Simple burnout, fear of failure, or even battle fatigue from a crash and sore breathing three weeks prior to race day.  I don't really know, and at my ninth Ironman, it hardly matters.  Frankly, this woman has done her job, but enrolling and participating in the Ironman has given me a focus for my years worth of exercise.  Most don't believe this, but I know I'd have a hard time getting out twelve months a year and exercising without this sort of encompassing goal.  Now, after so many years, the ritual is set and it's almost easy for me to go through the training motions. 
And then last evening,  as I sat watching daughter's martial arts practice, it dawned on me.  As I repeat something that I can savor, year in and year out, our life here in suburbia, the stars of the show are evolving and growing and moving and changing.  On the eve of a black belt promotion, that little pipsqueak that cheered me on in 2008 is grown to the size that her sister was in 2008.  And big sis, well, there's no shortage of emotional pull in this house as we watch her successfully navigate her first month at a humungous suburban high school.  We're so proud of these beautiful, funny, athletic, creative kids, and we're preparing for the next phase.  
 So what will the next phase look like?  Who can know.  And maybe this, as much as anything, keeps me coming back to Ironman.  I, as much as I love chaos and adventure, am a creature of habit.  I grew  up in a quiet, predictable, safe home.  I was fortunate to grow up in the number one hippie town in the US, and raised by loving, older parents of the WWII generation.  My empathy spans the decades and the movements, but at bottom, I crave simplicity.  A workout plan, a sweaty day, a healthy hippie meal, and a jigsaw puzzle to toil over.  Amidst the rocky world news and national news that leaves so many of us feeling utterly help/hopeless, day after day, I can repeat this ritual race.  While I'm at it, I can share my perspective with others, I can honor my own integrity when possible, and finally, I can get some of that mojo out, that a middle aged woman is totally proud to possess.  From year to year, I can remember what it was that was happening in years past.  Ironman has become a marker, and so, let's go!

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