Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What happens when the perennial Ironman athlete drops the whole endeavor mid-season?

Early this year, I was plugging away at my usual training, at a lackluster, but not impossible rate.  After all these years, I know that I can slog through an Ironman if that's what I want to do. I lightened the load significantly this spring, but I figured that I would sustain and increase my training enough, come summertime: I'd be out there on my long rides, runs, and swims at the height of the season.  But something shifted for me, and right when I might have considered piling on some longer workouts, I started to question the whole affair.  Was I not busy enough, with a full plate and a few new projects?  What if I continued to sleep in, drink my coffee in bed, focus on work around the house and the trips that were on my calendar, not encumbered by worrying how I would fit my training into an already packed schedule?  What if I slowed down enough to try to organize my financial life, my home, and stay awake long enough to make sure my teenager is feeling supported?
So, I quit the big one, and I quit all of the smaller ones that are there to get me ready for the big one.  And, after so many years, I didn't miss it.  I didn't miss one tiny part of it.  I missed the whole thing so little, in fact, that I wondered if I over-stayed at the party, in the first place.  Maybe I let this thing go on for too long?  But all I have to do is reflect on last years training and racing to know that's not the case.  I was challenged and fit and having fun, and felt at purpose.  A year ago, I  was expressing an important part of who I am and what I believe in through the sport and training.  So, to have a change of heart, and to respond, heartily, to that change of heart, I feel, is about as Unencumbered as I've ever been.  I shed the ten to twenty hours each week of training,  I ditched the enormous dietary issues, the sleep obsession, the skipped events/parties/etc…I ditched the extra expense of always staying current with gear, clothing, and more, I even ditched hair removal and focused on keeping my skin moist, fresh, and chlorine/salt free.  I grew my hair out, wore more jewelry, opened the holes in my ears for earrings, and started spending more than two minutes dressing.  When I walked out the door, for a trip, say, anywhere,  I didn't rest on the laurels of "I'll look good because my muscles show and my face is gaunt."…When I left the house, I wanted to look put together, not in a hurry, not exhausted, not haggard.  One thing I didn't ditch: the sun.  What can I say?  I think the vitamin D helps, and although I'll throw a hat on, our sunny days are few and far enough between that I'm catching whatever warmth and cheer I can derive from our ultimate source of energy.
The culmination of all this Unencumberment was a pretty massive undertaking, which involved family van-ning it all the way to Maine and back.  Such a delight, summer vacation without the constant preoccupation (OK< I'll get up really early and run 8 miles, then sneak onto my bike tomorrow) etc…Free to enjoy Niagara Falls (Canada side).

Free to indulge family boat trip "travel right into the Bridal Falls!"

And ahhh, Unencumbered swimming. It was only after about ten days on the road that I sat at a beach in Acadia, thinking…hmmm….I wonder if right about now I might see some triathlete in training dip his/her foot into the water and get ready for "a swim."  I'm just about ecstatic that my two strokes of choice this summer have been breast and side stroke.  More, I left the goggles at home, just about every beach day.  Ashby and I enjoyed one glorious afternoon on the shores of lake Ontario.  As I gazed over the vast expanse, I felt the chill of knowing that this whole region inspired so many of the Joyce Carol Oates stories that I love so much.  The still in the air took me to another place.

Lake Ontario!  Upstate New York. Four Mile Creek State Park.

Half Moon Pond State Park, VT
 On to Vermont, where I realized that after eleven years, I have a lot of unfinished business.  It was a delight to be in this beautiful, powerful place again.  Our first few days were uninterrupted by friends.  Later on, when we reconnected with parts of our VT community, we were overcome with emotion.

Lighthouse not far from campground  (self-time photo)
 As the season progressed, I realized that one of the great benefits of training so much is that I create solitary time that I might forget to take, otherwise.  So, by the time we landed at Acadia National Park, I had my alone time primed. Must. Have. Alone. Time.
Peter took this shot. What a perfect afternoon. Driving Acadia with two rowdy teenagers and two adults laughing and laughing and laughing. 

Visible competence, comes with the near approaching fifteen year mark.
 Being there, for all of the together activities felt complete.  Hiking, after a long day with the kids at the beach. Riding carriage trails at a cadence and pace suitable for the 8-11 year olds in the gang. Playing cards, charades, clean-up, prep.

By the time we returned to Vermont and dropped in on some terrific friends, we were fried.  It was clear to me, by this time, that had I tried to continue training through my adventures, the whole thing probably would have exploded, so a great year to take off.  We were able to indulge Burlington's great feel and connect with friends, get cleaned up, and ready for a very long drive back home.  I've said, many times, that our magical four years in Vermont, seem as if a dream.  By no means was it a perfect place for us to live, but the wonder and lifestyle, community and terrain was great for our very young family.  We miss it, sure, but not until we saw the mountains, trees, skies, friends, and water that we were overcome with the passage of time.  We only left, assured, that we need to continue making time in our lives for our community as it extends in every direction from our current locale.
And best, last.  We came home to the culmination of a season's work.  Absorbing Mom and Dad's furnishings into our Queen Anne bungalow, finishing the kitchen, a dear friend tended and painted and made sure it was amazing when we walked in the door.
 Carpet! Art! Clean! 
Lavendar! Induction stove! 

blue marmoleum!


  1. Love this piece (and peace!) I only regret that we weren't there to join you! I am enjoying a month (and more) of injury imposed rest, due to a knee strain. It is taking it's time healing. I am missing out on some fun stuff (roller skating with Angela, water skiing, wake boarding, etc.) but it is forcing me to evaluate what I really want!
    Miss you lots,
    Love, Maury

  2. yes!!! well, hopefully we'll all be together before long, plans in the works, Maury!

  3. Cool! We want to see you. Anytime. We still have to work on a girls trip too! (You, me, ginger...)