On November 5, 2022 I completed my first full Ironman triathlon. There were several takeaways from this experience that I have waited to share but now I want to start with this one.
Sometimes it hurts.
The race took me 12 hours 55 minutes and 39 seconds. I started with a 2.4 mile swim in the ocean at 7am and finished with the marathon at 8pm. Needless to say it was a full day of fitness.
At the beginning of the race you feel fresh and you are excited. Your nerves are also there but with all the people and music and energy at the start you ignore those nerves. As soon as your wave starts you dive head first into the ocean to start the swim.
Next comes the bike. This is the bear of the race. It’s 112 miles. This occupies the bulk of the day. I was on my bike for nearly 6 hours and 30 minutes. By the time I got done with the bike I felt like I had done a full day of fitness. But I wasn’t done.
The final portion of the race is the marathon. If you aren’t familiar with this distance it is a 26.2 mile run. I have run several marathons in my life but never had I run a marathon following a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike. Although I felt the fatigue of the day I started the run feeling good. To be honest I was just thankful to be off that bike.
18 miles into the run I began to feel the pain. My legs wanted to lock up. I could feel the cramping coming. This is the last thing you want to happen on a long run especially at the end of the marathon. The only way to prevent this from happening is to slow down your pace, listen to your body and not push it too hard…and pray. But I also didn’t want to walk the rest of the race and draw out this already long day. So I was trying to run but not too fast and when I felt subtle cramping I would slow down. I was ready to get this thing over with. I felt drained and ready to be done.
It hurt and got lonely.
The last 9 miles of the run I was deriving every ounce of will and strength to keep going. My body was done but I obviously had more in me than I thought. It was dark outside by this time. The sun had set and there were long stretches where you were running in silence with no one cheering you on. It was lonely. I would look over at other runners and simply the eye contact we made would connect us in our suffering. This is where the race really started. I had to dig deep and keep going. Remind myself why I was doing this. Keep going even though I felt like I wanted to quit.
The takeaway I want to share is this is exactly what will happen in your fitness journey. It will begin with some excitement and nerves. You will start strong. It will be a long journey. In fact it is a forever journey. There will come a time where you feel like you have been doing this forever and the difficulty will be overwhelming. You are done. It hurts. Not getting the results you want is the most painful part of this journey. You will feel alone. This is where you must keep going. Regardless of set backs.
Crossing the finish line was a great feeling. I was so glad to be done. I saw Alicia and my kids as soon as I crossed the finish line and gave them a giant hug.
I was done. The pain actually set in even more after finishing. I could not bend over. Walking was hard. Everything below my waist hurt and I was exhausted. When we got home that night I took a shower and laid in bed. You would think that I slept great after such a long day but it was a terrible nights sleep. My body hurt so bad. When I got up to pee in the middle of the night I could barley walk.
The next day I was still in a lot of pain but not as much as I was the night before. Then the following day after that was better. And by the next day I felt good enough to go out for a run.
This is how your fitness journey is. The pain eventually goes away and you get back on track. You have to push through the pain to get to the pain free feeling again. Let me repeat this…you have to push through the pain to get to the pain free feeling again.
If you are going through a painful season in your fitness journey I am sorry. I know that sucks and I genuinely hate that for you. But you don’t have to do it alone.