It felt like this day would never get here.
But I should back up.
Friday, I had a 4,000 yard swim. I was still tired from Thursday night's 2 hour ride, but I was pleased with my results. I'm consistent in my time at that distance, so that's good. And, I felt like I could have a) kept going and b) gone harder. So I feel like I've established my race pace and I feel comfortable with it.
Saturday, I had my last insanely long brick. A 6:30 ride on hills and an hour run off the bike. Let me tell you, I still just don't sleep well the night before these rides.
Which means I've had about 8 weeks of sleepless Friday nights.
I am sooooo ready to actually sleep more than 5-6 hours on a Friday night.
I don't know why, really....I'm just thinking about everything I need to do, and I have to admit, I dread these rides. I am just not a cyclist at heart. It sure makes IM easier if you are, but it's just not me. I'd rather swim laps for hours on end or run. That's just the truth.
So I was very much looking forward to this ride--because when it was over, I knew I wouldn't have to do it again until race day.
Last week's ride was SO good. I felt great, we cruised along, and I felt like I got a lot stronger on hills this year.
But this week, I just wasn't feelin' it.
I dunno. I just couldn't recreate last week's feelings. So from hours 2-4 I really just didn't feel well. I don't know what it was--probably that I was tired, probably fuel and hydration, probably some of it was mental. But for the first time in a long while, I felt so weak that I didn't know if I could finish it. My legs burned, my stomach didn't feel good, and I just felt WEAK.
Hours 4-6 were better--still not great, but better. I got through it and arrived at my car at 6:11. I decided that, given the day, that was going to be good enough.
The funny thing? My pace, despite feeling like poo, was STILL significantly faster for those 90-some miles than it was the first time I road the hilly GCT course of 56 miles.
So even on a bad day, I guess that means I made progress.
Then I ran--and let me tell you, it rocked. I was holding a great pace for me after riding 90-odd miles, and finished 6 miles in just under an hour. I felt great, and negative split the thing.
So last long brick: check.
Today, I had to do my last long run on hills. I was NOT looking forward to this either, as I am just exhausted. There's no other way to put it.
I could barely wake up this morning to go. But--knowing it was the last one helped with that.
We did the Hinckley Hills again--a tough, hilly 10 mile loop that never seems to let up. It's great training, though. If you can run at Hinckley, you can pretty much run anywhere.
So it was slow, but it was steady. And that was good.
Around mile 7, there's this killer hill that never seems to end: we call it Harter Hill, after the street name. Iron Johnny and I were running and were almost there when I looked up.
Hinckley is also famous for their buzzards. As in, HUGE birds that eat dead stuff.
There were (according to my count--could have been more) 17 HUGE buzzards swirling over Harter Hill.
Now, I'm sure there was something dead there.
BUT--it made me briefly think of the great Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the guys goes through town yelling, "BRING OUT YER DEAD!" And the old guy who's getting thrown on the cart says, "I'm not dead yet!"
I yelled to the buzzards that I wasn't dead and to go away. They still circled me as I huffed and puffed up Harter Hill, but I think they got the point.
And before I knew it, 14 miles of hills were done.
And now it's taper time.
It's been 37 weeks of this training. I can't believe that--for the past 37 weeks I've been working out somewhere between 7 and 18 hours a week consistently.
I will NEVER complain about not having enough hours in my day again....that's for sure.
One thing that's funny about these long weekends I've been doing the past 3 weekends: the picnic area stares. When I arrive at the parking lota t 6:30ish-am on a Saturday, there is usually someone sitting in the picnic area, reading the paper, reserving the first-come-first-serve pavilion. They smile and nod, and maybe we exchange a few friendly words.
And then 8 hours later I come back. Still not done. Still having to run.
And the parties have been wrapping up. People are saying their goodbyes and taking down streamers.
I usually get some really strange looks from the ones that were there at 6:30am. Sometimes they ask, and sometimes I think they think I'm lying when I tell them what I've been doing.
I missed the WHOLE party.
It made me think a bit of how much I've had to give up in the past 37 weeks. When you sign up for Ironman, I think unless you've done one, you have rose-colored glasses on a bit--you picture the NBC coverage of the finish line and that's about it. No one told me when I signed up for Ironman about this part.
The fatigue. The drained feelings. Feeling like you have to give things up for a while--things you like. Food. Sleeping in. Meeting your friends for beers for happy hour. Reading a good book without falling asleep on page 2 because you're so unbelievably tired. From time to time, really resenting that you have to give these things up, or sometimes having people resent you for giving them up.
But as I look forward for the last few weeks here, I can also reflect on how much I've gained.
I have a whole new appreciation for time. When you don't have any, you learn to really treasure the minutes you have. You learn you can't waste them worrying about things beyond your control.
Ironman has a certain way of putting everything--EVERYTHING--in perspective.
For me, that's been the best part of it, and it's well-worth the burning legs, the heavy eyes, and even missing the whole party sometimes.
Because I know that I have grown so much in these 37 weeks. I am more sure of myself, and in every step I take.
September 10th will undoubtedly test this, but even if the buzzards fly over me, I know I'll fend them off.
It's been a long journey, and I'm not quite done.
But I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.