Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I (finally) start school tomorrow. It's my own personal New Year. Year number nine of teaching high school. That's really hard to believe.

I worry a little...that I'm not good enough to do this AP class. That once my kids have me for a month and my friend who just retired, who will be my amazing most perfect maternity sub EVER for four months, that when I come back, they'll know. That I'm unsure of myself at times. That this is all new to me. That I'll be balancing this newness and fear with a 4 month old baby and a life of my own. I try not to think about it, but every once in a while it creeps in.

Today in the pool, swimming my (slow) mile, I thought of what a different state I'm in at the beginning of this New Year. Last year, when school started, I was 17 days out from Ironman. Heh. Yeah, this school year is a far cry from that...that's for sure.

I see a few of my friends going through much of the uncertainty that I felt last year at this point. I've tried to say what they need me to say, and not necessarily what they want to hear. I would be doing them a disservice if I didn't.

It's going to be hard.

Really, really hard.

But they know this. That's why they signed up.

There are no guarantees.

And that, in my humble, I've-only-done-one-Ironman-so-really-what-the-hell-do-I-know?-opinion, that's what makes it so intoxicating and surreal.

I'm going to try and sit here and articulate a few things that I wish I knew last year that I do now. Again, I am clearly NOT an expert on this subject. But there are a few things that, as I swam in the pool today, I remembered about that day.

I wish I knew how raw my emotions would be. From that morning, when it was clear that I wouldn't be able to see Matt before I got into the water, to on that shivering bike ride and sopping run--how unbelievably raw and open all emotions were. I felt tremendous love, pain, doubt, fear, and joy. I experienced the full spectrum of these emotions, and tried as best as I could to keep them in check, since that was the advice given to me. You will feel all these things. Remember that each will pass. Your day will have many highs and lows, and there will be times when you doubt that you can make it.

This is what makes it different than any other triathlon I've ever done.

I wish I knew to trust my training more. Even until the end, I could hear the little voices in my head..."Are you sure you did enough?" "Were four century rides too little?" "Don't you think you could have done more hill work?" "You've only ran 15 miles at a time, and you think you're going to do this marathon?" "You usually only swam twice a week. Don't you think that's awfully low?"

The truth was, it was plenty. For me. Probably in some ways even more than plenty. I rode the course ahead of time. I gave everything I had for nine months. My body was ready to do what I asked it to do.

Which leads me to the next thought.

What if that still is not enough?

I wish I would have known that no amount of training can prepare you for some of the things that happen out there. You have to trust yourself and your abilities to stay as calm and clear-headed as you can. I remember making adjustments that day--even as I was riding!--because I knew if I didn't, then I wouldn't make it. It meant a bike split about an entire hour slower than I knew I could do. But, after seeing person after person spinning out, laying on the side of the road with road rash all down their sides, I made that decision because I had to. And I'm glad I did, even though I can't say I'm satisfied with my ride. Keep your eye on the prize, and adjust as necessary.

I wish I knew that some parts of my day would profoundly disappoint me. I don't think I really anticipated that. Personally, I was disgusted with my swim. I came out of the water, saw what I did, and felt as if part of me had blown it. But you have to keep things in I tried as best I could to leave it there on the Terrace. And I did, during the race. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't still think about it today. Maybe it will help fuel me the next time.

Finally, I wish I knew what that finish line was like before I got there. So I could really, REALLY slow down and enjoy it. My TriBro, TriEric, told me after he did IMUSA, to really look around and enjoy that moment. I thought I did, but looking back, I think I could have gone even slower--walked even!--to really take it all in. It's a magical place, which I can't even really explain. It makes you absolutely amazed beyond words at your own strength and ability. For me, it was the culmination of Faith, love for my friends and family, and absolute amazement at what my body just did.

(Sort of what I'm hoping childbirth will be like...but without the cameras and Mike Reilly)

Now that I'm forced to spectate, I'm reminded of all these things that I felt during those 15 hours, 32 minutes, and 32 seconds.

I wish I knew how much it would change my outlook on things. On pretty much everything. I still have plenty of doubt and fear, as evident in my first two paragraphs. I still have my own personal demons to slay from time to time. But when I remember that day and how it worked out, I always sort of get a sense of calm. Anything really is possible. If I did this--me, who was never a star athlete or really anything special--than I can handle pretty much whatever life throws at me. I'm reminded of that today.

I wish I had known that this race would show me that.

I wish nothing but the best for my friends who are getting ready to head to Madison. I can't wait to hear how their days unfold, because it will be different for every single one. And I dream of watching them all cross that line and seeing their faces.

No matter what happens. The weather. A flat. A disappointment here or there. Doubt, pain, and ultimately elation will come to each of them some way, and I just wish I could be there to physically experience it again, with them.

But this year, I'm on the sidelines...where I'm supposed to be for now.


Laurie said...

Great post.

I couldn't help but laugh at the Mike Reilly comment.

jeanne said...

that was an awesome post. you just took me right into the race!

Wes said...

Absolutely beautiful... Way to go T. You didn't get that AP class by winning the lottery, did ya? Rock on!!

greyhound said...

I really needed to hear that. I'm printing this and taking it with me to Madison. I will read it right before go time.

Kim said...

i'm going to bookmark this post and reread it once a week during my IM training. fantastic sar, absolutely awesome. i will try to remember every single second of that LOOONGG race and the split second of crossing the finish line.

Josh said...

I think you have just inspired me to sign up for an Ironman.

Thank you.

JenC said...

Sounds like perfect advice to me! Of course, I've only done one IM too, so what do I know?

You're going to be a great teacher for this class! You rock!

walchka said...

What a great post Sara! I really really needed to read something like that. Thanks for the boost!

teacherwoman said...

Another awesome post!

Isn't it exciting... another school year begins! I am sure you will be great with that AP class! I know it!

Siren said...

I think I already know what the answer to this is considering how far along you are, but I'm gonna ask anyway... are you going to be on the literal or cyber sidelines for the race this year? I'm going, but it was a really tough call to travel alone at 29 weeks.

If you can't make it I promise to ring my snazzy new cowbell extra loud to make up for it : )

RunBubbaRun said...

The fear, the unknown. You train and hope for the best and see what happens.

Enjoy the last moments, I might even walk this year to the finish line if I get there.

I will be thinking about seeing you out on those rollers from last year.. Hopefully without the rain pouring down our faces :)

Bolder said...

have you considered Mike Reilly and the cameras?

i mean, your child go like get a Kona slot for life or something...

i'm just sayin'

Robin said...

Great post about your Ironman experience. But seriously, you don't want Mike Reilly saying "You are a MOM!" at your birth? Thanks for the smile.