Wednesday, October 5, 2011

30 days to go

Exactly 11 months ago today, I poised in front of my laptop and waited for noon to arrive. I clearly remember counting down the minutes, making sure that my Visa and my USAT card sat next to me.

With great trepidation and an excited fear, I cued in on the address for Ironman Florida and said a little prayer. Would I be able to secure a spot to compete in a 140.6-mile race that sells out within hours? I had doubts.

As soon as high noon arrived, I tried to log on to the site. Fail. The website had trouble processing the hits as they came across. Repeat. Fail. Repeat. Fail. But within five minutes or so, I was in and hit “register.” I frenetically typed in all of the vital information requested, scanned the release about the health risks, signed off that I knew I bordered on crazy, and hit submit.

Within a minute, my $625 was gone.

And like that, I registered for something that would consume a large part of my life for the next year.

Here it is now, Oct. 4, 2011.

It’s been a long journey, one that’s not yet over, but one that has forced me to be a queen of time management—management that has often sacrificed my commitment and responsibilities to others.

At this point in my life, I have run eight marathons, so I know how much training for 26 miles can sap you of your energy. But this is different. This is a beast unto its own. The running? Doesn’t scare me. It’s the other stuff.

By now, I’ve swam beyond the distance of my race. The cost has been a few swimsuits, two ear infections, lots of water up my nose, dry hair, hours alone in a pool that hasn’t completely cooperated with my schedule.

I’ve biked distances that have made me cry: a painful 102-ride on rainy technical hills the day before a hurricane, a freezing 91-mile ride in the wind and rain that forced me to heat my toes on the car’s vent, an 80-miler on the trainer during which I watched three chick flicks and developed saddle sores that seemed to linger on for weeks.

But it hasn’t all been ugly.

The water has become a calming haven for me, a place for reflection and focus, a discipline that has sculpted my upper body and arms more than any P90 program ever did.

The bike has become an escape, a machine that has allowed me to see the patchwork of farmland across Berks County where I pass the quiet Mennonites who guide their horse-led buggies to church, a device that’s allowed me to ride along the green Schuylkill where the water serenely flows into a city that I love.

This has all been with sacrifices, however.

During many of these hours away, I’ve thought about my girls and my son, and I silently lament about the hours I miss with them, with my family. Time that's slipped away. And I’ve turned down offers to have lunch, dinner, and drinks with my friends. I’ve been remiss in returning phone calls, in replying to emails. I’ve turned down invitations to parties. The closest alliances that I’ve maintained have largely been with my constant running partners, women who have supported me through many hours, many miles. They've filled the voids of others.

For them, I’m grateful. For those who’ve understood, I’m thankful. I just need people to realize that this, this is about me. This is something I need to do.

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