I have always been raised to hold myself with integrity no matter what the outcome of a race brings. So following my DNF at Ironman Boulder, I did what I have always done. I rationalized that failure is unfortunately an inevitable part of the process then did my best to find the good and smile through it. But honestly, it was hard and I struggled.
The weekend following the race, Steve suggested a camping trip in Steamboat. The trip was much needed for us both. I had been happy one minute then sad the next for the better part of the week while Steve not only had to deal with my emotions, but also had a small calf injury he was nursing. (I would like to think I was far less needy than the calf injury but thinking back, I did make Steve drive to the opposite side of town once.. or twice.. for Mary’s Mountain cookies that week)
In Steamboat I set out to run for the first time since the race. I went to explore around the lake while Steve biked. As I took in the sights around me; the glassy lake, the peaceful silence and the towering mountains above me, I noticed my legs were fresh. My feet felt light and I was falling into a comfortable rhythm. I looked at my pace and realized why I felt so good:
I was tapered. Tapered for a marathon I never ran.
Out of range from civilization on our weekend away, I had almost forgotten about the race and the heavy burden of disappointment I had been holding as a result of it. I guess that was the point of the trip. As I became increasingly and painfully aware of the reality once again, the emotions fell heavily onto my shoulders and my short jaunt around the lake quickly turned into a fiery rage driven run. I was angry and I wanted to make myself hurt so I would feel something other than the constant nagging pain of disappointment.
As I laid in the parking lot in Steamboat after my run, I thought this would be the last and final time I let myself become frustrated, but disappointment doesn’t work that way. I have found that over the two months following, the residual feelings have manifested in several different ways.
Back to the grind
First, I threw myself back into training. After I was done feeling sorry for myself, I immediately set my energy to training for Ironman Louisville. I was determined to put together the performance I knew I was capable of while I still had the fitness to do it. I began structured training two weeks after Ironman Boulder once I had moved back to Kansas City (Thank you Steve for keeping me company on the drive!)
Training, for me, has always been an outlet to help mitigate stress. It was healthy for me, in certain respects, to be submerged into the routine and demands of training again as the result of the race and the transition back to KC were both hard for me. Don’t get me wrong, I missed Kansas City. It was great to be home again with everyone I care about, however, I found my heart in it’s entirety really never left Colorado.
Steve is there and I miss him, however, I also miss the raw accessibility of the outdoors, the endless miles of open riding, and more than anything: the community of people who made training and life fun for me there. Moving home made me question how I ever managed to train for such a grueling distance here in the first place and alone nonetheless. Training became increasingly harder.
I realized I was turned off to the idea of riding the routes I use to frequent here, I spent more and more time on my trainer, and was progressively less motivated to swim without the company of a team. As the weeks progressed, my spirit dwindled and training started to feel more like work. So…. I stopped. I decided I wasn’t going to race Louisville.
IMLOU was a second chance. Training for it gave me the sense that I was out to “right”a “wrong”in a way. It was the right decision to opt not to race, however, it left me feeling more depleted than before. I didn’t want to ride my bike anymore. I didn’t want to swim. I was just done.
I don’t think I wanted to accept the emotional toll the DNF took on me. And it is hard to admit that. Like anything, it just takes time. Ironman is a grueling sport and MBK said it best. The highs are so high but the lows are low and goth. I have found strength in knowing that others (especially those I look up to) have gotten up from far further falls than mine. I cannot express how much it means to have read the notes of everyone who has reached out to offer advice, experience or encouragement since August.
My best work in anything I do always comes from a place of love. So, I am doing what I enjoy for the time being, embracing it, and trusting that I will have my chance to race the Ironman the way I want to when the time is right.
Right now I am enjoying afternoon rides, swimming when it feels right, strength and stability training, and my weekly yoga class!
Oh and I’m marathon training. Because if I remember right, that marathon thing and I have a some unfinished business to take care of 🙂
To our successes… To our failures… To persistence… and To the beautiful and continual process of life love and fitness….
Do everything with love.
xo Rachael Norfleet