Hi Mark, Remember Me?. . .

It’s your body.  I know we haven’t been on really good terms recently.  In fact, we’ve barely been speaking.  And I know, it’s like totally my fault. . .  I pretty much ignored every attempt to communicate with me, and then I was like “see ya” when you really needed me.  And I was just so selfish.  I, like, totally left you in the lurch?  And I still expected you to come home to me and keep me fed and rested and, ya know, looked after.  I know you totally wanted to take up with other bodies but I got all jealous bitchy and was so not down with that. So, um, you wanna get back together?

Yes.  Oh God yes.  Come back, all is forgiven!

The last long-ish bike and run this weekend, and for the first time in a long while I actually started to feel my body coming back to me.

Just hints, mind you, nothing dramatic.  But after weeks (no exaggeration) of feeling almost completely numbed by fatigue before and during any piece of exercise and then spending my time after said exercise feeling as if I must have completed it with someone else’s body (an emphysemic ninety-year old with artificial legs and a bladder infection) I’m starting to feel hints of something that almost might be termed sprightliness.

Not that I’m all the way back by any means (in fact I can’t even contemplate what “all the way back” would mean at this point).  But, for example, we went for our final longish (12 miles) run this weekend and I felt just great for the first half of it.  In fact, I probably got a little over-excited by just how good everything felt at the beginning.  So I was knocking out sub-10 minute miles on the uphill leg out from Pierce Mill and generally having a rocking good time.  Unexpectedly (at the time) or completely expectedly (given a pause for reflection), everything did not feel anywhere near as good on the back side of the run, even though I was running downhill.  But that was useful.  I’m not training for a ten miler!  My normal pace is going to be in the mid to high tens (and on the Ironman run it may not even reach that) so the worst thing I can do is rip into it like I’m going for the land speed record.

On Sunday it was the final longish (60 mile) bike ride.  It is striking how your perspective changes by the end of Ironman training.  A 60 mile ride is hardly a jaunt down to your local 7-11.  But at this point we were all gratefully referring to it as “only” a 60 mile ride.  Coach Ed was jokingly suggesting that we should all do the ride in cargo shorts on a fixie.

And it was a blast.  A big group of us rode together most of the way, with the group only starting to fragment toward the end.  And we were just smoking along (well, for me at least).  My normal ride pace on these longer rides is a little over 16mph, but we knocked this one out in about 3:12: a little under 19mph.  Now sure, we were pace-lining most of the way, but as someone pointed out, you still have to make the legs go round!  Moreover, I’ve tried to hang with some of these people before and haven’t been able to do it, so it felt good.  Plus, there was a real light-hearted feel to the whole day.  This started last weekend, actually.  Then, I’d been biking with Mary K, Casey, and Jason.  J&C were going up a hill in front of me and they began to grind away.  Behind them, I yelled “Sit down, for chrissakes!  You’re triathletes not roadies!”  Then we came to a really steep hill; Jason yelled back “You had better not get out of the saddle for this, Mark!”  So, of course, I just had to ride my way up beside him, still seated.  It cost me (natch) but style points are priceless.

It is a strange feeling; the race approaches like a Mama Grizzlie in an Escalade (the fuel efficient model. . .oh, wait, there isn’t one) bearing down on a Democrat rabbit.  But it feels as if the pressure has come off.  Things, even the race, are starting to feel, maybe, doable in a way that they weren’t before.  So during Sunday’s ride we took a longish break at the Sheetz and were reminiscing about all the times we’ve done this ride, most of which have sucked: there was the rain-soaked version, the blowing-like-forty-bastards version, the hundred-miles-in-one-hundred-degrees version.  But while today was getting a little warm by the end, there was little wind, and the generally rolling terrain had never seemed so flat.

This same feeling seemed to be present even for people where things hadn’t gone so well.  There was an epidemic of flat tires today; really, quite an extraordinary number.  But most people didn’t seem phased by it and some were happy it had given them a chance to practice tire changes.  Of course, now I’m completely paranoid.  Other people are working out their issues pre-race, but is karma going to make a sudden appearance and take a big bite out of my tuckus come race day?  However, if I don’t get a flat next weekend Rachel has generously offered to swing by and stick a knife in my tire.

However it was still very apparent that I wasn’t at my best.  Loved the ride, and it was a brisk one.  But I got home, lay down. . .and then it was suddenly an hour and a half later.  I sometimes feel like sleeping after swim practice, and often after an early morning track workout, but almost never after cycling.

Moreover, while it feels like the pressure is off, there is still a lot of logistics planning to do and workouts still to get in (this morning we had an hour and a half continuous swim).  Diet becomes important.  I’m in the habit of eating everything in sight, but at this point I’m not doing the volume to justify that; it is important to avoid gaining too much weight.  Yet you still need to fuel your recovering muscles.  (All while not become a race diet obsessive, which was one of the deals I made with myself at the beginning; food is just too important to me as an enjoyable part of life.)  It is a balancing act.

We had all been waiting for the 2010 Ironman Wisconsin Athlete guide to come out, and it finally did, just a couple of days ago.  What was interesting to me was how deeply unsatisfying it was to read.  For starters it was–duh–almost exactly the same as the 2009 guide.  But the real reason is because for all the wealth of information contained in it, covering every conceivable aspect of race minutiae, it doesn’t answer the one burning question that I’m sure all of us first-timers have:

What will it be like?


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