I’ve been training with an Ironman in mind for about a year now, and race day is almost upon me. I shy away from using words like “journey” or “adventure” for the things that I do (if I ever have to destroy a ring or kill a dragon, I’ll start). But it’s certainly been an experience. Training for an Ironman is by far the most physically taxing thing I’ve done in my life. And, like anything tough, it’s had its ups and downs. There have been times when I have felt like I’m on top of the world. And then there have been the times when I break into tears for no real reason.
These moments obviously stand out, and I can recall several of each on a moments notice.
Coming in as the second woman overall in a local sprint triathlon.
Taking well over a minute off my 1000 yard time trial. I’m not sure exactly where I was a year ago, but I think I was somewhere north of 17 minutes. A month or so ago, I did 1000 yards in 15:24.
PRing in every leg of my Olympic triathlon. By a lot.
Going for a 17.7 mile run and a long swim on the same day and still getting antsy enough to go for a walk in the evening. Long runs that were 15+ miles used to wipe me out completely for the whole day. Now, they’re rather pedestrian.
Taking in the beautiful views of Utah, whether that be on the bike or on the run.
Feeling excited to be on my bike riding at mile 101 during my first 100+ mile training ride. (That’s not to say I felt amazing at every mile before that, but it was a great way to learn that I can be sick of the bike and then get over that and be excited about it again.)
Finishing peak week, the one I couldn’t look at when I first started training because I thought there was no way I could possibly do all that.
Completing my 2-3 hour long runs with no IT band pain whatsoever.
Getting my bike and car stolen in one fell swoop.
Sitting on the side of the road crying because my IT band pain was too bad to finish running home.
Failing to hit my marathon goals rather spectacularly.
Getting hopelessly lost on the way to and home from work when I decided to commute by bike.
Having an emotional breakdown on the train on the way to work because I thought the title for my wrecked car was lost in the mail.
Crashing on the bike and spending the next three weeks gingerly favoring a nasty contusion on my upper thigh.
Every single part of my body aching around mile 80 of my long training rides.
Riding 35 miles home against the wind and completely demoralized.
These high and low moments stand out in training, but this collection of moments doesn’t really relay what Ironman training is like. Most of it is neither demoralizing nor inspiring. Like anything in life, it’s rather pedestrian. Putting in the time and effort becomes the new normal and simply becomes another part of your routine.
And, while the moments of either extreme are the ones that stick out, they aren’t the important part of Ironman training. It’s the consistency that matters. And while a stellar sessions stands out and boosts your confidence, what matters when tracking your progress is how a perfectly average training session goes the first month into the training cycle compared to how a perfectly training sessions goes during the peak of your training.
Earlier this week, I was looking through some old blog posts. I saw that I mentioned doing a swim workout of 10 x 100 @1:50. I described a workout that was exhausting and absolutely pushed me to my limits. And I realized that now, I can do a set of 10 x 100 @1:40 without much trouble at all. I’ve even started to wonder if I could manage a set of 10 x 100 @1:35. I’ve seen similar improvements in my running and cycling over the past year. And it was every moment in my training that helped me make that progress. It was the breakout sessions. It was the workouts where I just felt flat but worked hard anyway. It was the times that I stepped out the door even though I was tired and frustrated. It was the times I realized that my body truly needed rest and I took a session easier than initially planned.
The workouts and moments that stand out are the ones that are both easiest to remember and ripest for inspiration. I use the memories of good workouts to inspire myself and memories of hard ones to remind myself that I can keep going. But really, the daily grind is where the magic happens.