Wednesday, August 12, 2009


For the past week or so I’ve been struggling with training. Maybe discouraged is a better word than struggling. The effort it takes, the time involved, and the pain of training for Ironman has been wearing on me. Edmund Burke once said, “Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.” But Burke never explained if by working "on in despair" you would eventually work your way out of despair. Maybe we eventually get to a certain point that we force ourselves to climb out and move on.

Last night I hated my bike when I went to bed around midnight. Lying in bed trying to fall asleep while listening to the rain and dreading having to get up in a few hours for a 5 1/2 hour/100-mile bike ride.

I hated my bike even more when my alarm went off just after 5 a.m. and I heard the rain still coming down. While unloading my bike at the pool in the drizzling rain at 6 a.m. I could not imagine being on that thing for 5 1/2 minutes let alone 5 1/2 hours.

By the time I pedaled the half-mile or so to the intersection at Makala Boulevard and Queen K, I was soaked from the rain and in my own deep despair. As I sat at the traffic light waiting to ride out onto Queen K for another 99 miles, I considered turning around, riding home and officially withdrawing from Ironman. I had had it. I was tired, wet and cold, and I was having a hard time finding a reason to spend more time on the bike than I got sleep the night before. The sport I loved so much a few weeks ago I could not stand at that moment.

But instead of going home I decided to ride at least to the cemetery, 12 miles out, and see if the rain would stop. By the time I had reached Hina-Lani Street I had forgotten about the rain and was being amused by the “rooster tail” my tires were making. I also found myself searching for mud puddles to splash through just like when I was a kid. I was disappointed that my skinny road bike tires wouldn’t splash as much as the tires on my old Stingray bike I had so many years ago. What is it about boys and mud puddles? All the splashing and playing made me start thinking about how much fun it is to ride a bike.

By the time I reached the cemetery the rain had stopped and the sky was an amazing mishmash of weather patterns. As if it were a movie, the clouds parted, revealing Mauna Kea majestically backlit by the rising sun. To the left, a thunderstorm was dumping buckets on Kawaihae (more puddles to ride through, I thought). To the right, Hualalai was shrouded in mist. Over the ocean, an array of cloud patterns mingled with patches of blue. A photo would never do the scene justice. And to think I almost missed this if I had gone home.

The rest of the trip was pretty quiet. The clouds eventually gave way to sun. There was no wind to speak of and I rode along, lost in the music coming through my headphones and still thinking about splashing through puddles, and how I need to find that joy on the bike again. Somewhere along the way, training turned into work and stopped being fun.

By the end of the day I had been on the bike an hour longer than I had slept the night before. I had biked 101 miles then jumped off the bike and ran for 30 minutes. A few hours later I was in the pool swimming at Masters.

Well at least tomorrow will be an "easy" day. Only a 2-hour run ...

With less than 60 days until Ironman, discouragement is my biggest obstacle. But like Burke suggested, maybe the answer is in keeping the faith or staying the course or any other way you can think of that means to just hang in there and tough it out. After all, being an Ironman is more than just crossing the finish line. You earn that privilege in the training days that get you there.


debbie said...

Thank goodness you are still Human and not really an ironman that only always loves training. You earned the right to be a little discourged sometimes. But seriouly how do you do it?

The Three Coconuts said...

hang in there... you're getting close. You know you're almost ready when you start to get sick of the training and get the "Let's just go race the thing" attitude. Just hang on a little longer, then you can turn all those demons loose.


What do you do when you don't have time to go out on location to do urban sketching? My time is very limited and I often don't have ...