Tuesday, August 12, 2014

No Post Ironman Blues...

Ironman Boulder ended 8 days ago. Lots has happened.

Since leaving Boulder Alice and I did a route 66 road trip. It was an audible. We had no plans to drive  Route 66. I just didn't want to drive the boring interstates home and when we realized that in an 8 hour drive we could get south to Albuquerque and get onto Route 66 we went for it.

I won't give a blow by blow of each day. We saw a lot.

I always envisioned Route 66 to be this sole highway that was an epic drive. I've always said to the kids that I'd like to rent a big old Cadillac and drive Route 66 and stop at all the roadside attractions. I don't have a formal bucket list but informally driving Route 66 is on it.

Then to pull and audible and do it and be able to say we did it was really cool. It was unexpected and yet it's something so simple that anyone can do. All they have to do is decide to drive it. It's not like signing up and preparing for an Ironman. It doesn't take anything more than a decision followed by immediate action.

Route 66 wasn't exactly how I thought it would be. In my minds eye I thought it would be this well marked old type highway and run through the country and through all sorts of towns. Turns out that's not the case, most of the time.

Route 66 in many spots has been eaten up by Interstate and it's not the best marked. We had to pick up a couple of books and maps and try to figure out if the interstate we were on was route 66 or not. Most of the time we picked correctly.

Before we got onto route 66 we stopped at Santa Fe. For those that have never been. Go. It's an amazing little town. We didn't know what to expect and now I can see us living there in the winter. It's a hidden treasure. We had no plans to go there, we just needed a place to stay the night and viola we realized we could spend at least 2 - 3 days exploring downtown Santa Fe easily. I had the best omelet of my live in Santa Fe. Our waiter was a real character and when he heard we were from Toronto he mentioned that Don Cherry has a place in Santa Fe.

When you are driving route 66 and stopping in the little towns along the way the drive is much slower. Not that that's a bad thing. It's just something I didn't fully expect. Driving 7 hours on Route 66 is the equivalent of 3 on the Interstate.

We started in downtown Albuquerque. A cool downtown although no where near as cool as Santa Fe. It was then mostly interstate from Albuquerque to Amarillo. Lots of ghost towns. We drove through them. It's amazing to see all the buildings and businesses completely closed up. We drove by some towns that where literally ghost towns. Houses, churches, etc, totally abandoned.

The journey was a bit of a blur and a bit of "ground hog day".

Our routine was get up when we woke up, usually around 10 am. We stayed in nicer places. My days of Motel 6 are over. Too many horror stories. I'm not going high end, just nice. We stayed at a lot of Marriott and Hilton owned places.

So we'd get up at 10 am, shower, then get on the road, stop at a McDonald's for coffee and road food, then drive. We'd drive till around 7 pm and drive through every town on the route and stop at as many places as we could. We picked up a book that was excellent and showed us the places we should stop at. Alice was in charge of the book and would tell me what was coming up and we'd stop. We pretty much hit every attraction in the book.

We hit cafes, restaurants, bars, ghost towns and museums all along the way.

There was no pressure to rush back home and I savoured the flavour. This was the first time I could ever remember taking a vacation where I wasn't thinking about or doing work. Other than checking my emails in the morning or along the way I didn't focus one bit on work.

For the first few days I kept telling Alice "I can't believe I'm done Ironmans". I didn't mean it in a nostalgic way, I meant it in a "Damn I'm so glad I'm retired from Ironmans".

It felt so right. So complete. I was still in disbelief that I was able to over come the adversity and mental pressure to quit and still overcame and finished.

I was thinking what it would feel like if I had quit and what would the drive feel like?

Reality is I didn't think about it enough to really figure that it. It wasn't meant to be. It was meant for me to finish.

What makes my life so blessed and I feel almost scripted is when the last person I see before crossing the finish line is Alice. She's there and I'm able to give her a big kiss and then a second big one and they get it all on film and camera.  Now lets put this into perspective.

I wasn't 100% sure how I was going to finish my last ever Ironman. I had thoughts of getting across the line and kissing the ground. Which I did. I had thoughts of getting a sign and writing on it "Final Ironman, #12, Retired" and caring it with me as I ran down the finishers shoot and high five everyone. I didn't get the sign.

Reality is I didn't know what I was going to do and let fate take it's course. As I got to the finishers chute it came over me to start high-fiving everyone. I think it started with a couple of young kids and then I decided whether they wanted to high five or not I was high-fiving everyone.

I kept my hand out and just focused on high-fiving every hand. Many saw I was a man on a mission and weren't prepared to high five and saw me scrambled to high-five. I don't know how many hands I high-fived, could have been 100 plus.

Then out of the blue less than 10 feet from the finish I'm high-fiving and I look up and it's Alice. Completely unexpected. She was visually feeling what I wanted to be feeling. She was tearing up. She knew it was "our" last and I just stopped and gave her a couple of big kisses. I can't remember the words but I think she said "glad it's over" but not in a negative way. It was more like "this is the right time, I can't believe the journey, glad it's over, on to the next phase".

When I saw Alice crying I was more jealous than anything. I wanted to be in tears too. I wanted to relieve that first Ironman cry in 1987. I would have done it but I was too self-conscious.

So as we were driving Route 66 I'm thinking about how perfect the day unfolded. I almost thought I was going to die within the first 100 meters of the swim during Ironman Boulder. I think back now and I still can't believe I was able to pull myself through it and finish. It was so bad that I don't even know if I could do a regular triathlon swim ever again, or even an open water swim. It was pretty traumatic. Most so even afterwards as I reflect on it.

Then I think that I was able to get through the bike and then literally walk the run. The race was literally what Ironman is all about. Overcoming all obstacles and finishing.

Then to think that as I finished my 12th and final Ironman that special moment between Alice and I was captured on film and in photo's is what makes me wonder if life is scripted. From the moment I saw the finish line and started running I had no idea of what to expect. My mind was empty. I was zen. I just ran and did what came natural.

When I spoke to Alice about it she too mentioned that it was surreal how she got such a perfect spot on the fence and to see me. The fact that I finished in 15 hours helped. Less congestion and she had a perfect spot at one of the restaurants across the sidewalk from the space.

At one point as I was running and high-fiving I was going to go to the other side and start high-fiving. I've done that before. I thought about it for an instant and then something said no, just stay on this side. Had I went to the other side I would have missed Alice and our special moment.

It was an epic race and a more epic finish. It was a picture perfect finish. Stuff movies are made out of and none of it rehearsed. It just happened.

So as I was driving down Route 66 I was replaying everything in my mind and there was just this feeling of perfection in my mind. Everything ended perfectly. It was like I was able to break free with no regrets and on my terms.

Many times in the past I've decided to change course using my head and in my heart I didn't want to. It often ended up with regret. This time I ended with my heart not my head. Its' the first time this has ever happened to me.

The drive down route 66 was a vacation driven by my heart, no thought. We just did it without even pre-planning it. Which pretty much sums up my life. 80% of the time I live completely on intuition and go with what feels right, the other 20% of the time I try to pre-plan it and script it. When I try to script it it never turns out the way I wanted it to be and have disappointment and regret. When I let it flow that's when magic moments happen.

Prior to finishing at Ironman Boulder I mentioned that I see crossing that finish line as leaving my old world and entering my new world. In a way I see it as the halfway point of my life. I see it as a turning point of my life. I see it as a re-birth.

When I made that statement it was from my heart. It just came out. It felt right. In fact it's grown to feel more true and more profound than ever.

The drive gave me time to digest, absorb, reflect and relish everything that has happened in the first half of my life. It was just like the drive, non hurried, enjoyable, relaxing and fun. Just hanging out with Alice was fun.

There was also things I noticed about myself and how I think that changed. I know it seems unreal but I swear the moment I crossed that finish line it's like I changed. There is a deeper level of zen that I have. I feel so much comfortable in my own skin.

At times I'd think of what the future is going to hold. What do I want to accomplish? What do I want the back half of my life to look like?

I intentionally didn't go to far down that path. Intuitively I just know it's wasted effort to over think or try and script it. Best to let it flow and trust.

Frankly I wouldn't even know where to begin. So much of what went through my mind is eliminating societal thought and teachings from my mind. The first half of my life I did a combination of others beliefs and my own. This back half of my life I want to erase others beliefs and teachings and replace them with my own.

Essentially I'm describing the following of my internal compass versus the compass of others. There is a saying, "the map is only as good as the map maker". I keep thinking what if societies map is way off?

If societies map was right why are so many people unhappy?

These were the types of thoughts going through my mind in a very non-forced and natural way. All passed on a question, "what do I want to do with the back half of my life?"

I do know that everything that has happened to me on the front half of my life has prepared me for this back half. I have many regrets. Most of them from just being young, inexperienced or intoxicated. All of them I've learned from.

One thing I think about and don't want to regret is losing my virtual true friends. As much as I've met them online through twitter or my blog I've come to trust them and them me. I've often thought of it and if I was in trouble I'd without hesitation know that I could call on anyone of them and they would help me and me them. I don't say this lightly.

I don't want to lose my connections with those people. They know who they are. We regularly abuse each other on Facebook and I don't want to lose that community. Sully gave me a post on twitter that said " Bravo on your final Ironman and final bathroom update. Will miss them and always wish you the very best!".  It seemed so final. Like he figured I was gone. That it's the end of an era. I didn't know how to respond. I didn't.

I've given it some thought. The reality is in my heart I'm good with never doing another Ironman and I'm not sure if I'll ever do another triathlon, cycling or running event. I have no desire to do any right now and even thinking about a triathlon swim is freaking me out.

I do know I don't want to lose my friendships I gained from triathlon and Ironman. Many of them said they followed my original blog and became inspired. I was always surprised by this. It was never my intent to inspire. It still isn't. I was just blogging as a way of recording my journey.

I've been thinking about it some and decided to take the original blog out of private and make it public once again. It's over 1000 posts of me going from the start of my journey to Kona Qualifier. I'm not sure why, I'm not over thinking it. It's something that just feels like the right thing to do. In it's best month, (Kona Oct 2010) it got up to 8000 unique visitors in one month. Amazing since I had no plans for it other than to be a personal diary for me.

You can view the old blog by clicking here.

I have many questions about my future and wonder how things are going to unfold for me. It's not something I'm stressing about, whatsoever. If anything the minute I start stressing about it I know I'm going in the wrong direction.

What I do know is we got home last night and these past two weeks have been really great. I had the dream Ironman race. Yes, a near 15 hour Ironman has already become a fond memory.

We got home, unpacked and had to take the bike off the rack for the last time. If there was any hassle the entire trip it was having to take the bikes on and off the truck and shuttle them up and down from the room.

I also had my last pig out of junk food. The entire ride to Boulder and every day post Boulder we ate junk food. Caution was just thrown to the wind. Especially when going through Texas and Oklahoma, you tend to eat nothing but beef, lots of burgers and steaks. If I didn't gain 66 lbs I at minimum gained 6.6 lbs.

We came home with lots of swag. Shirts and stuff for the kids and stuff for the Pig & Whistle. I've come to realize that I have so much cool stuff in the Pig & Whistle that after seeing the museums on Route 66, I can make the Pig & Whistle a museum. It definitely has stuff in it that has the cool factor.

Talking about the Pig & Whistle. I checked it out and guess what, my kegerator fridge is no longer working. It died. No longer cools. It couldn't have died at a more opportune time. Post Ironman Boulder. Perhaps it's a sign.

I'm not sweating the weight gain. I know it's coming off.

What I'm most curious about is my next goal.

In the past after every Ironman I'd get the Ironman Blues. It's that moment when you've done your Ironman and about a week later you get depressed. A real depression. The only thing that takes it away is when you sign up for another Ironman or marathon or endurance event.

I remember those Ironman blues. They are real. And every time I signed up for my next event the blues went away.

This is the first time I have no post Ironman blues. In fact I have no desire to sign up for any races. I've thought of marathons, nope. Then adventure racing, nope. Then running races, nope.

All I want to do now is train for enjoyment. I have thought about kayaking. I'm curious to come up with my own training plan, sans-conventional wisdom. Like I said earlier I don't want to focus on societal thought or teachings. I know what my goal is and I'm curious to figure it out intuitively. To explore directions and routines that have not yet been explored.

I'm giving myself a couple days to get back into the swing of things now that I'm home. I need to wrap up my old Ironman home life. No I'm not selling my bike. But I'm doing the next best thing. I'm purging and cleaning.

I started with the garage. I boxed all old bike parts and stuff I haven't used in years. I threw out old tires, tubes and bike parts. I took my road bike out from downstairs and it's now going to be my regular riding bike. Next I'll be going through my bedroom drawers. I may end up putting a lot of it up for sale. I have no idea what I'm going to do with all the bags I've gotten from races.

I'm just in the mode to purge. It's part of the re-birth.

1 comment:

  1. Loved the finish line pics! Very cool that Alice got such a prime spot.

    Cool that you drove Route 66. Did you happen to go through Edwardsville, IL? That's where we live. We were out of town when you went through St. Louis or I would have invited you and Alice over for a cookout.