I started writing this blog post about two weeks prematurely. Ironman 70.3 St. George next weekend was supposed to be my final "pre baby" triathlon. It's been on the calendar for a long time. Instead, I have been fighting a full-on bronchial virus, just about a week removed from another week-long bout with bronchitis. I missed the start line for a race this past weekend because I wasn't feeling well either -- which is entirely unlike me. With less than two weeks to tackle arguably the toughest half-Ironman in North America, I think my body and perhaps the cosmos are trying to tell me something. Or maybe it's just that I'm finally listening.
It's time to say goodbye to competitive triathlon for a while. I'm shutting down this abbreviated season early until well after our daughter is born. I will spectate races and support my Wattie Ink and Fortius Racing teammates. I intend to road-trip to St. George to cheer on my friends. With true excitement in my heart to enjoy watching their efforts pour forth.
My friends and teammates will tease me and say, "Yeah, right. Didn't you say Ironman St. George in 2012 was going to be your last Ironman? That was three Ironmans ago!"
The only due dates at that point in time were when I was due for an FTP test.
Yeah yeah, I'm probably being overly dramatic. I've been accused of that in the past. The truth is though, I don't know what to expect next. Gone is the notion of "free" time. No spare time will be considered truly free because it will come at the cost of spending time with my daughter or my wife. The sign that I'm actually somewhat relieved to write this blog might indicate a lot already though. I'm much more interested in the Be a Dad Not a Fad movement than another PR.
So why is this hiatus different than any past "threat" I've made? I'm READY for a break. My schedule has demanded it for months though I've been too stubborn to acquiesce. Now my body is too (sick and) tired to protest. Plus, honestly I'm over the zone 5b track repeats, my heart and lungs begging my brain to slow down just a little. It's grown ever-harder to wake up before 5 a.m. to jump into a cold pool before sunrise. And I've fallen victim to my own competitive urges one too many times by ruining training sessions simply to prove a point on a hill climb. Stupid, but true. I placed so much pressure on myself to perform that at some point I forgot the meaning of "fun" in all this. I hope to regain that sensation again soon.
Even if I wasn't "ready" in the emotional sense of the word, my body is screaming at me to shut things down. I really can't recall in the last several years when I got sick within a week of recovering where travel didn't play an important role. And that's with hefty antibiotics following Oceanside 70.3. For once, I think it's time to listen to my healthier inner voice. Not the drill sergeant voice that demands I keep pushing no matter what. No, the gentler one that just recently gently touched my shoulder and whispered..."Enough."
So, for now...this is enough.
Triathlon has provided me more than I can possibly write about here. I'm a better man, work professional and partner because of it. I'm more confident. I buried insecurities from the past, never to return. I met so many teammates and friends and coaches who will always inspire me and changed my life. I'm fortunate to know that I have changed some people's lives in the same manner too.
I know this reads like a farewell when it's just a hiatus. But since I've been training almost constantly since November 2009 (literally what feels like almost every day) now is a good time to pause and honor a few people who made a special impact. I would like to thank Gerardo Barrios first and foremost, along with my Fortius Coaching family. I am hard to coach sometimes. Probably just as much of a pain in the ass to train with. I question, I improvise, I ignore and I get mad. My biggest enemy is me. Somehow, Gerardo absorbed a good portion of that, chiseled away at poor habits, helped me understand the value of persistent, consistent work, and how a leader builds an organization. He also reminded me recently in an email that I no longer have anything to prove to anyone. I almost cried when I read that. What a burden to release. That is where my triathlon journey started. A journey into the unknown of my soul. What was I capable of? Am I a quitter? Am I tough enough? And it ends here with a sense of self-ease I never mastered growing up.
I would also like to thank Gerry Rodrigues at Tower 26. There are very few people whom I'd consider asking to be my father figure if I didn't have a terrific one already. Gerry is one of them. The last few weeks, he's helped me understand in his own way (read: blunt with humor) that a truly strong man doesn't keep piling on more stress until he comes close to breaking. He takes care of himself as the top priority so he can then take care of everyone else to the best of his ability. I am able to step back with inner peace partially thanks to Gerry's wisdom. I cannot be the supportive husband in my wife's final weeks before childbirth if I'm sick, stressed and exhausted. It seems like common sense, but common sense isn't always easy to follow.
I would like to thank the leaders and my teammates on the Wattie Ink triathlon team. I had never really felt "elite" at anything in my life. I had been cut from more sports teams than I care to remember. I'll never forget sobbing in front of my friends as I missed the 8th grade basketball team by one spot. To be included in the company of some of the best triathletes in the country -- even if it was almost 30 years later -- filled an ultimately meaningless yet surprisingly deep personal void. I'm forever grateful and plan to remain a loyal teammate. For those of you looking to continue your own triathlon journey, I cannot recommend the Wattie Ink apparel enough. It is by far the most comfortable kit I've ever worn and it is likely one of the only things that will keep me motivated to stay in shape the next few months!
Finally, to my family...THANK YOU. Thanks for questioning but not protesting. Thanks for rising above your own concerns to see how this sport changed my life for the better and supporting me through all the training and racing challenges. Thanks for celebrating with me. Thanks for being beyond flexible with my schedule. Now it's time to give back. I'm here.
I reserve the right to change my mind about racing in the future. Chances are I will. The sport is too much fun, too tactically challenging, too adrenaline-filled, for me to call it quits 100 percent. After all, I AM signed up for Malibu and Ironman Arizona this fall. It's just time to turn the page from being the die-hard, consumed triathlete to a more mellow weekend warrior. Scones rides, here I come!
See you at the races. I'll be cheering for you.