Forging Ahead

Somewhere in the middle of my 9.5-mile Nike/Westridge trail run this morning -- between the 20-degree temperature climb, running past a mountain biker with a parrot on his shoulder, narrowly escaping multiple bee stings from a small hive clustered at a rest stop drinking fountain, and inadvertently insulting two Ironman women triathletes -- I had a vision. I was tired, hot, sore and running low on water.  I already thought I had hallucinated considering a magnificent red parrot squawked at me on a descent. (I'm pretty sure he said, "Too slow!")  So, having a vision as heat waves undulated from the dusty gravel seemed totally normal.

There, at my weakest point, at the end of what would become a 16.5-hour training week, I physically felt myself becoming stronger.  I felt like a piece of iron being forged into something powerful. Pounded.  Blasted.  Shaped.  Hot.  I pictured one of those movie scenes where the angry hero descends into his weapons lair and creates his signature weapon.

Only in this vision, I was the weapon.

I realize I sound more like Leonard from Full Metal Jacket than William Wallace from Braveheart.  And I don't really care.

After this weekend, I'm harder.  Stronger.  Tougher.  Better.

I'm rounding into Ironman form.  I can feel it.

I had ridden 101 miles on Saturday at an 18 mph pace, with 4,000 feet of total climbing.  It was only my second century ride I've ever done.  I felt superhuman throughout the day.  Nothing could slow me down and I never really tired out.  The highlight was a pace line with three other cyclists on the final five miles where I averaged around 23-24 mph.  The guys complimented me after, thanking me for pulling them and telling me I made their wives happy because they'd return home to their families ahead of schedule.

I've never been complimented on my cycling before, especially by strangers who were no slouches themselves.  I'm always struggling to keep up with other LA Tri Club or Fortius members whom I deem better.  To be acknowledged for my own skill was refreshing.  Special.  That alone probably fueled my three-mile "recovery" run off the bike. I've never done that before either.

And just one year ago, there's absolutely no way I would have been able to run 9.5 miles the day after a century.  In fact, last year I bonked on the last 25 miles and Frank had to essentially tow me into port.

What a difference a year makes.

Sure, this morning's run was slow and stiff.  But I did it.  I survived what turned out to be 93-degree heat and kept my heart-rate in zone 3 at the highest.  That was a huge moral victory for me. I proved to myself I could bounce back the next day after a tough workout.  In the heat -- without overheating.

I didn't technically race this weekend, but mentally, it feels like I did.  Something changed in me.

During my ill-fated Ironman conversation with the two women this morning -- ill-fated because I made a joking comment about people with "140.6" stickers on their car, which they both have! -- one of them remarked that their Ironman training was harder than the race itself.  If that's the case, this weekend helped prove her point.

Yet I have three full months of training as of yesterday.

I want more training!

90 days and counting.