The Ironman Games: IM St. George Recap Part 2

Wind is nature's snake.  It's unpredictable, can lash out and strike at any moment, wreak incredible damage, poison body and mind, then meekly slither away like a faint breeze.

If that's the case, the wind on the first loop of the Ironman St. George bike course from Sandy Hollow Reservoir to and through Gunlock was a black mamba.  Merciless.  Sinister. 

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The Ironman Games: Part I from IM St. George

Be careful what you wish for.

That thought first crossed my mind midway through the first loop on the Ironman St. George bike course, right after sand blasts smacked my face from 30-40 mph wind gusts.  After the wind blew me literally from one side of the road to the other.  After the myriad leg-biting rolling hills yet before any of the three "big" climbs near the tiny towns of Gunlock and Veyo.

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Bandit Trail Run Race Report

What does it mean to "get better" in triathlon?  Does it mean "go faster?"  I think that would be the obvious response. But there's something else, something deeper.

No, to me getting better in triathlon means being smarter.  By "smarter," I mean developing an innate sense of body awareness that transcends the data we gather on our sophisticated training devices.

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My Summer Winter Camp

There was a time in all our lives when we were instructed with nothing more than, "Get out of the house and go play!"  That was the only responsibility we had.  School was out.  We were too young to work.  So, we played.

That time ended for most of us around 12 or 13.  At least for me it did.  Newspaper routes, day camp jobs and ultimately being a cub news reporter filled the rest of my summers until college graduation.

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The Best Tribute I Can Offer

My grandmother is sick. In fact, she's dying after a frustrating, heartbreaking battle with Alzheimer's Disease.  She's suffered from it for a few years now, going from someone who didn't need a calculator to maintain the books at my family's business for 50-plus years to not knowing who any of us are. Of course, I remember many things about her, which I shared with her recently in a note I have no idea whether she understood let alone internalized. Yet we do these things not as much for the ill as for the living. Fortunately, my grandmother instilled in me her tough work ethic, never quit, never settle for anything less than the "A" mentality.  That's what leads me to this past Saturday's inaugural HITS series Olympic triathlon in La Quinta.

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Through New Eyes

It's appropriate that volunteering at Ironman Arizona this past weekend coincides with Thanksgiving.  As soon as I got home from Tempe yesterday, I called my parents and told them how truly grateful I was for their support last year along with the rest of my family.  Sure, I wasn't as physically fatigued from volunteering, but still my feet cracked with pain, my lower back was on fire, my senses were overwhelmed and I darn near felt delirious as Mike Reilly started dancing down the finisher's chute before midnight.

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Good Once As I Ever Was

I'm not a big country music guy, but since my wife is a somewhat closeted country music gal, I've been exposed to it over the past several years.  I'll even admit that I kinda like Rascal Flats and that maybe if one of their songs was on the country music station I happened to flip through on the radio dial, I'd stop and take a listen.  Just maybe I might turn the volume up a bit too. As long as I'm by myself.

My favorite country music song is by Toby Keith, "As Good Once as I Ever Was."  If you don't know it, Keith sings about how he may have lost a step or two over the years, but that when it ultimately matters, his mind (if not his body) thinks he can muster just one more virtuoso tryst/bar fight, etc..  I think it's the ultimate Weekend Warrior song, and it aptly describes how this past weekend's Playa del Rey Triathlon went.

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A Different Kind of Countdown

Two weeks from tonight, Stephanie and I are getting married. It feels pretty similar to that overwhelming feeling I got two weeks before my first Ironman.  Instead of relying on all the training that got me to that moment, all I could think about was the unknown of whether I'd reach the finish line.  This past week, it was hard not to think about the statistics working against Steph and me, the high divorce rates, shrinking marriage numbers and total strangers I met during my bachelor party weekend who bitterly told me of their failed relationships and why I should reconsider my own.  On top of that, wedding planning reached a feverish peak.  We had tension in the house, deadlines closing in, bills to pay, seating charts to make, and one hell of an Excel spreadsheet filled with to-dos.

It almost became too much to handle.

Then, I recalled my Ironman training and the race itself.  First, I got to the finish line. I made it!  I trusted the hard work and it paid off.  Then, I remembered the team of supporters I had rallying around me.  I didn't do everything on my own.  More important, Steph was such a supporter to me of my Ironman journey that I needed to rally here at the hardest of moments and be the same kind of rock. I then recalled that simply staying calm and focusing on the immediate task in front of me can pay huge dividends. Marriage can seem difficult and overwhelming when you present it in the same metaphorical terms as a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon run.  Now that I'm not training as much, I'm getting more easily overwhelmed by those distances and wondering how in the world did I pull it off?  However, when you break down each distance into more manageable mini-races, the task seems more reasonable.

I never thought that completing an Ironman would change how I approach even larger life milestones, but it has.  I've learned how to remain calm and focused when I used to freak out.  And more important, I have a successful blueprint for how to handle big changes in my life.

I've heard many of my friends tell me that the final two weeks before their wedding were the worst.  Lots of fights, lots of tears, and ultimately people trying to block that period from their memory banks.  I was on track to be exactly like everyone else, until I remembered my Ironman training and that though the event is much bigger, I've been down this road before.  Once I realized that, which essentially occurred during a morning jog by myself today, I took a huge breath and let a lot of stress out of my system.

What a relief!

So, with exactly two weeks and counting to my wedding, I think I'm officially "ready" for my Lifetime Ironman.

Up Above the World So High

I'm atop the Westin San Francisco, staring out at AT&T Park and a setting sun on a Monday evening. It's quiet in my room, as I'm alone in town for a marketing and PR conference tomorrow.  It's rare moments like these where I can stop and assess my life.  I'm always juggling multiple projects and multiple thoughts in my head.  To be able to calm myself, after a glass of wine and a rich meal, is a treat.

So what am I thinking about?  My mind races, trying to process the last year and a half.  Training for and completing two Ironman races.  Maintaining my career.  My writing. And above all, counting down ever so slowly to a wedding that's now just a couple weeks away.

Where did the time go?

I feel proud that I've accomplished what feels like a lot in the past 18 months.  But I wonder what lies around the next corner.  As I sipped on some wine at my favorite Indian food restaurant (Amber...drool), I realized that lengthy solitary moments for quiet contemplation -- minus being in a pool or on abike/run, are going to be even further and farther apart.  Right now, life feels like a series of daily transitions, where I'm constantly on the clock from one activity to the next.  The finish line really does occur around 17-18 hours later when it's time for bed to do it all over again.

Every day feels like an Activity Ironman.

I'm not complaining.  Not by a longshot.  But I am trying to make some sense of it all in my own context.  I'm looking back at my 15-19 hours of Ironman training a week wondering how in the hell did I do that?  Now that I'm "only" working out 7-8 hours a week, triathlon training seems like an impossibly large time sink. I have no idea how I made it work now that my life has become consumed with other activities.

I suppose it comes down to what's important to you.  Those are the things you make time for, whether it's friends, family, work, hobbies or something else.  For 18 months I made time for triathlon and squeezed everything else in as best I could.  Right now, as my schedule has balanced itself out, I'm still adjusting.  I'm learning to live with "good enough" with my training, if you can even call it that.  I've struggled at times, but I'm also relishing a greater sense of balance between all other aspects of my life.  I'm catching up with myself while I beat myself up at the same time.  I think that's the strange dichotomy of post-Ironman race depression talking.

But in two weeks, I'm about to become a married man. And that's strange too.  I've been single for 37 years and in two weeks, there's someone called Mrs. Schneider and it's not my mom. I'm super excited and to be honest, I'm a little scared.  I'm scared of the unknown, just like I was scared of competing in my first Ironman.  I'm not scared of whether Steph and I will work, I know we're rock solid on that front.  I'm just scared that I'm getting older and entering a new phase of my life.  But if you're not a little scared at a juncture in your life, maybe you're not pushing hard enough?

In that respect, triathlon has helped me take more risks in my life whether it's this blog, approaching Lava Magazine cold and brazenly asking for a column, pursuing Ironman triathlons and ultimately, finding the fortitude to make my relationship right with Steph once and for all last year.

So while I may have been busy as all hell and not sure what the hell I was doing at times, this past year and a half probably produced the biggest emotional and spiritual growth period in my life.  And, yeah, the physical fitness growth wasn't too shabby either.

In the end, the view from the 22nd floor of the Westin San Francisco is pretty astounding.  Taking a few moments to stop and look around is a humbling experience.  I've been so busy for so long that I forgot about stopping and simply doing nothing for a bit.  In those moments, life comes into focus.

Damnit, I like what I see.