Pushing Life's Boundaries: The Mile-By-Mile Journal of My Ironman Odyssey

Ironman


Embark on an Odyssey and your life will be greatly enriched.  Be it a long cruise, a hike along a storied trail or even a city crawl of favorite cafes and pubs;  It’s the collection of mis-adventures,   the new friends,  the giggles  and pushing your personal boundaries that transform a trip into a life changing event, no matter where you find them.  

The Decision
The Ironman is my Odyssey. The 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a well-deserved    marathon to finish up. What better way to cover 140.6 miles in a day?   I’ve been a distance runner for many years…so what joy was I to gain by adding these extra elements?  Was this an odyssey in the making?  The Austrian Alps beckoned me.  Why not? - I reasoned, it’s the Alps!  Clean lakes and vistas to breath inspiration in to the weak.  Think:   “The hills are alive…,” right?   I plunked down my Euros and made it official.  Ironman  - Klagenfurt Austria – June 26-  my odyssey begins.

Training weeks included miles of swim laps, spin classes, 80 mile bikes and endless long runs in between.  I learned exactly how much life I had in me.  I asked new questions: Could I stick to my 5:00 am wake-up call and swim a mile before spin? Yes.  How cold can it get for my next run? Very Cold.  Will the rain stop at mile 20 or 60 during my bike ride? Neither.   When does the uphill turn into a downhill? Keep going and you will see…  

The Training ended with over 30 swim miles, 1,600 bicycle miles, 600 run miles and countless gallons of water, ice tea and Gatorade.  I Visa-swiped over $250 at Dunkin Donuts along the way.   A mile is just 5,280 feet, but what can it teach me?  I learned the power of “I can.”  That   repetition makes life easier and that patience unleashes the imagination.  Traveling a mile, under your own personal steam, can unleash the power that lives in all of us.  

Race Day
Wake-up call is at 4:30am.  There are logistics involved before the 7:00am swim start at the shore of Lake Wörthersee. Happily my hotel, The Seepark, had an athlete-worthy buffet breakfast ready by 5 am.  An odyssey is the best excuse for serious calorie consumption.  Eat up- It’s a right passage! As is the good luck kiss from my wife June, my favorite Cheerleader. Followed by a quick tire-check, a wetsuit fitting and a practice swim.   All by 6:50am. Good to go!

The Swim  
The canon fires and a wetsuit-clad army of 3,000 athletes marches into the water. “This is getting real now,” flashes in front of my face. Months of calmness I’ve harbored vanishes in seconds.  The mile of 100’ deep water lying in front of me is daunting.  The first 200’ meter buoy looks light-years away.  My right brain argues with my left, “Focus on the first buoy,” “No Way – just get us out of here! “  I silence them and summon my training mantra (and pray my wetsuit works). Laser-locked on the 200 meter buoy, off I go. Upon reaching it, I want to hug   the darn thing. Quickly, as another one lies ahead.  Swim; Hug next buoy. Repeat.  As in training, life comes with repetition.