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Testing the limits

Approximately 10 months ago Jane Wood (owner of RF Milton) jokingly suggested I do an Ironman. My immediate reaction was no way, how could I possibly take whole chunks of time out of my weekends to train for something like that?  BUT the idea of doing a Half was intriguing and the training volume would be lighter…right? So I registered for Steelhead (July 25th). A month later I started thinking that if I was putting in all the time to train for a half why not just do a full. In retrospect it is amazing to see how craziness evolves and mutates and breeds. So in December 2009 I registered for Ironman Louisville (August 29th, 2010). I just flipped my calendar over from July to August and during some very long rides recently I have had a
LOT of time to think back to where I started, where I am, and what has changed.

 When I say “testing the limits” I am not referring to the physical limits that I have pushed repeatedly over the last 8 months, those go without saying. How can you hope to finish a race like Ironman without constantly pushing and testing your physical boundaries? But the limits I am referring to are those of the people around me. The ones who have suffered as much, if not more, then I. Those people who have made this possible for me and some who I find myself leaving behind. I recently found myself grouping my friends into three categories and defining where their limits lie; The True (life long friends), The Fellow Ironmen and everyone else. 

The true friends, the ones who have been around forever and will be around long after Ironman is a distant memory, are my rocks. They give me 110% support, they have never questioned my decision, and they do not imply I am being selfish. They are the ones who will be by their computers race day watching my splits and cheering me on. They wish they could be there. Their limits are boundless. If my True friends are lifers, my fellow Ironmen are my newest friends, they have done IM’s before, or are tackling their first as well. They have been my training buddies and got me through some very long and boring rides. They are a wealth of knowledge and they will listen to me prattle on about training, nutrition and gear all day and actually are interested. I hope to have these friends around for a long time and their limits are yet to be discovered.  

The majority of my friends fall into the “everyone else” category. They are hard to define as they fall all across the spectrum from complete support to total indifference. They may regard my goal with some interest but probably don’t understand it. They politely listen to my stories from a training weekend but I am aware that I should keep it short, so as not to bore them. They are my good friends but fulfill a different need in my life and relate to me outside of this Ironman world.  In the past 8 months I have even started to notice distance forming with some individuals in this group. I have changed and the niche that they filled is no longer needed, or doesn’t look the same. It is a shame and makes me sad sometimes but the limits were pushed and they didn’t stretch far enough. I do have to make a quick comment about another limit I have repeatedly tested over the last several months and that is my boss. Whether he realizes it or not, the days off (requested at the last minute) and rushing out at the end of the day regardless of workload have been a huge help in trying achieve the work/family/training balance. He has been incredibly supportive of this journey of mine, without even knowing it. 

Perhaps the most important limit I tested and the one I tried hardest to keep close was that of my husband and children. My son just turned 4 and my daughter was 2 in May. Some may think I am crazy for trying to do an Ironman with 2 young kids and a full time job….well sometimes I agree. Things have been sacrificed; the housework and my sleep falling the greatest victims. I like to think the kids haven’t suffered although my youngest now has a standard question when I leave the house “mummy going for a bike ride?” With the help of my incredibly supportive husband I think we have made this work for our little family unit. My husband likes to say that his training time has actually gone up since I registered for the Ironman. No longer do I bat an eye if he wants to go for a long ride or run on the weekend. What right do I have to make a peep? I like to hope that he is getting as much out of this as I am, or at least is happy to see me with so much passion for something. I also hope the kids get something out of all this…a memory of mummy doing something extraordinary and inspiration for themselves later in life. And I really hope they are not left with a bitter taste in their mouths for their slightly absentee mum. I don’t want to find out, years from now, that I pushed my families’ limits too far. I am still three weeks out from the race but the really long training is over. Perhaps I can start seeing friends again, do some housework and maybe even get some sleep. I know this isn’t over yet and I can only hope that the next month is as much fun as the last 8 have been. I have still to test my own physical and mental limits on race day. That should be interesting!

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One comment

  • Hey Nik,
    Great article. I hear you where friends and family are concerned. They definitely have to be put into different ‘boxes’ and only the Ironmen fully understand what it’s all about! 🙂 All of the others, including your family, think you are nuts!!
    Your next few weeks will fly by, your race will fly by, and then you will be coming to me to ask how I signed up for the Canadian Death Race – or that Ultra Tri in Hawaii!!! Yes, you DID say NEVER to the original “Will you do a full Ironman??” question…..
    Never say never, it will always come back to bite you in the ass!! Who better than I knows that!!!!
    See you soon, long ride this weekend???
    PS I so wish I could be in Louisville to cheer you on and hold up some of your body parts on sticks!!!

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