The Stone That Crushed My Ironman Dream (Temporarily)

“Some sessions are stars and some sessions are stones, but in the end they are all rocks and we build upon them.” ― Chrissie Wellington

It’s taken me a couple weeks to write about this, but I want to remember it. Good days, bad days, it’s all part of the journey. Two weeks ago I had my worst workout EVER.  I think it’s taken me awhile to put it into words, because maybe I had to realize it wasn’t the end of the world, or more realistically, my dream to be an Ironman. I tend to get emotional during training. The fact that I had made it 23 weeks of Ironman training without crying was an accomplishment in itself. But that changed during training week 24.

We were scheduled for a five hour ride. The following weekend, we were planning to head to Louisville and ride the course for our first 100 (more on that to follow!). Because we’d be increasing mileage by quite a bit the following weekend, I wanted to gradually increase the weekend’s ride to 5.5 hours.  I was still on a high from the week before when we had crushed 77 miles in 5 hours, our furthest ride by 16 miles.

Hills, hill and MORE hills! (The previous weekend)
We started out and it was HOT. Definitely a lot hotter than we expected, in the 90s and ridiculous humidity. We had been battling a headwind, and for the first hour my heart rate was solidly in zone 4 as I struggled to maintain a painfully slow 14 mph pace. I told Jason that I’d have to slow down because my heart rate was sky high, and there was no way I could maintain for 5.5 hours in that heat and wind.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, with the exception that we had no less than three of the closest calls we’ve had with cars to date. That’s not an exaggeration. In the scariest incident, an oncoming vehicle tried to pass another on a two lane highway, careening into our lane, head on at 80 mph. It was the first time I’d ever been ran off the road. I didn’t realize how much it bothered me until I found myself shaking.

By the time we were 4 hours in, I was drained and my back was in excruciating pain from battling the headwinds. I knew that there was no way I’d make the extra 30 minutes. Instead, the ride became a battle to finish, and I did. I fought every minute of the full five hours, and returned to the car with nothing left. Even though I finished the intended workout, I felt defeated, as I was 7 miles shy of the distance I had gone last week in the same amount of time.

The fight was not over. I still had to run for an hour. Jason and I started out on the mile loop. Half way through, there’s a pretty decent hill that I have to walk up to keep my heart rate in zone 2. As soon as I started walking, my breathing became labored. I fought back tears. The second loop, as I started to walk, I started shaking, and there was nothing I could do to stop the tears.  And suddenly, I found myself fighting the strongest urge to lie on the ground and cry my heart out. This has never happened to me before, and it sounds ridiculous even to me, but all I could think about was how badly I wanted to sit down, lay down, just stop and cry.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
Cry I did, but I fought that compulsion to quit and pushed through. I prayed for strength and repeated over and over again Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” By the next lap, I was convinced that my Ironman dreams were over.  Physically, I was fighting the mental battle as hard as I could, but I was losing. I kept on, but once I started hyperventilating, I recognized the beginnings of an anxiety attack, which I’ve not dealt with for some years.  At that point, I could do nothing but stop and let the tears come. Jason tried to help me, to find out what was wrong. But I had no words. I couldn’t talk about it without crying more.


I’m still not sure why I had that awful workout. I like to think that if I feel that horribly in a race, I know I can push through. But I’m not sure that’s true. I don’t think I physically could push through if I felt that way again. But I do know that I’ve had some really great workouts since then. I know that the following week I felt physically stronger than ever before and I rode 102 miles, my farthest by 25 miles. I don’t understand that good and bad days that are sometimes back to back. But I do know it’s all part of the journey and I honestly would not trade this workout in for the most perfect day.

Comments

  1. thank you for sharing this. This journey to become an Ironman is not easy. We have "demons" to fight. I'm glad you kept your head up and fought to the next week. We have 1 month. Keep fighting!

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    1. Thanks for reading! Ironman training is so different from how I imagined. Personally, I've found it's more than just willing myself to workout, it's learning how not to quit. You're so right, every day is a battle, mentally and physically. I'm ready to do this!! Good luck to you out there, I'll be cheering!

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  2. Hey!! I'm glad you've had good workouts since this one! It sounds like your body was probably craving some rest!! When your heart rate gets really high like that it can mean you are over tired. And being extra emotional can be a sign that you need rest too! Training stress is just like other stress in life and sometimes we need a break! I've for sure had workouts like that, you will be stronger on race day for pushing as long as you could! And so glad you had the verse mantra in your head - those can help so much. Go into the race with one or two that you know you'll go to when it gets tough. Your taper is coming at just the right time too. You're going to do great!! How did the long run go? - Lauren

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    1. Hey, Lauren! You sound like you speak from experience! Thanks for the info. It's very possible you're right. My plan calls for one rest day a week. How do you accommodate a little extra rest and know when you're over training? The thing that is keeping me going the most right now, is that I only have one more week until taper, so no point in missing any workouts!

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    2. It's called the Pain of Discipline. You are handling it masterfully. Tears are just another aspect of this tough discipline you have chosen. Training valleys just make the training mountain tops that much sweeter. Keep on keeping on. Proud of you.

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