Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Everything's Relative and You Can't Always Get What You Want

I know, it's been a while. Spending too much time on Facebook, I guess. Have thought about a million things to write about, but I'll limit it to just a few.

October/November are interesting months if you're a triathlete. It's considered "ironman" season around here. OK, not so much "here", but many athletes from here are participating in iron distance races across the country: Wisconsin, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona are the ones that come to mind, as I know people who have done/will do races in these states this year. Also, the 70.3 championship is in Clearwater on November 14th. As I said in a previous post, this is not the time of year for me to train outside. I did it for many years, believe me, and I loved it. But sometimes, you can't always have what you want.....

Which leads me to something I've wanted to share for a while. I have heard many triathletes make the comment that "anyone can do an ironman (or iron distance race) if they really want to." This statement is soooo not true. And, it is wrong for so many reasons. First of all, this takes away from those athletes who have completed this distance. Most triathletes know that an iron distance race is usually a life changing experience. It takes so much more than just swimming, biking and running to complete. There are so many other factors that influence an individuals ability to compete at this distance.

Many are limited by physical issues. For many, swimming is a huge issue. If you weren't a swimmer as a child, it can be very difficult to learn as an adult. Even people who have swam for years find open water to be very challenging. When you mix in the fact that most races are a mass start, well, for many that is a deal breaker. Some can learn to deal with this situation, but not everyone. I know people who are amazing swimmers, but the thought of swimming in open water with 2500 other athletes at the same time is mind boggling.

Some of us who are older and have been doing this a long time have other physical issues. Bad knees, backs, feet. Too many years pounding the pavement, running on hard surfaces. For some women, after having children our bodies are never the same. (I know, some women race even better after kids, but I believe those are "elite" athletes, and definitely the exception to the rule. I'm faster than I was in my 30's, but I was NOT FAST then.)

Family and career choices can also influence or limit completing this distance. Iron distance racing is very time consuming and very expensive. Those of us who have younger families know that we have to keep our priorities in order. My family will always come before my triathlon goals. Before kids, we spent a lot of time (and money) training and racing. I remember a couple years when Jerry and I would do a long bike ride on Saturday, and then run a race on Sunday. It was fun, but as your life and priorities change, so does your life style and life goals.

I consider myself very blessed to achieve what I have. I have had both my feet operated on (for plantar fasciitis, when they used to do that; would not do it again if I could do it over); one knee operated on once, and one knee has been scoped three times. I had a hernia operation after my second child was born. Two miscarriages, two D&C's. When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2002, I did not think I would ever be able to ride or run again. In fact, several doctors told me to forget ever running--just be happy walking and swimming. And don't ever even consider trying a marathon again.

I have thought of a million more reasons, but I think you get what I'm trying to say. If everyone could run a 4 minute mile if they really wanted to........if everyone could swim across the English Channel if they really wanted to......if everyone could set a world record for the marathon if they really wanted to....well, we KNOW these things are not true.

My daughter is a club gymnast. She is near the level where many kids drop out of the sport, and I'm starting to understand why. Not everyone is BUILT PHYSICALLY to be a high level/elite gymnast. I see girls try really hard--never miss a practice, have special coaching, have amazing parental support, unlimited financial resources. But some of these girls will never get to the next level. They physically do not have the ability, for whatever reason. Some get injured over and over and have to stop so they don't ruin their bodies at age 11, 12, 13. Some realize there is more to life as a teenager than practicing 20-30 hours a week. The kids that make it are usually the ones that have not only the mental but also the physical ability to do so.

And on that same note, I'd like to address the topic of relativity. As I said, I feel very blessed to be where I am physically. So many people in my position are not able to do what I can. Yes, I am a very disciplined and driven person. But I believe God has blessed me with things other RA patients don't have. I have learned to be satisfied with any race or training effort. You know, it's really hard for me to read about women 10, 15, 20 years younger than me, complaining about how "slow" they ran in a race, or how their bike split sucked, or they just don't know why they can't swim faster than so-and-so. They are swimming, biking and running faster than 99.9 percent of people I know. You ladies need to get over yourselves. Be grateful that you have such amazing ability and have been blessed with that ability, determination and other things that make you so good at what you do.

I read a blog where the writer noted that being an ironman is not the same as being a hero. I COULD NOT AGREE MORE! Another blogger commented that while completing an ironman is an accomplishment, it does not, or shouldn't be as momentous as say, your wedding day, the birth of your children, finishing your degree, finding just the right career, etc. I AGREE!

I did not complete the one ironman I started, but I learned a lot about myself in that year. I don't know if or when I'll try again. But I do know that I am still a triathlete, I will continue in this sport as long as I'm physically able and am having fun. The minute it's not fun, I will re-evaluate why I do this. This is what I tell my daughter all the time about gymnastics. We will support you as long as you want; but when/if you're ready, you can stop anytime.

So, to those of you who have become an "ironman" this year--CONGRATULATIONS! And CONGRATULATIONS to allwho completed their first sprint (or any other distance) triathlon--you are a triathlete, and should be proud of your accomplishments. To those of you complaining about how slow you are--get over it--be grateful for what you can do.

(To those women who wrote the story in the New York Times about 6 hour marathoners--you ladies are major losers. What a horrible article. I'm so sick of the whole "you're not as fast as me so you can't possibly be on official marathoner" articles--get over yourself and keep those stupid opinions to yourself.)

On a personal note, I'm still trying to deal with the colder weather. The sun is out today, which always makes me feel better, regardless of the temperature. I've cut back on my training, hoping to give my body time to adjust to winter. I'm swimming about 4-5 times a week--swimming seems to be the thing that hurts my hips the most right now. Running/biking two to three times a week, and doing strength training 3-4 times. I'm really struggling with my weight/eating right now also. But......hoping/praying things will get better.

Good luck to everyone going to Florida, North Carolina, Arizona. Have a great time/race and consider yourselves blessed just to be there.

Until next time--God bless!