In the fall of 2011, I was trudging through a trail run in the foothills when I became privy to the exotic sensation known colloquially as “runner’s high”—an experience that serious runners, with a kind of earned condescension, refuse to acknowledge to their more sedentary counterparts. Privately, most admit—there you are, physically suffering but mentally high, hurting in the legs and lungs but overwhelmed by feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being…euphoria. The ideas are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them. Sometimes it happens that the most insane thought, the most impossible conception, will become so fixed in one’s head that at length one believes the thought or the conception to be fated, inevitable, foreordained. That’s when I decided I would become a triathlete, and not just any triathlete, but a bona fide, long-course-proven Ironman.
I had some reasons: I had been a good runner in my younger days (those days were long gone, having recently clocked a 1:31 downhill half marathon, just fifteen minutes shy of my personal best from high school). I had started frequenting Saturday morning group bike rides, where I failed to stay on the wheel of even the most overweight middle-aged warriors. I swam back when my age was a single digit and thought Michael Phelps a swell guy.
Reasoning aside, I decided I would do this thing, and I would do it as well as I capably could. Like anything I ever opted to do in life, I’d go full throttle, because what was worth doing was worth doing well, or else I might as well quit, give up, walk away for other pursuits. Moderation has never been possible—all or nothing, on or off, heavy on the accelerator or stopped dead in the tracks.
But first, I had work to do. I didn’t sign up for a race; I signed up for a lifestyle. I became a student of the sport, designing my training regimen and fitness roadmap with all the foolishness of a novice, but with all the necessary pieces: swimming, biking, and running in large doses.
Since starting my training on October 1, 2011, I have found in triathlon a lot that’s mean and a little that’s sublime. But most importantly, what I’ve found is what I knew already: triathlon, like real sport of any kind, reduces you to your lowest terms by challenging the basest part of your being, your physical limitations…your threshold. To martial the tenacity of your mind in order to tempt that threshold for a day; to summon the strength or the courage to supersede that threshold for a week; and, perhaps, to wage warfare on the disquieting protests of your head to raise the threshold of your corporeal self…for years—and, to emerge victorious!—that’s the hardest, meanest, most empowering life there is. The self-created, self-granted, self-assumed power to bend your body to your will—by god, that is the point. If done right, the component parts of raising your threshold—the 200 meters or 20 minutes or four miles, repeated—will permeate all the bone and marrow of your being and produce a life that is sturdy and true, calcified…Iron.
May this be a record of one such life.
Having now set the stage with totally unnecessary, overwritten pomp, I hope to use this blog for more practical reasons: to post a weekly training update, race reports, other training tidbits, and to air the occasional multi-sport focused commentary.