Two weeks till Ironman.
I bicycled a lot as a kid. I lived in a rural area. I’m from New York. However, it’s not the NY of subways and bus transit. Heck, there weren’t even sidewalks on the road I lived on. If you wanted to get someplace and couldn’t get a ride from a parent, you cycled. I had a red, ten spree bike as kid. I cycled everywhere.
Then I turned 16. And got a car. I had not biked in thirty years. Still, because my son and I were doing his cycling merit badge, I had to go out almost every Thursday and cycle in May and June. In the summer, I did a few rides, including 42 miles as part of the “Tour de Goshen”, 50 miles with my brother in law, and then, in mid September, 62 miles (they call it a “metric century”) in the Country Roads bike tour in Warwick.
Keep in mind my lifeboat – Ironman – had 116 miles in Chattanooga, TN into the hills of Walker County, Georgia, and back to Chattanooga. My longest bike ride to date, just a few weeks before Ironman would be the Country Roads bike tour. http://ocbicycleclub.org/country-roads-bicycle-tour
The good news is that it is 62 VERY HILLY miles. Almost as much elevation gain as I will find at Ironman. The bad news it is it is only 62 miles. And because I’ve had to spend so much time learning to get my 2.4 mile swim in before the swim time cut off, I haven’t biked as much as I needed to. Still though, I got my 62 miles done this week, through the hills, and I hope it’s enough.
I found myself in the pool a few times a week. Ironman was calling. My distances were getting longer. Fighting that single lap led me to swim tens of laps. However, 173 laps is a long way.
Then a breakthrough – one mile. I was two and a half months out from Ironman and finally I got to one mile. Did it help that I left the confines of my pool in the Hudson Valley to swim in the place where I learned to run? Probably didn’t hurt.
But there, in Ko Oling Hawaii, where I had taken my first tentative steps as a runner just over four years ago, I swam my first mile. Then my first mile and a half. Then swimming day after day I made it – 2.4 miles in the pool.
Slow, agonizing sometimes (ok, it’s Hawaii, so “agonizing” is probably the wrong word). Sometimes with legs full of cramps. Sometimes having to pause and stand up (which will not be viable in the Tennessee River on September 30 I know). But I made it.
The lap pool below is where I swam my first 2.4 miles. There is magic in Hawaii. I am on my way to reaching my lifeboat.
This pool would become my nemesis. How hard can swimming be? I’ve run dozens of marathons. I’ve run them several weeks in a row. Me – the guy who was a cheeseburger away from a heart attack thinks nothing of running 26.2 miles. Swimming – piece of cake.
So this morning at 6 AM, with my work colleague who had been prodding me to swim (ya know, since I was going to do Ironman in about 4 and a 1/2 months), jumped in this lap pool with me.
I nearly sank. I could not swim a lap without stopping. Swimming is COMPLETELY different than running. Not even close to the same thing. “So, (we asked the lifeguard), how many laps to a mile?” YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THE ANSWER! 72. There are 72 laps to a mile and Ironman is 2.4 miles. I would need to swim 173 laps for the Ironman distance and I cannot swim one without stopping.
Oh and the worst part, Ironman costs $750 and I was already signed up. My only choice: swim more.
While I continue running everyday, and despite my claim that swimming starts soon, have not yet swam, I have a massive incentive to bike – my older son.
My son is working to become an Eagle Scout. To become an Eagle Scout, you have to earn one of the following three merit badges: swimming, cycling, or hiking. Hiking is not offered by his Scout Troop. Therefore it’s really either swimming or cycling.
The bad news is he is not in love with cycling. The worse news is he truly hates swimming. So cycling it is. We bought two cycles at Dicks Sporting Goods and were off. My cycle was a red, Nishiki Maricopa model as shown in this picture. His was a mountain bike style bike.
The culmination of the cycling merit badge is a 50 mile ride. I had other plans for my own culmination – a 116 miles ride through Chattanooga, TN and Walker County Georgia on September 30, 2018. My culminating ride would be Ironman.
A few people read this blog. I don’t generally have comments on it. I have a much more active Facebook account. I have a semi-public job. I did not tell many people about my first marathon. I rarely even post about marathons anymore unless there is something special about them.
I had to tell someone about my lifeboat other than my wife. I told a swimmer I work with about my desire to do an Ironman, and my fear of having not swam or biked for decades.
Thankfully, she volunteered to swim with me. I’m not sure I would ever get in a pool without someone pushing me in. Swimming makes me nervous, embarrassed, and a bit fearful.
So now two people know about my new lifeboat. My spouse is nervous but supportive, and my colleague at work thinks its fantastic. Swimming starts soon.
”Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles, brag for the rest of your life.” That is the Ironman mantra spoken by Ironman founder John Collins.
Ironman was born out of a contest in Hawaii where swimmers, cyclists, and runners argued who was the fittest. They decided to combine all three races and whoever won would be called the “Ironman”. Sounds reasonable.
Well I can swim. I swam as a kid. I can backstroke, side stroke, crawl. I can swim. NO PROBLEM. I can run marathons and feel little pain after I’m done. How hard can swimming be?
Biking – I loved to bike. I can run 26.2 miles – how hard can biking be.
These are my assumptions but I have no reason to believe they are true. They are private thoughts put down on electronic paper. But it is calling me. My new lifeboat – Ironman.
I’ve eyeballed a couple of potential races. Ironman Maryland is one. Ironman Chattanooga is another. Maybe even Ironman Florida. I’ve settled in my mind that Ironman Chattanooga is the one for me. It has a river to swim in, you swim downstream even, so that makes it a bit easier.
There are decisions to be made, but before I do that, I’m going to take a long weekend, find an indoor pool and see if swimming is as easy as I remember it to be.
I NEED A NEW LIFEBOAT
I started off looking to become healthy. I latched onto a medical provider as my lifeboat. If I followed her advice, I could fix my life. Simple premise. Diet and modest walking became modest running, became marathon running.
I needed a new lifeboat and found them: let’s run 12 marathons in 12 months. Done.
I needed a new lifeboat. Push yourself to run under a four hour marathon. Done.
I needed a new lifeboat. I became hungrier for a new challenge. A sub-three hour marathon would never happen. I needed a lifeboat I could actually swim to.
I found it. I want to be an Ironman.