Half Ironman. Check!
Thank you sincerely to everyone who wished me well on this endeavor. By far, that was the most physically enduring thing I've ever done and I could feel your hopes cary me along the entire way.
One compound word: ass-kicker!
Here's how it went down . . .
The night before I started to get a bit of a sore throat. What terrible timing! I don't know if it was nerves or starting to feel sick, but I slept terribly that night. I got up at about 4 am with only a few hours of sleep under my belt, gathered my stuff and drove down to the event.
Despite the early hour, poor sleep, and sore throat (and now throbbing headache), I left the house feeling like I wasn't in the best shape to be doing what was going to be the most physically challenging event in my life . However, over the past few years, I've been practicing the ability to change my state by doing some simple powerful visualizations and conditioning those responses to change my state by doing breathing exercises coupled with a "power move," for me it's a manly grunt with a solid fist-pump. And doing this while listening to AC/DC helps to really change from feeling blah to YAUGH!!!! Minutes after I left the house, I was ready to get out there and not only succeed, but I was determined to have a great time doing it.
I practiced just observing my sore throat and headache. I was fascinated, though not surprised, at how both dissipated by merely observing them and not trying to fret over or fix them. Neither went away but they were both dialed back to the point of not even noticing them during the event.
So, the day before the event, the organizers were forced to cancel the 1.2-mile swim portion of the event because of an "algae bloom" in Utah lake. Yeah, gross. Ain't nobody got time for that! Instead of the swim, we did a 1.2 mile run, then the regularly scheduled 56 mile bike, then the regular 13.1 mile run. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed to lose the swim because of all the training I'd done and because I was gearing up to do the full experience but perhaps part of the "tough"you get to experience in this event is to deal with the fact that things don't always go as planned. Tough beans! Make it happen.
The event started wonderfully. I was feeling great. Then about mile 25 into the bike, on the west side of Utah Lake, my knee started to hurt. I used my yoga breathing techniques to breathe prana into the knee and tension out. Soon my knee felt perfect. I felt like I was cheating the system by using all these ninja techniques I've learned in yoga.
About mile 35 into the bike, I was feeling my legs burn. I wasn't even half way done with the event and I felt like my energy was winding up. I was doing really great with hydration and fuel but my legs were still burning. So, I remembered my visualizations I did for weeks prior to the event: I remembered a time a time when I felt amazing during a bike ride and brought all those sensations, emotions, and energy back to the surface. Boom, energy was back again. My mantra was, "Energy in. Tension out." I wasn't breaking any land speed records but I was moving steadily forward and feeling good. . . until my back tire blew out.
I stopped, and to my luck, no sooner did I remove my punctured tube then did the aid-van arrive. Out stepped a tutu-wearing bike cowboy named Rorey who kindly asked me to step aside while he replaced the tube, pumped the tire, and replaced the tire onto my bike in what seemed like seconds flat. It was like watching a seasoned, professional cowboy rope a calf at a rodeo. Disclosure: no bikes were harmed in the production of this blog post.
After about 4 hours, I'd finished the bike portion and was thrilled to be on the run portion of the event, my strongest sport. The run comprised two 6.5 miles loops. I made the first loop and was though I was very tired, overall I was feeling pretty good. My legs were tired, it was starting to get hot, but I had no pain in my joints. I just continued with my mantra, "Energy in. Tension out."
Also, when it got grindingly tough, I'd look down at my arms to access my lifeline: I had used a Sharpie to write in big black letters, "Sennie" on my left arm and, "Ellie" on my right. Seeing these names remind me of my two most favorite people in the world and to put my heart back into the race.
And right when I rounded the first loop, I saw Sennie, Ellie, my mom and sis, standing there and cheering me on. Seeing them gave me wings. "One more loop! I'll be back here in an hour," I yelled, as I pumped my fists in the air for the last gust of energy to finish this thing.
Every mile got harder and harder. I was reduced to making little goals for myself, "just get to the next mile marker, that's all." I'd arrive to the aid station and make a new goal for the next. I was spent. It was not sheer endurance to keep going. One. Mile. At. A. Time. Eventually, I'd reached the point in the course where all I had to do was make the turn and head back along the road for the last 2.5 miles and to the finish line. I was on the home stretch!
Then I realized something terrible. I realized that they hadn't marked the course very well at that aid station, and the staff was too busy censoring the rap music they were playing to steer me in the right direction, that and my brain was on energy-saver mode and not thinking clearly, such that I'd completely missed an entire leg of the course the first time around, about a mile and a half long. Shit! It would have been easy to chalk it up to a misunderstanding and finish the course the way I'd thought it was supposed to go but I knew I couldn't do that. I'd only be cheating myself. So, I did that leg TWICE to make up for not doing it the first time and added 3 more miles to what I thought I had to do.
Nothing has ever taken so much self-discipline than that act of running those extra three miles when I thought I was so close to finishing. It took every bit of resolve in my soul. It was a matter of my own integrity and one more hidden way that this race asked me to see what I was made of.
During the longest three miles of my life, I knew that my family must be wondering why I was taking so long. This extra but not extra leg added at least another 30 minutes onto my run.
"Energy in. Tension out. Energy in. Tension out. Sennie. Ellie. Sennie. Ellie" was now on constant repeat to the rhythm of each footstep.
After an eternity in this struggle, along a path that seemed like it never ended, I finally turned the corner and there it was. The finish. My family was there and the opulent welcome to simply stop running. I was done.
Never has anything felt so satisfying as to simply stop running, lie on the grass, and close my eyes.
I was grateful for all the yoga techniques I knew to help me finish this incredible event, especially the yogic principle of Vidya, or clear seeing. I truly saw clearly that while your perceived limits are not always as fixed as you might think, there still is no substitute for training well. More importantly, I saw the power of the heart to pull you through very physically challenging circumstances. Truly there is a connection of body, mind, and spirit.
If you are interested in exploring ways to conquer your own limits and honestly Source Your True Power, please check out my online Yoga Nidra course which starts this Friday. I promise that if you don't love it, if you don't find a deeper, more powerful part of YOU by doing this course, I'll refund your money, no questions asked. I'm really proud of this course and I think you'll love it too.
For any other triathletes out there, I'm nearing the finish on the production of a Yoga for Triathletes DVD and meditation product to help triathletes gain an edge, recover, and prevent injury in their sport. Stay tuned . . .