I KNEW they were coming… I did everything I could think of to ward them off including taking a 7-day cruise to the Virgin Islands and officially hiring my life/business partner and coach, Deb Cheslow, to help me figure out what’s next – and they still arrived on my doorstep like an unwelcome house-guest… the Post-Ironman Blues.
In my business I see it all the time. People who Deb and I work with are working towards a HUGE, scary goal – they are passionate and driven to achieve it – bordering on obsessed. They work hard in a place that is WAY outside their comfort zone and then, one day, BOOM – goal achieved. It is a time of exhilaration, elation, and joy. They ride the high for a while – sometimes days, sometimes weeks or even months, but then all of a sudden they look around and wonder, “now what”?
That is exactly where I find myself now that Ironman Florida is over. I had the race of my life. I don’t even know how it could have been more awesome – from the week before race to my execution of the race itself – it exceeded every one of my hopes and expectations. And I rode that high for a while – in some respects, I’m STILL riding the wave.
Every time I look at my wristband (yes, I STILL have it on, don’t judge me!), I feel such pride and such a sense of accomplishment. I am an Ironman – ME!! OMG! Never in my wildest dreams as that poor, overweight, alcoholic woman back in Virginia in 2010 would I have EVER believed such a thing possible. Heck, I wasn’t sure I believed it was possible 5 minutes before the start horn blasted!
So, I accomplished something that, for me, was “unrealogical” (our made up word describing something that is, at once, unrealistic and illogical), and unfolded in a way that I would never have predicted and was so much better than I ever believed possible.
How do you top that?
I was fine for the first couple of weeks. The first week back home was very busy playing catch-up on all the things that had been set aside (or, more to the point, fallen through the cracks) until the race was over. I knew I needed to take time off from working out to let my body recover, even though I felt pretty terrific. And then, we went on an amazing cruise to the Eastern Caribbean and we walked an average of 7-8 miles per day (even on the sea days) and went snorkeling in St. Thomas and St. Maarten, and I enjoyed actually sleeping until I woke up each morning unassisted by a puppy or an alarm clock, so not officially working out was not bothering me.
But as soon as we got back from the cruise and I started swimming, biking, and running again I started feeling… well, kind of lost. I don’t have any solid racing plans for 2017. I don’t know how to BE this person who wakes up at 7am and works out for 30-60 minutes. I almost MISS the 3am wake up calls and the 4500 yard swims and 100 mile rides and 15 mile runs of peak training – they felt BADASS. And while I AM moving forward, I guess I just feel directionless in the absence of any real racing goals.
I started working with Deb the Tuesday after the race on a structured coaching program to help me determine what my next goal would be. On the first day she asked me what I wanted… cue CRICKETS…
What do I WANT? I WANT it to be November 5th again. I WANT the magic of that day again. I WANT the movie Groundhog Day only November 5th was what I got to relive over and over again. I don’t want it to be OVER!
And the urge to pull the trigger on Ironman Florida 2017 or ANY other Ironman 140.6 race is almost irresistible! It seems absolutely natural in this moment.
But here’s what I KNOW – as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow…
I could race an Ironman every year from now until the day I die and I will NEVER be able to capture the perfection of November 5, 2016. I will never be able to gin up the enthusiasm and the strength of will to train like I did for that race, because I now know that I could go the distance with A LOT LESS training. Like so many other “firsts” in our lives, you just can’t re-create the magic.
It can still be good…
It can still be worth doing…
But unless some freaking miracle occurs and I qualify for Kona, I just don’t see how to make it better.
That’s because there are 3 levels of goals.
Level 1 Goals are things we already know how to do. It’s like saying, “My goal is to go to LA Fitness and swim 1500 yards in the pool.” I KNOW how to do that. I have done it hundreds of times before. I dare say I could be half asleep and pump out 1500 yards in a respectable amount of time. In fact, racing Ironman Florida again would be a Level 1 Goal – different day, different conditions, but I know exactly how to race that course. There is absolutely no growth in a Level 1 Goal.
Level 2 Goals are things that we THINK we can do. We’ve never done them before, but we can see a way to plan our way to achieving them. At this point, I could register for any other Ironman race on Planet Earth and it would be a Level 2 Goal. I’ve only completed Ironman Florida, but if I registered for IM Chattanooga today – even though it’s a completely different course, it would be a Level 2 Goal. I haven’t actually raced CHOO, but I have trained for an Ironman before. I know what’s involved. I know how to adjust my nutrition for a hilly course, and so on. I can make a PLAN to achieve that goal.
Level 3 Goals are FANTASIES! They are completely unrealogical. You have no idea how the stars will align to make this ridiculously HUGE thing actually happen. All you do know is that you WANT it – and want it BAD! That’s what Ironman was for me this time last year. It was a fantasy. I knew that many of my friends had finished similar races, so I knew it COULD be done. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. Honestly, I still wasn’t quite sure how it was all supposed to come together the night before the race! But I wanted to be an Ironman. I wanted to hear those words as I crossed the finish line. I wanted it with a white hot passion.
And that passion drove me all year long – to get up at 3am to get my swims and long rides in without taking too much time away from my work or my family… To stop drinking alcohol because it got in the way of my workouts… To eat the good stuff and step away from the pizza – even when all I wanted was to stop at Mellow Mushroom and stuff my face… To do the things I needed to do, even when I didn’t want to do them.
Deb was my coach during the entire process. Not my triathlon coach, but my MINDSET coach. She kept my mind right and called bullshit when I started justifying less than I was capable of. She sympathized when I said I was exhausted and then kicked me out the door to run 20 miles anyhow. SHE knew I was working on a Level 3 goal – and she supported me 100%, but she was tough as shit on me too – which is EXACTLY what I needed.
Level 3 Goals are where we want to play, people. Because it’s in the achievement of Level 3 Goals that we grow as a person and find out what we’re made of. They stretch us WAY outside our comfort zones and teach us if we deserve that star we are shooting for.
I’ll tell anyone who asks me about coaching – do you need a triathlon coach to complete an Ironman? Maybe. I guess people would say I was self-coached in the traditional sense for Ironman Florida. I had a training plan and I followed it (Be Ironfit by Don Zink). Do you need a mindset coach? ABSOLUTELY! Especially as training starts to ramp and your brain turns to mush for anything outside of swim/bike/run/eat/drink/sleep, I believe EVERYONE needs someone to keep them moving forward when everything inside them wants to quit – someone to give them a toolbox of mental hardware to use out on the course when the dark and twisties come. That’s what Deb did for me and it worked beautifully!
So, I need to find myself a NEW Level 3 Goal – and I can’t imagine it will be in the racing world. I mean seriously, what’s bigger than Ironman – unless we get into the TOTALLY cuckoo for cocoa-puffs world of Ultraman or Epic 5 – and I’m not THAT crazy.
Likely, my next goal will have something to do with my business. I have some ideas, but nothing that’s ready for publication just yet.
As far as racing goes, 2017 will most likely be populated with local sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, some running races, and perhaps a 70.3 in the Fall (Augusta, NC, and Great Floridian are leading the list so far). Stay tuned!