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Blog / News

BLOG: Treading Water

patrick harkins

Wendi and I went out for a ride last Sunday. It wasn't an especially long or difficult one, but it was significant for us. It was the last real training ride that we were going to do before Ironman Chattanooga. As we rode, we talked about the usual stuff-the weather, the route, how much we were going to eat for dinner; etc. But as the ride got longer, the conversation turned to the race and all the training we'd done. And we agreed that we were pretty much in the same headspace.

We were totally over it. Done.

Any long course triathlete is probably very familiar with that set of sensations.  We were both sick of no free time, of always being tired and hungry, of always rushing somewhere to fit some training in. Of rearranging schedules around trips to the pool. Of obsessing over time, distance, watts and calories. Wendi was aching to spend more time with her kids, and...I was just aching. We were both ready to get past the next couple of weeks, get this ridiculous race in the rearview mirror, and get our lives back. She wanted to get back to just running and I wanted to get back to just riding(and more sleeping).

I dropped Wendi off at her house and was cruising back home by myself, and I remembered a conversation that I had with my friend Hoyt last year.  Hoyt is a former pro bike racer and he used to be my coach. We became friends, in part, because we share a similar outlook on riding and racing in the context of trying to live a normal life. I had run into Hoyt in the grocery, and we were both bent over like Fred Sanford with back injuries(he had hurt himself doing some crazy stretch, and I'm just old). Anyway, we laughed at each other and then stood there for a few minutes, looking foolish and talking about our injuries. Neither of us could do much beside sit on the couch, and it was driving us both a little nuts.

"I can't sleep", he said.

"Neither can I. I just stare at the ceiling", I said.

"I miss feeling so tired that I can't wait to sleep. I miss being smashed."

Funny-as I rode home from Wendi's, I realized that, in that moment in the grocery, I'd have been thrilled to trade for the pre-IM blues. And, to be honest, thinking about it, it's not so bad. Of course, all of the above complaints are valid. There are many small sacrifices to be made, and they add up. But, on the other hand, I've been sleeping like an absolute champ, I eat like it's a contest, and I'm probably as fit as I will ever be in my life. And I know that there will be a point in the future where I'll wish for the time/fitness to even think about an event like this.

So that's the lesson-one that I probably should have learned in fifth grade or somewhere thereabouts, but I'm a slow learner: Be careful wishing that something was over, because there might come a time when you'll miss it and want to go back. And it'll suck if you didn't stop to enjoy it in the first place.

A long, long, time ago I did an Alcatraz swim. In the meeting beforehand the race director, a perfect California mix of endurance athlete and hippie, finished up his briefing and said something to the effect of: "Look-I know that everyone here will be getting into that water with a purpose, whether it's to win, set a PR or just finish. And I respect that. BUT, if you can force yourself,  just stop and tread water for 30 seconds. Look around. Take those moments to appreciate that you're in a place that you'll never be again, and that it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. You won't regret it." He was right.

Here's to treading water.

Good luck and Godspeed to all of our friends racing in Chattanooga next week.