Before almost every race, I get nervous. I get anxious. I know what is about to happen. I’m going to hurt. It doesn’t matter if I am lining up at a 5K or a Half Ironman, it’s going to hurt. The level of pain and the length of pain will vary, but believe me at some point during the race it will hurt. If it doesn’t, then I haven’t given it my all. One of my friends asked me once, “Why do you do it? Why would you want to go through the nervousness, the anxiety, the pain?” My answer, “Because I love it.” I remember telling my parents after my first half ironman that if ever spoke of signing up for another one to take a shovel and hit me upside the head. Since then I’ve completed two more and have now signed up for an ironman.
Where my desire came from and when it started is unknown. I grew up watching sports. All kinds of sports. I loved it. I remember watching Julie Moss crawl across the finish line of the Hawaii Ironman in 1982 and thinking, I want to do that. Not the crawling part of course, but finishing an ironman. I was only 11. During the Olympics I am always glued to the television. I love watching athletes achieve their goals, live their dreams. Admittedly, I cry almost every time I see an athlete stand on the podium and receive their medal.
More recently, I remember watching the finish of the 2009 Boston Marathon’s women’s race. The drive that Kara Goucher had coming to the finish was amazing, but what choked me up and what I will always remember was the look on her face when she came across the finish line. After turning herself inside out for 26.2 miles, she came across in 3rd. She made it no secret that she wanted to win and the look of disappointment and tears that followed told you everything. I understood. Although I’m nowhere near the caliber of athlete that Kara Goucher is, the drive to reach your goal is still the same. The joy of crossing the line knowing you reached your goal and the disappointment when you don’t is the same within all athletes. I’ve experienced both many times.
Those moments of joy stick with you …
• Finishing my first marathon and running every step of the way
• Getting my Boston Qualifying time
• Breaking 20 min for a 5K for the first time. After missing the mark on this twice, I spent 4 weeks of intense speed workouts and hill repeats to ensure I wouldn’t miss again. Result, 19:45.
• Crossing the finish of my second Half Ironman knowing that I finished 30 minutes faster than my first one
And those of disappointment do as well …
• Crossing the finish line of both my Boston Marathons in severe pain, way off my goal, and failing to re-qualify
• DNFing my first race … not even making it to the finish line because I quit
• That feeling you get at the moment you know you are going to have to walk, because that’s when you know it’s all over
• Multiple races that the outcome was not at all what I had planned
What prompted this post is my recent decision to finally do an ironman. I have had “ironman fever” for awhile; however, after I signed up this turned to what I’m going call “ironman fear.” All of a sudden I doubted whether or not I could do this. Whether I could handle the sacrifice it would take to do the training. Whether I could handle the pain I would have to endure to reach the finish line. Is this me? I couldn’t believe I doubted myself. I couldn’t believe that I was shying away from hard work. I couldn’t believe that I thought I couldn’t handle the pain. Then, I reminded myself how bad I’ve wanted to do this. I thought back about how many times I have watched ironman races on television. I’ve been watching them for over 25 years. As a child, I had no idea I would actually become a triathlete but I always knew I wanted to try. I want to know the feeling of crossing the finish line after 140.6 miles. I want to hear the announcer say, “Robin Carlson, you are an ironman.” My “ironman fear” is dissipating and is now being replaced with “ironman drive.”