Leaving tomorrow for Napa Valley to participate in the Vineman full distance triathlon happening on Saturday. The course is 140.6 miles broken up into a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run. My wave will have 16 hours and 23 minutes to complete the course. I have not competed in a triathlon of any distance in over 3 years and I am jumping right into the longest distance.
The reason for the break, and thus the enormity of taking on this race, is that when I competed in my last 140.6 distance race, Ironman Arizona, April, 2008, I ended up in the hospital and the doctors told my family I wouldn't live to see the morning. You see, after finishing a personal best swim, I began to cramp up on the bike around mile 40. Over the next five hours and 60 odd miles, I ignored the pain and the cramping and all the other physical defections and rode myself into the ground, eventually being pulled off my bike by a police officer while still trying to make it to transition.
By the time I got to the hospital I was suffering from sunstroke and had lost 30 pounds in twelve hours. My kidneys and liver had shut down and failed. My lungs and heart had seized up. All the muscles in my body were cramped up and I had tore several rib muscles trying to breathe because my ribs had cramped shut too. Mistress remarked that my fingers looked like a 90 year old mans. Well I somehow cheated death that night and spent the next week in the hospital.
Over the next few months I began to realize just how serious this was, how close I came. Experts told me I had a one in five chance of dying if I was stupid enough to exercise. Even without exertion my body continued to remind me of my damage with out of control adrenaline surges and coffee colored urine. Eventually I found a clinic, the best in the world dealing with endurance athletes, who took me as their only client for a week. When they were done with me I had a 18 month recovery plan that involved ingesting medicine that would make a billy goat puke and orders to not exercise for almost a year.
Almost two years later I chose a full marathon as my return to endurance sports. I had a posse of five people running with me at a snails pace. I still could not trust my own mind when it came to understanding what was too much effort and these friends were there to control me. In the end, I did well, though Mistress was still so mad at me for even doing the race that when I called her from the finish line to tell her I was done she hung up on me. From there I started to enter more running events, staying away from my bike and swimming.
When I sold my business last winter, I had lots of free time and decided to start swimming and riding again. Easy at first. Still easy I guess. I decided to enter Vineman only after a six week progressively harder training program.
I have no idea how I will do during the race this weekend. Finish I hope. Truth be told I have only taxed myself to eight hours of iron distance exertion and this race will certainly be heading into the 14 hour plus range. I know that if I get off the bike I will finish. Getting off that bike will be my key.
It is a bizzaro world to have to tell myself it is okay to give in to pain. It is okay to stop. I have spent my whole life teaching myself to go beyond pain, beyond suffering, into a deep dark place in my head that fuels movement without consciousness. I truly learned to transcend mind over body but today I continue to pay the price for it. I have planned to take care of myself to the best of my ability Saturday and luckily I have many, many close friends and family participating and watching the event who are instructed to tell me to stop if they sense I have given in to my dark side. My goal is to finish at any time, not be finished for all time.
It is not enough to exist, I am going to live.