It has been 2 months since my Ironman – almost to the day. That race was the culmination of nearly a year’s training. All the while, when other stuff was going on, I was thinking “Ironman”. Every time someone invited me somewhere or I planned a trip, I thought about my training. When people mentioned the summer, I thought about my race. I organised the family holiday around it. It’s fair to say that it dominated late 2013 and half of 2014 for me.
So when it was done, it was always going to feel a bit weird. Weird good, in some ways. I devoted most of August to my family. I spent time with them, I let them set the agenda of where we were going and what we were doing. I didn’t have to get up early, or go to bed early, so I could get my training in. I had a beer or wine pretty much every night. Given how everyone in my family had supported my training and the race itself, it felt like the least I could do to let them fill in the rest of the summer holidays.
It has also, though, been a more weird in a difficult way for me. The Ironman was a clearly defined goal and I got lots of kudos, support and approval for pursuing it. Not having a big goal anymore has made me sit down and assess my life – work, living, future – and, if I’m honest, that’s been quite hard. I’ve had a rough couple of weeks where I’ve really struggled with finding the courage to do what I want to do with my life. I’ve come to realise that I rely heavily on permission and approval in my life. And the path I’m proposing to take right now does not necessarily give me that – and I find that much scarier than I realised I would. Those closest to me are enormously supportive and that helps. And I’m learning, slowly, that I really need to have some faith in myself and trust that following my own path will prove the right thing to do and the only way ahead for me that will not result in enormous regret. But, in all honesty, the past few weeks have seen me occasionally in the grip of crippling anxiety.
And, as always, running has helped. No, it hasn’t solved anything in itself. It doesn’t. And I’m quite sluggish and slow at the moment so it’s not like my inner turmoil is set off by some physical success. But getting out there anyway, getting the job done, however messily, gives me so much. I feel a sense of accomplishment. And, of course, once I’m outside, things never look quite so bad as they do at 3am. I tend to want to hammer my feelings of worry so hard till I find a solution. Doesn’t work. What does work is going out for a run and not thinking about things for a while. It’s only when I run that I allow myself to switch off like that. And when I switch off, I somehow seem to process stuff deep inside me, in a much more constructive way. Often, when I come back, I will suddenly feel that I have solved a small part of the bigger problem, without having thought about it specifically.
For a while, not having an athletic goal felt like the right thing to do. But I think now that it would help me. So I’m actively on the lookout for something that sounds exciting and worth training for. Right now, I don’t think it will be another Ironman. I absolutely loved the one I did. It went perfectly in almost every way and I look back on it with enormous pleasure and happiness. Even now, I can lie in bed and take myself back to parts of the swim, parts of the bike course, parts of the run course because I experienced them so intensely. I told myself all along to soak this experience up, to really relish all of it, the pain and discomfort as well as the cheers and the joy. But I cannot find, anywhere in me, the desire to do it again. I don’t know why that is – but I know it is true. It’s just done – for me, for now. Another marathon? There’s a bit of a mental spark when I think of that. I have just found out that my accidental BQ at Boston this April was not quite fast enough to be able to run Boston in 2015. I was 33 seconds ahead – I needed to be 62 seconds ahead. I’m okay with that – I ran the race of my life in Boston this spring, off the back of slow runs and lots of bikerides, and I never intended to requalify in that race. I have a place in the London marathon (this year’s deferred good for age entry) but I’m unlikely to take it up. Nothing about the thought of running London inspires me – I think I’m done with this race. Again, at least for now.
As before, I want to try my hand at something new. At the very least, at a new marathon. Given how disappointed I was at missing out on Boston, I am considering trying to BQ again and trying to break 3:35 next year. I’m coach-less at the moment but open to suggestions on how to progress with this. I don’t want to do it at a big city marathon – I am considering entering the Lochaber marathon, flat, quiet and remote, in Scotland in early April. That way, if I have a bad day, I can try again a month or two later. I would love to run a trail race in the US, somewhere in the next 2 years. Jill and I have been talking about this for years. But next summer will not, I think, be the time. We may be doing a big family trip that summer and I don’t want my training schedule, and super long training runs, hanging over this trip.
So maybe this next year will be about a BQ, and about getting other priorities in place. Work – which has always taken second place to my running. Home – wherever it is. Finding the courage of my own convictions, hopefully. Onwards!