Ironman Training Update…t-minus 6 weeks

6 weeks to go, and I’m ready.  I’m not sure if I’m ready for the race, but I’m surely ready for the weeks AFTER the race!  Training in Afghanistan has been hard…I mean realllllly hard.  Staring at sandbags in a freezing cold room for 6 hours at a time on the trainer has taken its toll on me, as has running nearly every mile of training on the treadmill (minus 2 long runs in Dubai) and having no access to a swimming pool.  Nevertheless, I’m determined to toe the line come 22 April, but man am I mentally exhausted from this.

Today was one of those rare days, having escaped briefly to Dubai, where I rediscovered for a moment the joy of running.  I found this really great, peaceful, and unmercifully hot place about an hour running from the Dubai coastline, and it made me feel like I was in an extreme training video.  Away from the big buildings but still surrounded by city, there’s a massive lot of sand dunes with parallel hardened utility truck tracks which makes way for 5 massive 400,000 watt strings of power lines – probably 300 meters across and around 5 km long with walls of sand blocking 90% of the views.  For the first time in almost a year now, it was just me, the ground (not the belt of a treadmill) and the elements.  All I could hear was the pounding of my feet, the wind whipping sand by my face, and the hum of high-voltage power lines overhead.  Man I’ve missed this…I mean I’ve never been there before today, but that solitude, confronting the elements, and feeling out the earth with my toes – awesome.

Feeling pretty insecure about whether or not my indoor training is going to be enough – no water to test myself in, no elements to master nutrition, no real road resistance to tell if I’m really on track – I discovered today that there’s one thing that is the unquestionable positive result of training indoors: mental toughness.  Spending hours on a bike and treadmill staring at nothing, not going anywhere, nothing to really distract me or allow me to get out of my own head, has had this strange way of forcing me to confront personal demons.  Biking or running in a 3m x 3m room for hours on end is not a physical challenge nearly as much as it is a mental challenge, and today showed me that I’m seeing some positive results.  Absolutely wrecked from a tough ride yesterday, being able to go outside I found that there was NO mental game – that game is over for now.  I think months of struggling to keep up with this training regime indoors, and listening to nothing but the thoughts in my head, makes the prospect of a big workout outdoors infinitely easier – and finally FUN – to swallow than even half of it indoors.

That being said, I’ve got another 5 weeks of training indoors to swallow, and I’m right on edge of wit’s end.  I’d be lying if I said “6 weeks to go, I’m basically there”…in fact, I feel quite the opposite feeling right now.  After getting rocked yesterday on my first outdoor ride in months, I’m questioning my trainer sessions.  A recent shoulder injury from overuse of the rubber bands has me worried about the swim.  And, well, the run comes after all of that, so naturally that leg is of equal concern.  My feeling at this point is that I’ve got a lot of work to do just to finish.

But as they say, these are merely the problems of a rich man.  I guess the one point of solace in all of this is that it doesn’t really matter what happens, finish or not.  I’m happy, I’m healthy (thanks to this crazy training), and I’m enjoying life.  Ironman is supposed to be crazy hard, and these are just musings on my personal struggle to reach the finish line.  Crazy hard it is, ready to toe the line I am, and most of all thrilled that this update says SIX weeks to race day and not TWELVE!!


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