There are fewer than 3 weeks remaining until Ironman-Wisconsin. Yikes. I officially started tapering yesterday. The taper is the last few days or weeks before a race where workouts become shorter and rest periods become longer so that you feel fresh and energized for race day. The general rule is 'the longer the race, the longer the taper'. For the Ironman, it'll last 3 weeks, but for shorter races, it may only last 1 week, or even just a couple of days.
On the positive side of things, the most difficult training sessions have come and gone. It's time to pick up some last minute supplies, surf YouTube and the Blogosphere for motivation and inspiration, and get my head put on straight so that even my brain is ready to go on September 12. This all brings up an obvious, yet often ignored question: Why DO I Tri?
Huh. That IS good question. Here's the best I could come up with:
1. It's Healthy
Before I started training for and competing in triathlons, I was a fatty in training. Was I morbidly obese? Well, no. But 210 pounds on my stubby 5'8" frame wasn't looking good, and wasn't feeling good either.
Now, I don't mind tooting my own horn (mostly because I don't like the idea of somebody else's lips on my horn - heh heh) but now I'm down to a svelte 168. Sure, I could probably lose another 10 pounds and get even faster, but man, even now it feels great to buy smaller clothes. Heck. Now, my arms actually look like ARMS instead of uncooked sausages.
So, yeah. I suppose I tri because it's helped me lose weight and keeps me in shape.
2. It Beats Doing Chores
No. Seriously. Some days, the last thing I want to do is go home and mow the lawn, do the dishes and fold the laundry only to realize that the day is done. I'm not trying to say that I'm a deadbeat slob. However, I AM fortunate enough to have a job and wife that allow me to take hours at a time to pursue this type of lifestyle.
I tri because it's more fun than being a REAL adult.
3. I Want to Delude Myself into Thinking I'm Awesome
You heard me. I like to compete. I'm not likely to ever win a race, or even win my Age Group - unless I'm still doing this into my 80s and end up being the only octogenarian in the race. Even so - every race has its own little victories.
For example, the first time I did the Chaska Tri. I came in 18th out of 30 in my age group. This year, I came in 10th out of 31. I didn't come anywhere close to winning, but I felt AWESOME.
It's probably a condition similar to people that play basketball, softball or any other sport into their golden years. There's something in each of us that wants to be a pro athlete. The only difference is that most want to close their eyes and imagine themselves as Michael Jordan or Ken Griffey Jr., and I want to be like Craig Alexander or Chris Lieto.
4. I Want Other People to Think I'm Awesome
Yeah, it's completely narcissistic, but there's this weird sense of pride I get when I talk about my training and races. When someone asks me what I did Saturday afternoon and I tell them I did a 10-mile training run, or a 100-mile ride, they roll their eyes and say something to the effect of, "wow, I don't know how you do that". In a sick kind of way, that feels REALLY good.
On a side note. I also want The Wife to think I'm awesome. It's probably the caveman part of me, but there's something oddly rewarding about getting home, beating my chest, pointing at my training log and saying "Grunt. Grunt. Look what Eric do. Eric swim far, then bike far, then run far. He sleep now."
Plus, sometimes the best part of my week is when she says she's proud of me. Say it with me now: "Awwwwww."
5. It's a Bucket List Thing
This is most specifically related to the Ironman. The Wife and I are both in our early 30s. We don't have any kids. Yet. Lately though, it seems like they'll be on their way sooner rather than later.
I'd like to think that I will be doing an Ironman a year for the next several decades. But, this probably won't be the case. The bottom line is, if I don't do this race now, I'll likely be in my 50s before I have another chance. Who knows? Maybe we'll be able to balance parenthood, careers and an Ironman lifestyle. Then again, maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.
In the end. I've got to get while the gettin' is good.
Oh. And Wife - if you're reading this, I'm still on board with the whole *ahem* baby-making process. Just let me recover a few days after the Ironman before you start 'jumping my bones'. There are some rather critical components that are still going to be quite sore after 112 miles on the bike, ifyaknowwhatImean, and Ithinkyado.
6. I Feel Like I Have To
This is the hardest one to explain. I think that there's a part of me that feels more alive when I'm suffering, or when I'm trying to do something and I'm not completely confident that I'll succeed. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say that I 'get off' on pain. However, if achy quads, burning lungs and lunch climbing up your throat don't make you feel alive, I don't know what will.
I've got a little voice in my head that whispers 'do it'. Only, the more I train, and the closer I get to September 12, the louder the voice gets. No matter how many day's I've trained in a row, how bad my day at work was, or how groggy my legs still are from yesterday's workout, that voice just keeps saying 'do it'.
Maybe it's my own ego, or my conscience, or my guilt, or even the Holy Spirit. Honestly, I don't know. What I DO know is that when I DON'T listen to The Voice, I don't like the results.
Maybe I'll have a better understanding about this whole thing after the race. I sure as heck hope so.
Well. There you are. As far as I can tell, THAT'S why I tri. I wasn't planning to get this heavy on you, but maybe it's healthy to get heavy from time to time. Shoot. Maybe it'll help me get my head on straight - or at least pointing forward.
I'll be posting again shortly. I think my next one will be about what exactly makes a quality race. After all, if you're going to spend all this flippin' time training, you had better make the races worth your while.