Friday, July 23, 2010

Iron [insert word here]

Since training for Ironman Canada has become an all-consuming aspect of my life, I have taken to affectionately using the term “iron” as an adjective for all the side-effects related to this endeavor. Some examples of this amazingly flexible and descriptive adjective are:

“Iron-broke” ….new bike, carbon wheels, wetsuit, a never ending supply of GU chomps – it never stops. I did not quite believe that the $600 entry fee would be the cheapest part. But it is!
“Iron-hungry” …the concept of first lunch and second lunch is quite novel. I have also recently starting introducing first breakfast and second breakfast. Eating is good. (Note:  The less politically correct version of iron-hungry is “Iron-pig”. I have assumed that this is an affectionate term, of course.)
“Iron-tired” ….5 am wake-up for swim class. ‘nuff said.
“Iron-you-gotta-be-f’ing-kidding-me-another-brick-workout” …no explanation required.
“Iron-orphan” ….my poor pup Bogey.

and my personal favorite:

“Iron-bitch” ….reserved for the end of those sixteen-hour training weeks when some poor, unsuspecting barista at Starbucks screws up my order for a double no-foam non-fat cappuccino.

And so the story goes. During those long training sessions, I find a lot of time to reflect. Most of all, it amuses me to step back and consider the remarkable changes in my life over the last nine months, absorbed by the strange lifestyle of an Ironman trainee.

I realize I have always been a bit more Sporty Spice than Posh, but the tomboyishness has elevated to a whole new extreme. For instance, at any given moment in any day I am sporting either chain grease or chafing of some sort. Really very ladylike and glamorous, I know.

My aesthetician would be horrified to know that butt butter is my moisturizer of choice, and forget anything about a manicure. Gotta keep the fingernails trimmed to facilitate putting on the wetsuit and doing bike maintenance. Those dark circles under my eyes? Goggle marks. Together with my weird tan lines, they complete the “iron-dork” look.

My hairdresser recently suggested a chemical straightening process, requiring three days without getting my hair wet to let the treatment set in. Horror of horrors, doesn’t she realize that my hair is soaked at least twice a day? And who needs cute hair when it is always stuffed into a bike helmet, swim cap or visor? Just don’t trim the ponytail off. I need that.

My eating habits have turned into simple necessity. Iron-pig indeed. Forget about preparing meals a la Bon Appétit. I need food, and I need it NOW. Gourmet out. Quick food in. The owner of the sandwich shop across the street from my office is floored by the fact that I order a sandwich, cookie, pop, fruit AND a bag of chips. Likewise, the girl at Jugo Juice always questions me when I ask her to double the protein shot in my smoothie. Although, to be fair I suppose it does sound kind of crazy coming from a 115 pound, petite female.

I hope to one day see my family and non-triathlon friends again and perhaps will again stay awake on a Friday night past 10pm. I also hope to plan a vacation that does not involve toting a Rubbermaid container full of gear, and will someday soon ban Ensure and nutritional supplements from my diet until I am at least 80.

Aside from all this strangeness, though, perhaps the best side-effect of being immersed in training has been the people I have met along the journey. Everyone in the triathlon community, from my training buddies to my coaches to the peeps at the bike shop have been supportive, helpful and inspiring.

Even complete strangers are supportive. Last weekend in Penticton, we were doing a ride along the Ironman course and one of the support vehicles for another group of riders stopped to offer me a cookie, water and some encouragement. In this day and age, a total stranger going out of their way to be helpful and friendly completely floored me. Even more so, he actually seemed genuinely interested! I can commute to work and back in Vancouver for weeks before a stranger actually speaks to me or acts friendly….it has sadly been my experience that people would rather look at their feet, avoid eye contact and try to escape any type of interaction. If it takes getting on a tri bike and sporting an aero helmet to get people to be friendly, then hey, I’m all for it.

I have also been fortunate to get to know a wonderful group of people who have become my support network, my training cohorts and at times, my mind of reason. While some may reason that misery simply loves company, I have in the past couple of months been fortunate to meet and get to know some amazing people - all incredible athletes and wonderful souls. You all know who you are – thank you for the support, the laughs and the inspiration. It makes it easier to keep at it day to day with you beside me. You are my “iron-peeps”.

So, it is with a combination of amusement and heartfelt appreciation that I move into my last month of training for this ridiculously expensive, tiring yet character-building adventure. Giddy up!

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