Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Final Fire Before The Forge

If there is an analogy, it might be that as a high school senior, you reach your last day of classes, or maybe in college you take your final exam. You might still have days or weeks ahead of you before graduation, but essentially all you have to do at this point is not throw any parties that get you arrested. And in that same analogy, then, that career is essentially behind you. The memories, opportunities, adventures - you have either lived them, or you have not. There is nothing more to be done between now and the graduation, which is the culmination, the reward, the pinnacle, the point. The experience has already been had, but for that final experience, for which all others are preparation.

With an exhale, that is where I am now, at last.

Date: September 12, 2005
Subject: mark your calendars...

Hi all -

Well, the first step is the least interesting, but the most critical...

At 9:04am this morning I was officially registered for Ironman Wisconsin! September 10, 2006. Come one, come all.

Stay tuned for more on this exciting thing in my life -


But there isn't an analogy, because nothing in my experience is like Ironman. This. Exhale again. This is something else.

I thought about this on Saturday afternoon, as I was in my fourth and final mile of fitness building for Ironman. I had swam 2.4 miles 24 hours earlier. Had just ridden 112 miles in 6:33 on the Ironman course. And was now finishing a run-off that would conclude this epic piece of Becoming Ironman. I thought - with no self congratulation, just objective observation - that this is amazing. Because at mile 4 I was at naturally at a pace 40 seconds faster than I intend to begin the marathon. And I could've kept going. And I thought - I've prepared my body to not just endure, but thrive in this environment. That my first goal of "finishing" Ironman has been replaced with "experiencing" Ironman.

January 9th, 2006
Becoming Ironman blog

You want to say something important and significant. You want some phrase that simply captures something momentous...something like "In The Beginning", or maybe "And So Began", or "Once Upon A Time", or "All children, except one, grow up", or "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away", or at least, "Marley was dead, to begin with." But ultimately it's just a day, just like most other days, and so in most ways unremarkable. Except that today, January 9th, 2006, Ironman begins.

And so today, my first day of tapering, my first day into what is the finish chute to race day, now less than three weeks away, is again, just a day. And mostly unremarkable.

Except that I who live in it am changed. I who live in it am not the same as began this thing. I who live in it am one who has done more than he thought possible of himself. And that makes all the difference.

"I have to go this last bit alone now," The Rider said to the Machine. "I'll be back to get you before we go down. It's only a short way."

"I understand," the Machine replied.

The Rider left on foot, running up this last climb. It wasn't as steep as he thought it might be. The terrain not as rugged. He saw before him the footprints of tens of thousands. Some cratered in the earth and hardened, ancient. Others fresh in the dirt, recent by moments.

He finally scrambled up the last of it. He kept his head down until he was sure of his footing, then stood fully atop the peak, raising his head last. For the first time, he looked on the other side of the mountain, which had for so long promised so much.

"My God." He whispered.

"What is it?" The Machine called from behind. "What do you see?"

The Rider spun around. "I see it all!" He shouted. "Everything! It's here! It's real! It's now!" He turned back again onto the new horizon. In the blue distance he saw the faint outlines now of structure and form. Gone were the ragged peaks and deep valleys that they'd been traversing, which they were now leaving behind. The landscape ahead was smooth and true, and all downhill.

"Well?" The Machine called, and the Rider turned and began bounding back down the peak to retrieve it. "What are we waiting for? Let's ride!"

And the Rider laughed and clapped, and when they crested together to begin their final descent, he didn't even have to pedal. And not a single ghost followed.


Todd said...

Congrats my man, enjoy the taper!

The race on Saturday was grand, full report to come later today.

TriTimKC said...

Sometimes you find things you didn't even know you were looking for. Won't be long now and you're going to find you're an Ironman! Great job with the training.

Pharmie said...

Enjoy that taper!

Anonymous said...

Chris- this is amazing- I didn't know you had been keeping this blog, I would have kept up and cheered you along the entire journey. I can't wait to see you on the 10th. I've read through almost all of your postings. I loved seeing the photos you captured along the way. What a neat journal. really really really huge fan- Cuzin Erin