Sunday, September 03, 2006

Final Flight

Thursday night we drove up to Duluth just to spend the night and Friday. It was kind of on a whim, Amy's idea, a relaxing way to start the last week before Ironman. We walked around Gooseberry Falls and followed the mile trail down to Lake Superior and just relaxed for an hour or so. It was good. The Big Lake has become important to me in the last 8 years, and I hadn't been back in more than a year. It was useful to becoming Ironman to stand on its shores and contemplate impossibility.

Fascinated with your oceans,
I applaud the timing of your tides
So much deeper than my devotion
As the waters touch the skies

Saturday we had an invitation to reunite with old friends when one was celebrating a wedding reception at a place called Shores of St. Andrew. I hadn't been there in more than 2 years either, and then only for an hour or so. It's a place as close to "home" as anything I've ever known. It's where I spent 4 summers of my younger, other life, and where everything useful I've ever known was born. The sounds, the smells - they all hold fragile, precious memories that are unlocked only in that place. It was good for my soul to be back.

Chasing stars and moonlit nights
Wet and damp with age
Memories, and the heavens, are reborn
Watching quiet, watching slow...nevermind the rain
Sometimes it's better not to mourn

I wouldn't have thought, two weeks ago, that either weekend destination was in store. I got to thinking, walking through my old hallowed hallways, how interesting and unforeseen my road to Ironman has been. How, through no intention or planning beyond sometimes a few weeks or days - and always with another purpose in mind - the wending and winding of my universe brought me this single year back to my most significant places. Dakota. Boston. Superior. Shores. These are my four corners. My compass points, where everything else in my life has existed between. And even that Ironman is in Madison, a place so rich and important to me and my family, where I have some of the happiest memories of my life. Had I thought of it, I think I would have certainly chosen to make stops at these mile markers. But as it is, I didn't think about it. But they came to me anyway. As though the metaphysical mysteries deemed it necessary that I should return, to perhaps collect pieces of me I'd maybe left behind. Pieces I might need precisely one week from this moment. It's not that it was meant for me, but that I was meant for it.

We were getting ready to leave the shores of Superior, brushing off pebbles and heading back to the trail, when Amy started talking about Ironman. And in that exact moment, just as I had found a 3rd Iron bolt on an abandoned railroad in North Dakota at the exact moment I considered Ironman, she found on the beach some small, twisted shred of Iron. Riveted and rusted, we romanticized it came from some old shipwreck. We took it for a good omen, and left it to Superior, where it has been timeless these many mysterious years, and so will remain.

I had imagined, when I would sit and think about Ironman in the cold and dark of February, that the race would be for me like that Marines commercial, where the guy scales a mountain in a tempest and then fights a lava monster with only his sword. I thought I'd feel pitted against unimaginable odds, in an unlikely battle against the darkest parts of myself. I thought I'd spend my day chased by sea monsters and the same ghosts that have haunted me since I was a child, but increasing in number and sophistication as I got older. I would have imagined, when I got to one week away, that I would be an emotional wreck, frightened and, despite my best efforts, paralyzed.

Instead, I sit here a week away and know that I am ready. I am neither frightened nor paralyzed. Not a single ghost screeches outside my window. I think about the thousands of miles behind me, and realize that my epic battle has been waging all along. And every mile, every faced wheel wobble, every dreched run, every aching muscle overcome - with each of these there was not just a forging, but a purging. No man goes into the furnace and comes out the same on the other side of it.

So now the race, like the racer, is rid of its own impurities. I won't be going out there now with the extra weight and baggage of a thousand ghosts. I won't be fleeing vampires instead of chasing Iron. I mean: I'm not going out there to finally come to terms with my Dad's death, or to forgive myself whatever I hadn't, or to make the team I didn't, or take back the words I couldn't, or reconcile with whatever I regret most.

Now I'd like to say thank you to every one of you. Whoever you are, however you got here, whatever you're doing here. If you're an old friend or a new familiar or somebody lurking around that I don't know or this is your first foray into Becoming Ironman. Having shared this experience with you has made it so much richer for me. I had no concrete ideas or plans for this when I started it, but it became just a sort of...personal journal. But knowing you were there, it could transcend too into a kind of conversation. So I wasn't just talking to myself. It came so that I wanted you to know. So that I'd think about you on my long runs or rides. I can't wait to post this on the blog. You've encouraged me, enlightened me, challenged me. Your insights and thoughts and enthusiasm and support has meant more to me than I'll ever be able to express. I've had a ton of fun. I hope you have too.

This will be my last post in this kind of context, because there is much to be done this week and the emotional tax on precious energy doesn't come cheap. The rest of the week will be fast, and fun, and I'll want to share as much of it as I can with you. So I want to say just this before we finally begin, because it is the last bit of truth I've learned: I deserve to be here. I've earned the right to toe the line. I welcome and invite whatever the day brings, whatever the race has in store. I believe I can do this.


triteacher said...

That was beautifully put. The whole blog experience (writing mine and reading others') does enrich the IM journey. I think we've already "won" our race. Survive this week and have a great race next Sunday!

Sara said...

I'll never be an Ironman. Your Blog is the most insight I would have had about the journey to IM. Can't wait to cheer you on.

Anonymous said...

Great entry, babe. The fact that you can feel so deeply through this process that I can only describe as a challenge is amazing. You have changed physically and mentally during the past two years of preparation and I can't wait to celebrate with you! You are ready and will finish strong...and there's no doubt that you will leave with anything but an empty tank and a full heart. Watch for foxes--Amy