639 Miles. It'll actually, I think, be closer to 650. I went through my training schedule for the May 19th marathon and tallied up all the miles, and this is what it comes to. 639 miles in 16 weeks. It's actually closer to 18 weeks, I think, but whatever - it's a lot o' miles.
It's hardly an unmanageable amount - if I didn't have that number in front of me, it wouldn't occur to me 4 months from now that I'd run that many miles. And broken up into all those weeks, it's not nearly so impressive, I suppose - maintenance runs during the week, long runs on the weekend. Still, I like how enormous it seems. It looks insurmountable. I've found it to be a source of encouragement and inspiration as I've chipped 11.2 miles away from that in this first week of the new year, this first week of the '07 season, this first week of the Further Forging.
And that's something I've been thinking about a bit during my runs lately (when not being attacked by puppies, searching for lost pieces of technology, or lolling about in the snow with Jackson looking on...). What does it mean, now? What does an Ironman do when he's not doing Ironman? The sense of confusion (what the hell do I do now?) I experienced just after Ironman has been addressed, the emotions situating themselves into realities, plans, and ideas. And in that process was an acceptance that something I look for - a reason I'm a part of triathlon - is to face the sheer cliffs. I'll never just be a Sprinter. I'll not be content to just do a handful of Oly's, or aspire to constant P.R.'s. I thrive when I have something before me of magnitude. Something that seems outrageous. Ironman was outrageous. 639 Miles seems outrageous. 2 or 3 marathons in one season is, for me, outrageous. And that's what appeals to me, because I think that's where I learn most. When I have to work for months and months (or even years), and not just weeks, to acclimate this body and mind to the challenges and rigors required of something like an Ironman, that's when I learn patience. The value of reward (and the reward of value). The discipline it takes. The knowlege it requires. That's what I like about this game. It's just so big, and there's just so much to learn.
So, in the end, it has nothing to do with finishing times or personal records or whatever. In fact, among my goals (still being developed) this season is to P.R. in the marathon and the Half Ironman distance - but those goals are congruent to just doing the races the right way, my way, in the first place. It's really just about eyeing that peak, blue and hazy, a thousand miles away, and setting a course to reach it. To know it'll take a lot of time. That the terrain will be difficult and unpredictable. That nothing is guaranteed on the way, or when I get there, or once the peak is summited. That all I can do is my best, and only I have the power to define that. You have to see, as I've indicated before, these analogies to life. And so then, it's no great mystery at all.
This, then, is what is meant by Forging Further. Both literally - moving ahead, pushing forward, one step in front of the other. But also the metaphor - what does an Ironman do when he's no longer Becoming? He engages in things Becoming of an Ironman, and in the doing is refined even more. I had thought, all those years and months of dreaming of and preparing to Become Ironman, that once successfully achieved, the satisfaction of it, the accomplishment of it, would leave me in a place more free of mysteries. And in some important ways, it did. But mostly - and this truly is a surprise - I feel within myself that it really was only the beginning. Those embers that stoked the fire, they are no cooler, and they are no less. This is, and will always be, my forge.
"You look different," she said as he kicked the snow from his heels and took off his thin gloves.
"Do I?" He replied, not really a question. He was smiling.
"Tsk," she clicked, getting up and wiping her hands on her apron as she walked into the other room. "You laugh at an old woman." She called, laughing from the other room, "I'm not so foolish as that, you know!"
"Certainly that's true," he called after her, then sat down as she returned with a tray of something steaming from a small pot. She set the tray down, poured some of the hot liquid into a cup, and delivered it to him. She eyed him carefully as he sipped, both his cold hands surrounding the mug. She pulled up the chair across from him, and they sat together quietly.
"Your machine?" She asked after several moments, leaning back in her chair, her left eyebrow cocked.
He lowered the mug to reply, "Waiting for me," then took another sip.
She considered this as another moment passed. "How long until you get there?"
He set his cup down and said, "To the machine? Another two months, probably. Maybe more."
She leaned forward and looked him in the eye then, and smiled curiously. "That's not what I meant."
He smiled himself, then gave her a wink. "I know."