On Wednesday I had my hardest training run yet under Coach Orton. The workout had a nice 15 minute warm up then four, eight-minute speed intervals at a 7:30 pace with three minutes of recovery pace between each interval. Five years ago when I had lost my athletic focus, weighed more than 250 lbs. and thought that lifting beers was a good way of training I would have called you crazy had you told me I could have nailed a workout like that. But now three years into my triathlon career I'm starting to shock myself as my heart rate continues to slow and my pace continues to accelerate. Deep down inside I'll always consider myself that overgrown 20 year-old trying to get his forty time down for football; although now I'm quietly starting to admit to myself I've become a triathlete.
The amazing thing about the run on Wednesday was how unbelievably happy I was during it. I've been pretty stressed recently as I try and lock down my post-MBA employment or figure out which part of my body I'll need to sell to science to pay back my loans. It will never cease to amaze me how a great workout can wash everything away and just make me smile. Back in the day the second I stepped on the field it didn't matter what went on during my day, those few hours at practice were always awesome – swimming, biking and running has quickly provided that same solace for me. When I got to Sugar Hollow, saw the trees covered in snow, drove past a flock of wild turkeys and heard the rushing water of the thawed creek I had about as big a smile on my face as possible.
I think at first hard triathlon work outs thrilled me because it was in those moments I felt like I was still the same person I had always been, that diabetes didn't fundamentally change me. I mean I know I signed up for my first Ironman to prove that my illness wouldn't limit what I could accomplish, a lot of that was to inspire others but a part of it was also my way of dealing with my diagnosis. Now, I've mentally moved past proving that this disease hasn't changed me, I'm confident in my blood sugar management skills and know 100% that this disease will never limit me, I've learned what I need to do to control it so I can challenge myself. Sport has returned to what sport has always been to me – the most pure, amazing and thrilling experience I can fathom. When I'm out training in any of the disciplines I don't think about anything but what my body can accomplish, I focus on my breathing, my senses are heightened and my mind is as sharp as it ever is. When I'm out there it's about nothing other than the enjoyment I derive from training and how beautiful the world looks to me in those moments. It's kind of weird that I can think the world looks beautiful when I have snots running down my face, am covered in sweat and about to throw up but hey we all have our quirks.
So back to the training, the thing that shocked me most was that I got faster during each of the 8 minute intervals. And the great thing is I don't care that I'm getting faster, I just care that I'm enjoying each workout more and more. I never would have thought that on my fourth speed interval I'd have a smile on my face, laugh at the end of it and say "I wish Eric had given me one more." Who knows if it was my performance at SC that gave me the confidence to push the envelope again, or if something else just clicked. But right now I feel like I'm as good or better shape than I have been at any point in my life and am ridiculously excited to get this tri season underway.
On a side note is anyone else obsessed with Curling? I'm mesmerized by that sport! The Olympics are just so freaking cool.