I spectated the Boulder Ironman triathlon this weekend. I stood on the grassy edge of the paved path where the athletes ran a marathon under the unrelenting late afternoon sun. Some of the runners had a spring in their step, most were shuffling, and more than a few were walking. An ironman is comprised of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. I probably don’t need to explain that by the time you start the marathon, you’re tired.
I watched, cheered, smiled, clapped, rang my cowbell, and offered the athletes fist bumps and high fives, in between wrangling my toddler and retreating to my lawn chair to nurse the baby in the shade. I needed only a quick glance at an athlete’s gait and facial expression to determine what kind of race he or she was having.
I needed no more than a couple of hours of spectating to know I have no desire to cross the finish line of an ironman again.
In 2006, I spectated an ironman for the first time. It was inspiring to me. I was in awe of the athletes. I considered the discipline required to carve out the time to train. I imagined what it would be like to have a goal so unimaginably big that I would be motivated to prepare for it out of fear just as much as desire. I remembered I’d promised my friend that I would sign up for the ironman if she did (and she did). I cheered those athletes on from the sidelines on that July day and knew that I wanted to be doing what they were doing. At 8:50 the next morning, I sat in a Starbucks with a borrowed laptop and my credit card, obsessively refreshing the race’s web page until the 9 o’clock hour finally came and registration opened up. I yearned, then, to focus my energy on a project that I could chip away at and eventually conquer.
I yearn, now, for a night of uninterrupted sleep.
I yearn for other things, too. I want to finish the home birth book. I want to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. I want to become a kinder, more patient person, if only so that Sweet Pea and Lady Bug can have a better role model. I want to stop being afraid to admit that I really want to be a writer and commit to it. I would like to do the Triple Bypass someday and I want to visit the rocky beaches of the Pacific Northwest. Also, I want to read everything on my “To Read” shelf on Goodreads and check everything off my to-do list.
I do not want to do another ironman.
In 2006, the fear of not being ready for race day got me up in the morning, often as early as 5am. Now, the sound of the baby snuffling in search of a breast gets me up, often earlier than 5 am. I used to daydream about the race announcer bellowing, “Pam Sinel, you are an ironman!” Now I daydream about how “Pam Moore” will look on the cover of a book. I used to think the most efficient bike workout was a series of hill repeats. Now I think the most efficient bike workout is a spin to the library with a kid in the Burley trailer.
I used to think an ironman was the most grueling, rewarding test of endurance I would voluntarily undertake. Now I know that motherhood and marriage are the most challenging, joyous feats of endurance I have ever signed up for.
The red Ironman logo sticker I proudly affixed on my Jetta the day after Ironman Lake Placid 2007 has since faded to pale pink, then to light orange, only to eventually dry up and peel off. In it’s place is a discolored, textured patch of paint in the shape of a perfect oval. I wish the sticker hadn’t left such an ugly mark, but these days, I usually take the minivan anyway.