Now USATA has good reason to ban any kind of headphone. One of the first safety rules Coach Brian from team in Training shared with us was the no headphone rule and for good reason. Brian had been running and was so absorbed in his music that he actually ran right into a sign and almost knocked himself out. Music really can be a distraction, and not always in a good way. In addition, when you are biking and running you really need to be able to listen for any motor vehicles around you. With the new quieter fuel efficient cars, they can really sneak up on you. Also, you need to watch out for crazy people trying to attack you. I had always worried more about this danger during my runs, but a few months ago a man knocked a girl riding by herself off her bike and assaulted her. A final reason to be wary of using headphones is other bikes. In biking there is biking etiquette when you come up on someone or go to past them. You let them know you are passing them by saying something like, "On your left." For all these reasons I understand why this equipment is banned from races.
Despite all these safety reasons and the fact that I have known for a while that I would not be able to race with music, I still continue to train with my tunes on all legs of my practice. I just cannot stand the sound of silence.. Therefore, I have a SwimP3 player for my long yards in the pool, and my iPhone provides me with hours of my favorite artists on both my runs and long bike rides. What can I say--I love my music. I am just very careful. I only put one earbud in, and I keep my music down very low so I can hear what is around me including conversations with my running friends.
So basically I have been ignoring the fact that I am not training in true Ironman conditions, but I am doing what I can to get through the grueling training. The other day I was spending the day with my friends Kay and Sachiyo. Kay had been reading up on the triathlon rules, because she will be doing her first triathlon in June with some of her Walla Walla friends. She brought up the no headphones rules and asked me how I was going to survive without my music. She knows me so well. It once again reminded me that I probably needed to do something to prove to myself that I can do the long Ironman distance without Danny Elfman, Eric Clapton, and Kelly Clarkson as my constant companions.
What better way to test myself than to do my very first full century without music? What could go wrong? So I left my earbuds back at the hotel and just hoped for the best. The first thirty-five miles of the race were actually easy without the music. I spent part of the race talking with my friend Leslie, part of the race with my husband Sean, and before I knew it more than a third of the ride was done. It couldn't have been easier to ride without my treasured music--until I reached the Box Canyon uphill climb.
I shared in my last blog that the most difficult stretch of the race was this mile 35 to 50 leg. It wasn't even that it was fifteen miles of uphill terrain. It was the incredibly forceful winds that pushed down on us and made fifteen miles feel more like thirty. Normally, I don't let hills win. I push hard and get to the top as fast as I can, but the winds and the desolate terrain started to get to me. For the first time I thought I might not actually be able to make it to the next rest stop at the top. I was really starting to think maybe I made a mistake using my first century to attempt to tough it out without music. What was I thinking? The sound of silence and not knowing how far I still had to go was really testing me mentally more than physically.
I had to do something to keep from giving up, so I started focusing on the riders coming down the hill. I was willing these riders to give me some kind of encouragement or sign that I was getting close to the next rest stop. Most people didn't even acknowledged me, some glanced in my direction but gave me no indication of how close I was, and one amazing rider actually gave me a thumbs up that helped me push through a few more miles.
The winds got even stronger, and at one point I felt a gust nearly knock me over sideways. In addition, I didn't seem to be getting any closer to the rest stop at the top of the hill. I decided to play another game to pass the time. I saw some large power generators at the top. I figured once I got to that landmark, I would surely arrive at my destination. I continued to pump my feet as hard as I could and try not to give in to the urge to stop pedaling. Unfortunately, when I got to the generators there was still no end in sight. There were few riders headed down to distract me, and I didn't know how much longer I could continue. I have never felt so much like just turning around and giving up.
Instead of giving in to the urge to stop pedaling, I started singing my favorite tunes in my head. I have listened to the same playlist for most of my Ironman training this year, so I actually have some of the lyrics memorized by heart. One in particular pops into my head quite a bit--"Uprising" by Muse. Besides the beat being almost like a war call, a few select words have become my mantra when things get tough in my training. So when I am tired and I need to push myself through, I start to chant, "They will not control us; we will be victorious," in my head. Not sure why this helps me, but it reminds me not to give in to the negativity and to let my training take over when my mind is telling me to quit.
As I was running my mantra through my head for the hundredth time, a guardian angel on a bike rode by and yelled at me that I only had a mile to go. That rider had no idea what those words meant to me, but it was just what I need to push hard to the top. Once I made it through the challenge of getting up the hill, I knew I could do the rest of the course without too much difficulty. That is the beauty of out and backs. You know exactly what you are in for for the last half.
In the end, I learned that I can do the long miles without music, at least for one day. I need to do more training without tunes, but I do not doubt that I can survive Ironman with the sound of silence. I will have my training buddies to talk to. If we separated, which I am sure might happen, I will focus on the beautiful scenery surrounding me and listen to the sounds of nature. And when all else fails I will remind myself that, "They will not control us; we will be victorious." I am in control, and with my training and positive attitude behind me, I will conquer even this most difficult challenge. I will be an Ironwoman!