Enough time has gone by for me to reflect on the 2012 Ironman training and the event itself, and to feel ready to post some lessons learned.
1) I've always been an achievement, improvement, and perfection junkie and pusher. I can turn that on or off and dial it up or down but it still comes with risk of being self-critical to a small extent. I take care not to go too far with that and appreciate & enjoy all the positive things...try to make it a strength and not turn it into a weakness.
After not finishing in 2012, I have a new, great, deep appreciation and thankfulness for my 2010 Ironman finish. Maybe that one shining moment was where the stars & variables were aligned to the maximum extent, and it was the best I could do. I really thought that I could be faster in 2012 and I was MORE PREPARED. Yet leaving transition #2 I was TWO HOURS slower than my 2010 time. I tried to alter my state of mind from time goal to a finish goal, didn't even want to face not finishing. As with risk management, you have to ultimately be prepared for any scenario but plan for and expect the best result.
2) Doing an event like that has SO many variables where some are in your control and some aren't. It is part luck, planning, preparation, execution, hard work, and mental. I think my biggest mistake was diluting my system with too much water PRIOR to the race...the days leading up to. I was super hydrated for sure, but think that I flushed all the electrolytes out of my body. My nutrition plan during the race didn't lack that.
3) I can always work on the mental game...one of the reasons I did Ironman was to try to challenge myself to toughen up. But let's face it, I really don't enjoy doing the endurance stuff (anything over ~3 hours where you have to take in nutrition during the workout). It's not fun for me. There are elements that are fun and of value or else I wouldn't do it. I really admire my "fast" endurance friends and the results that they achieve. It isn't a good thing for me to try to compare myself to that. I took myself out of my comfort zone, but it is still more fun to do things you are better at. We all have different skill sets and can't all be the same. I've been doing endurance events for 5 years now and it's time to change things up and have more fun.
4) There is no shortage of wisdom quotes out there about "quitting". Well sometimes it is the wise thing to do. Coming out of transition 2, I was spent but tried to see if I could string something together for the run. My body was falling off of a cliff and I had 19 more miles to go when a volunteer put some ice on my legs and tried to elevate them. They cramped up so tight, so acutely that I wanted to start screaming. I knew those cramps were a bad sign and there was still so far to go. I ran through all of the scenarios and options in my head. I tried to walk one more mile and felt that the wise thing to do was not put my body at serious risk. The cramps, the heat rash, and I was falling off my nutrition plan.
I got into a van to go back to downtown, and was sitting next to a 9 (or 10?) time finisher. I decided that this failure to get to the finish line wouldn't define me as a person. My attitude going forward, reaction, and lessons learned would define me. Don't get me wrong, not finishing is profoundly disappointing and it hurts. And it was really not fun having to explain what happened over and over again when I got back.
But I have to focus on the positive that in 2010 I DID finish...so thankful that I wouldn't have that unfinished business because like I said, this isn't super fun for me. I understand both sides a lot better now...the glory of finishing and the agony of defeat.
5) It is AWESOME having my life back and not having to do hours and hours and hours of long workouts that I don't enjoy. I have more time for everything I need and want to do. I am mixing up my training and focusing on strength again. I will be retiring from anything over Olympic distance triathlons for the foreseeable future.
So there you have it. I think that I've gotten past it in a healthy way. It will always hurt, but time heals all wounds. I choose to focus on the positives, and I will cheer on my friends that choose to do the endurance events!