What if?

Tania Dalton Ironman Bike

The time has come – either sell the bike or do it all again…

I still don’t consider myself a ‘real athlete’. I attempt something and then become somewhat of a blob again quite easily. Real athletes don’t do that. They finish one challenge and then immediately start aiming for the next. Not me. Endurance events seem to be like childbirth for me – pain, exhilaration and then I can’t contemplate it again for another couple of years!

However, I’ve been thinking about the Ironman again a lot lately. It kind of feels like unfinished business. Looking back, training for my ironman throughout the worst part of my menopause transition and covid wasn’t ideal.

I got my very last period the month I started training with my coach Stuart. As my reproductive hormones flatlined, that’s when everything fell apart for me. Sure I had severe night sweats, sleep disturbances, blood bath periods during peri-menopause but nothing prepared me for what felt like instant depletion and complete change, as the last of my estrogen seemed to disappear from my body (obviously it’s not quite like that but it sure didn’t feel good!). It then took almost 2 years to feel like I was back in some kind of control of my body.

It was a huge challenge as I tried to keep up with training while my body struggled to find its new equilibrium. To be honest, looking back it probably wasn’t ideal timing but of course you never know when it’s your last period until 12 months later and by that time, I had invested a lot of time and money into the process.  

Saying all that, I can’t tell you how many times throughout the rollercoaster of menopause issues, continuous lockdowns and race cancellations, that I felt like giving up. But for whatever reason, I didn’t.

And, eventually I got there – got to Cairns as we went into yet another snap lockdown completely alone, got to the start line completely alone and got to the finish line in a respectable time (for me) again, completely alone. This pretty much summed up my entire ironman experience. I had done almost all my training completely alone, so perhaps it was almost fitting that I endured the event alone as well – I always say that it made me tougher and even more determined to get to the finish line. I had absolutely no one there to cheer me on – except myself.

Of course, crossing the finish line was one of the best moments of my life regardless of the circumstances.

But now, I’ve started wondering.

I know my body, even with my dodgy toe joint, is capable of completing the distance now. I also know mentally that I’m capable of withstanding the horrendous pain I feel for most of the 180km cycle leg (bloody hell it’s torturous!) and the long slow marathon where day turns into night, the crowds start to dwindle and you are hobbling along wondering how on earth you can ever keep going.

Now, I’ve started wondering – what if I could do it a bit better next time. Not to get ahead of myself but I’ve started calculating where I can make up some time.

Firstly, I know I could train more effectively in cycling. Much more! Maybe I could even force myself to do a few FTP tests and possibly even do some Zwift rides – both things I refused to contemplate last time because to be honest, I don’t like to push myself! I don’t like pain. I’m a bit of a princess. All of which sounds crazy if you want to do an Ironman!

Last time I didn’t do enough swim training. I dropped lots of swim sessions when I wasn’t coping and I cruised the swim on the day, not quite sure how much to push – I could definitely improve my swim.

The run – it’s always a big unknown for me. I’m not sure how my osteoarthritic toe joint will withstand training or the event but I do know that our bodies are very adaptable and I once thought I wouldn’t be able to get through another marathon – but I did.

So, I sit here again pondering.

What if?

Though I don’t really like what ifs anymore

I think I’ve moved on from being the could’ve, would’ve, should’ve and what if kind of person I was pre-menopause.

Menopause changed me – in many more ways than just reproductively.

I’m a doer now.

I’m a risk taker.

I now refuse to be someone who looks back and wonders – what if?

The date I have in mind – it’s not until my son has finished secondary school. June 2025 – because training for an Ironman is big and it affects everyone around me. I will be 56 – oh gosh, that sounds equally old but young at the same time! It’s quite long way away but also not that far considering I’ve been a bit of a blob for almost 18 months! I’ll need that time to prepare, get strong, build muscle, re-build endurance and improve my techniques if I’m going to give it a real go. It will be a very long slog.

This time I will have to step further out of my comfort zone than I’ve ever done before. I’ll undoubtedly cry a lot – mostly on the bike. But as I’ve proven to myself before – good things take time and effort, a bit of crying and a hell of a lot of resilience.

Thinking about the end result however always floods me with emotion. Crossing that finish line is right up there with child birth for me. My body, while utterly spent, experiences an indescribable joy and exhilaration that makes all the struggles I have to deal with to get there even more worthwhile and rewarding.

Kind of sounds like I’ve made a decision, doesn’t it?

I’m still not totally sure. However, if I do commit, then it’s going to be one more amazing life journey for a woman, who in the past, never lived up to her full potential but finally, decided to start chasing her dreams in midlife.

I’ve said it before but for other people like me, it really is never too late and you are never too old. Midlife and menopause provides a wonderful opportunity to change direction and make this the most beautiful and amazing part of your life story yet.

Watch this space…

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