Taken from William Butler Yeats' poem: An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, our protagonist puts his life in balance, realizing everything he has done has brought him to this moment in his life as he is about to lay down his life! Racing the longer distances can also be "A lonely impulse of delight."
Maybe it seems rather frivolous to compare this to a race, but there is definitely some solid basis for doing so. Once you get to the Half-Iron distance, training takes on a new meaning. Finishing, is a driving force, no matter what the clock says. Racing that distance, can be very lonely at times. Sure there are other competitors all around you, but it is still lonely out there. When you are on your bike, there are parts of the course its just you, your bike, the road and your thoughts. Those thoughts can either propel you forward, or bring you crashing down. The same can be said on the run, except at that point those thoughts are more like: "Why am I doing this?" The fact of the matter, you better have a reason.
I remember during Ironman FL 70.3 last year, I remember a very lonely stretch. As most of you know, I'm a cyclist first, and being on my bike is usually my happy place. When I need a mental break, I usually jump on my bike and just go. Its only this past year, that I will also lace up the running shoes and just start running in those times. During that race, I felt okay on the bike. I do recall a section of the course I was alone. Going through some personal issues, my mind wandered on that bike ride. It wasn't pretty, I wasn't concentrating, I wasn't paying attention to my nutrition, and my ride and body began to suffer.
It was around mile 30 I heard a friendly voice. It was Brad, the "Iron Goof". Now part of me was pissed off he caught up to me, but the other part was never so happy to ride with a friend for a while. I know USAT rules, we couldn't draft or ride next to each other, but we stayed within ear shot for quite a while. I found my legs, and then around mile 40 or 42 I took off. I knew Brad would catch me on the run, since I would be walking most of the half marathon (Doctors orders).
There were several dark times on the run course. But I treasured my friends on that run, or shall I say walk. I walked close to 10 of the 13.1 miles that day. As my friends and fellow A-Trainers passed me on the course, I got a firm slap on the ass from everyone. I managed to run a few miles even when it seemed the lights were going out and I was clearly suffering from the heat. Doing a three loop run course is not ideal, but at least you get to see friends. At mile eight I was done, and I mean done! I was so close to running into the finish shoot and just call it quits. Then a huge surprise, I heard someone shouting to me. It was my brother. I didn't know he and my sister and her husband had come. I gave him a huge hug, and told him, I have four miles to go, I'll be back! I managed to run some of that four miles. At the finish line I was greeted by my brother, sister and my A-train family!
That day was a turning point for me. I came to grips with my personal circumstances. I didn't feel alone, and from there on out I felt like ME again.
Everything we do in training is designed to prepare us for those dark times. As Craig Alexander said, "everyone has the dark times, and the dark times are coming." When your body says stop, what do you have left in the tank. What drives you to the finish? Maybe we think about where we have been, and what we have done. Maybe, "Its a lonely impulse of delight."