Sunday, March 29, 2009

Up and Away

I’m writing this seven hours into my flight to OZ. After sleeping lightly through the night, I was inspired to roust myself with a cup of really poor coffee. It’s dark outside and it seems we may be flying through the black of night for most of the entire fourteen hours, as we land in Sydney at 7:00am local time. I only wish my coffee could be so dark.

I am kept awake more by the excitement of the journey. After much anticipation, the time has finally arrived, and I am ready to relax, relish the moments and enjoy every aspect. I am amused by the number of people who, when told I am traveling to Australia for vacation and to race an Ironman, can’t fathom the connection between the two events. This is definitely my kind of vacation – one which involves international travel, time spent with dear friends and –oh yeah – one helluva long workout in the mix. I learned from my first Ironman experience (New Zealand 2005) that it’s well worth encompassing the race into a grander plan of travel and adventure. Whatever happens on race day becomes slightly less important, given that there are so many aspects to the trip to add to the enjoyment and allure.

I may sound a bit nonchalant at the moment, but don’t get me wrong – I do have a dream goal in mind for the race, and of course I would love to have a brilliant day on the course. But the challenge for the next week is to try my best not to focus on time splits and rankings and to simply enjoy every drop of this experience. It’s far too easy to get caught up in tri-talk about past PR’s and future goals, and to become attached to a projected outcome for the race. If I think of all the people I know who’ve ever raced Ironman events, and how rarely their exact expectations have come to fruition, it’s a small number indeed.

It’s also far too easy to second-guess my fitness at this point – to wonder if I should have spent more time in the pool, more time focused on my cycling cadence, more time in the weight room. And where are those six-pack abs I promised myself? The fact is, given the demands of an adult life, it’s near impossible to fit in every hour of training that I would embrace if I had the luxury of absolute free time. But I don’t, and that’s ok. I’ve done all that I possibly could have, I’ve trained harder and more specifically than I have for races in the past, and I now have the fitness that I will have on race day, for better or for worse. There’s nothing I can do physically in the final week to enhance this fitness aside from rest up in a big way.

Mentally, however, I still have some training to do. Now is the time to really hone in on what it takes to stay focused for an all-day event. It’s a chance to visualize the course, from the heart-thumping mass swim start, through the post-swim-shakiness of T1, over three laps and three rather significant climbs on the bike, through the flurry and relief of T2, three laps again on the run-course and ultimately those emotional final strides down the finish chute. And more than anything, it’s time to practice throwing my time goals out the window, getting the numbers out of my head and focusing on this goal above all else – to listen to my body on race day; to trust it to take me places far and fast and strong; to push harder than I ever have, balanced against pace and distance; to give it my all, revel in it all, enjoy it all. I mean why else would I do this?

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