Saturday, November 7, 2015
Day 11.221 Two Hours Prior
I have been here before.
Distinctly I remember several Ironman events where we stood knee deep in chilly water watching the morning sky change color as the sun rose from behind the mountains. I would look around at my brothers and sisters about to embark on an epic journey. In their eyes, behind their goggles, I saw hope, concern, fear, anticipation, hubris and the unmistakable shake of shoulder and wiggle of wrist signifying an energy overload.
Let's get on with it, fire that dammed cannon and let's get this show on the road.
I would often comment to first timers dealing with pre-race jitters, that the secret is to accept and enjoy the imbalance, enjoy this sensation, because in a few short moments you will ask of your body, mind and spirit the power, strength and endurance to carry you through 140.6 miles.
Breathe deeply and relax, share the love, smile and give thanks. We are all in this together so let's support one another and enjoy the ride. When we get to the five, six, seventh hour, the real racing can begin, and then you can manage your remaining fitness stores and crumbling confidence as you answer some questions unique to our sport.
What was I thinking?
Why (oh why) didn't I spend more time in the pool?
Will anyone really care if I quit and walk home?
Is there a God, and if so, what must I do to get some help here?
Can I make it to the next aid station?
Is the paper cut I sustained at the office on Friday injury enough to get a ride from an ambulance?
Will my family and friends still respect me if I fail to Q for Kona?
And on and on.
This is a huge part of endurance racing. The dialogue we hold with ourselves when the going gets tough. And it will. There will come a point in any event, even a sprint, when your mind will ask for reconsideration of your once rock-solid commitment. God help the athlete who is insufficiently prepared to engage in this debate.
Yet interestingly enough, by going through it, by seeing it through, by getting to the end of the tunnel, we learn and grow. We become so infused with the wisdom of experience that the once deadly serious conversation is now stand up comedy. We laugh at the ridiculousness of our situation, after all, nobody that I know of ever got an entry to an Ironman for Christmas. YOU SIGNED UP FOR THIS. THIS IS YOUR DECISION. THERE IS NO ONE TO ELSE TO BLAME.
Win the debate and carry on. Be happy you can. Let go of the tension and relax into wherever you are on the course. What a wonderful metaphor. Ironman as proxy for life.
It is two hours prior to the big game.