Swim: 0 m/105,145 m
Bike: 0/1,170.7 miles
Run: 20.1/426.2 miles
My family and I just returned from our annual weeklong pilgrimage to the beach. I took advantage of the situation to log some strong miles after a relatively inactive August, and it felt great to be back on the exercise train. I covered about 90 miles by bike and foot in four days of training (I took Thursday off altogether, plus two travel days). Those miles included an amazingly fluid 13.1-miler on Friday, which I covered at a 7:09 pace. It just felt so organic and natural, and after a somewhat slow start (around a 7:40 pace for the first couple of miles) I burned up the last six miles in the 6:40s.
But all good things must come to an end. Now we’re back home, and real life is staring us in the face. My daughter starts a new year of preschool on Monday, we go to the dentist on Tuesday, and, oh yeah, I have the triathlon I’ve been working toward for 8 months on Sunday.
I generally become a basket-case when races approach, no matter what distance they may be. As much as I outwardly profess to be calm and cool, the anticipation and nerves eat at me from the inside. My temper gets short, I lose my appetite and my sleep is affected. I’ve already been dreaming about triathlon-related scenarios every night for the past week. Sometimes I literally worry myself sick.
Now that our beach vacation is over, there is no artifice behind which I can hide – race week is here. In one week I’ll be treading water at the starting line, waiting for the announcer to unleash us. I have one week to get my mental game together, to finalize my nutrition plan and to come to grips with what I expect from my performance. I’ll be checking the weather several times a day. I’ll be lamenting that my training hasn’t been enough. I’ll wonder if I’ll be the only athlete there without a wetsuit. Every time I close my eyes I see portions of the course (and they all seem hilly).
To combat the nerves, I tell myself that I’ve trained hard, even if it hasn’t seemed like enough. No matter what happens, the season has been a success – I learned to swim from scratch, I started road biking for the first time in my life, my running has been stronger than ever. I know I can finish the distance. I’ve been successful with my fueling over the past few months, and I feel good about keeping up my energy on race day.
And I think about Monday, Sept. 26. Since the day I signed up for this race in mid-January, my total focus has been on Sept. 25 (it’s an odd coincidence that it’s also my seventh wedding anniversary). Every day leading up to Sept. 25 was in play – whether I filled those days with training or not was a decision mostly left up to my own free will. In my mind, the days on the calendar that fell after Sept. 25 were gray and fuzzy – they didn’t exist in any real sense. Plans that have been made for later in the year have been purely theoretical to me, with no actual relation to chronological placement. Out of 365 days this year, one has stood out, highlighted in bright red. September 25.
But a day or two ago I was almost stopped in my tracks when I had a simple thought – Monday, September 26. That’s right – a simple date that suddenly made me realize that the world is going to continue after this triathlon. The sun will rise, breakfast will be consumed, business will be conducted. And this huge psychological burden will be erased. It seems odd that a relatively small race can have that effect – it’s only an Olympic-distance race and I’m not even going to be competitive in my age group. But triathlon has been my life this year – almost 1,700 miles of training, lots of money, and uncountable hours of research, planning, reading, conversation and pondering that will lead me to a single moment: 9:00 a.m. on September 25. It’s hard for all of that mental and physical effort to not pile up, no matter how insignificant the actual event turns out to be.
Part of the problem is signing up for an event so far in the future. I was a mess before my first triathlon (which I had five months to contemplate), but a couple days afterward I registered for a second sprint race less than a month away. It turned out to be one of the most fun experiences of my athletic life. When you have less time to think about it, there’s less time for it to build up into some outsized demon – it maintains its proper placement in the scheme of life as a simple recreational outlet and not a life-defining moment.
In any case, here I am, counting down the last seven days and remembering my own advice before that second triathlon – Have Fun! And I certainly plan to do that. But that won’t stop my mind from being crazy this week.