That was 51 weeks ago, and here I am seven days before round two. Exactly one week from now, I expect to be at mile 15 of the bike checking my diagnostics and thinking about fuel, hydration, and heart rate. And why? Just to see what I can do.
Triathlon is simultaneously both the most fair and unfair sport that I know. You spend six months preparing for a single day. Either you’re ready or not. You can’t get lucky. You’re fast or not. You’re prepared or not. You put in the time and intelligent training, or you don’t. Your family sacrifices and a single day on the course consumes most everything you do for half the year. Anything can happen on race day – Mother Nature, biology, other racers. On race day, you can only pray that you have the opportunity to perform at your personal best.
It’s not just the training – it’s all the stuff in between. And race day, it’s a persistent conversation with myself on how hard to push to the sub-11:59 and feeling accomplishment just by finishing. It’s dangerous to obsess on time, especially for hobbyists like me, but I will because that’s the reason for losing 15 lbs this year, eating organic, doing yoga, and knowing the difference between soy and whey protein.
I bought a tri-bike in January. It’s name is George. I spent 15+ hours in fitting sessions at the bike shop since then. When I travel, I look for hotels with black-out window shades so I can slip in an extra 30 minutes of sleep. I search for public pools in the cities I visit so I can get extra yards. I pack my heart rate monitor and cycling shorts. I sprinkle tumeric on my salad because I hear it’s good for your joints. I brought my bike trainer and Pedro to the office so I could work in 2+ hour wall-staring spinning sessions at 5 AM. I have a pair of Five Fingers to strengthen my running muscles. I bought running tights. I’m renting aero-wheels and borrowing an aero-helment to save precious seconds. I’m mapping out calorie consumption plans and practice nature calls while riding at 17 mph. I made three trips to the running shoe store and tried on 15 pairs in March.
People ask if I’m doing the race in Hawaii. No – I’ll never qualify there. Those people are 3 hours faster than me – I’m getting off the bike with a 26 mile run yet to go and they’re crossing the finishing gate. I just want to go 11:59 or better – lop an hour off of last year’s time. I act like a serious triathlete, but I’m really just an obsessed hobbyist trying to go as fast as I can – all for my own personal vanity.
With a week to go, it’s the foam roller on my calves and ice then heat then ice on my Achilles that never really healed from last year’s tweak. My knees and IT bands are creaky. I’m wondering about nutrition and checking lake water temperatures. I still need to affix my front hydration bottle because the velcro strap provided doesn’t work and shave my cranium down to a 2-blade for no reason other than mental preparation.
I rode from Davis to Winters yesterday on 3 hours of sleep. (Travel delays from NYC forced my Friday night 7:30 flight to finally take off at 1:00 AM EDT, arriving to SFO at 4:15 AM PDT.) The legs felt good and strong. Aside from a 40 minute run in New York on Thursday, it’s the only exercise I had in six days. I’m ready for this to be over. As we drive into Coeur d’Alene next week, the excitement and focus will emerge for one last push of optimism and excitement.
I remember last year, as the cannon blasted, I felt a sense of relief that I was finally able to get the whole thing over with. And a week from now, I’m looking forward to that same feeling. This will be my last Ironman for a while. There are other things to do – less structured and more important than a marketing company affecting my daily behavior.
It’s a struggle to balance the pulling desire to reach your goals and retaining perspective that none of this really matters at all. My wife will still love me and my family will still be proud of me. But for now, I’ll contend with one more week of obsessive vanity.
You know – got to go sub-12:00 now…