So my body is idling, ready to shift into gear on Sunday. My glutes, the biggest muscle in my body, are ready to fire and fire and fire and fire. But the largest muscle that matters is the one on top, both literally and figuratively.
Oh, my brain.
I wish I could load up my brain with carbs, pre-race, and when the cannon went off, be confident it wouldn't betray me.
Because as badass as I may seem, my brain always struggles in a race. Sometimes from the start (a really bad day), but always when a race gets hard. I start making bargains with myself. "O.k., this is fine, but just don't let your splits drop any more." Then the splits drop. "O.k., just keep them here for the next two miles." And there they go again. And even when a race is going well, I still see things half-full. "I've hit my splits for 8 miles, but can I hang on for 5.1 more miles? Wait: 5.1 more miles left still? Seriously?"
SBS has an innate ability to rebound when a race gets tough; she can turn it around and still make it a success. She can also chew off bites of a race and not worry about what's left on the plate. I am not so adept at those skills. When things go bad for me, whether it's at mile .2 or 12.2, I fantasize about quitting and wish the race away. I tune out and mentally drop out. All I want is the finish line. (Which, truth be told, is partly why I haven't run a marathon in over 6 years. I can't stomach the mental effort.)
But Sunday is not just another race. Sunday is a bucket-list item, a race I want to remember for years to come for the good points—not just the struggles. Sunday has a different equation.
8 months of effort + hundreds of training hours + thousands of dollars = 140.6 miles I will NOT allow myself to wish away.
I had my pre-race pep talk with my coach Bri today. We went through all the details: whether I should drive the course pre-race (yes); how to seed myself in the swim (faster if necessary); how she's seen people put sausages (gross!) in their special needs bags that they get at the halfway point of the bike and run. My mood was light-hearted until we got to talking about the run. Then I got really nervous. "I just hope," I said with a quavering voice, "that I can get to at least two and a half hours into the run before I get that I-just-want-to-be-done feeling."
Her response? The run is the best part of the Ironman because you can interact with the crowd—Coeur d'Alene is an especially spectator-friendly course—and I'd be stupid to put on my blinders and not soak it all up. (She didn't say that last part; I ad libbed.) Plus, she said, the miles will go by quicker than I know. "Suddenly, you'll be at mile 20, then running down the finish chute, then wondering where the day went," she said. "Savor this. Just savor it."
Huh: a novel concept for me. Savor the race. Soak in every step. Even when I want to be done, continue to be present. That is my first mental race goal. I've used the mantra I am here now in the past with some success, and this is as good of a time as any to pull that baby out of retirement.
So I'll consider that goal one: to remember that I am here, in this Ironmother of a race, right now. Yes, it will get mofo hard. Yes, my legs will hurt. Yes, I'll get nauseous and uncomfortable. But I am here, in this beautiful Ironmother of a race, right now. I've visualized being here for 8 months and so many miles. Dang it if I'm going to hope for the clock to tick any faster than it already does.
But I wouldn't be Dimi-tri if I didn't give myself at least one more goal. And Bri, helpfully, laid out some best/average/worst case scenarios for me.
All along, I thought finishing under 13 hours would be a killer badass Ironmother success. Actually, I thought just finishing would be a killer badass Ironmother success, which it is.
But now I see this other goal—one possible based on my past performance and training times—that is an hour faster. Whoa there, friend.
My fastest marathon time is a 4:13, which was 6 years ago. Is a 4:22 is possible, especially if, you know, I'm going to savor the race? Feels pretty impossible.
I've sat with this new idea for a few hours, and I realize I like having the potential dangling out there. Maybe with the right mindset—this Ironmother race is mine to not only savor, but also to dig deep and freakin' thrive in—maybe I could do something totally out of my comfort zone. We'll—I'm including myself here—just have to stay tuned.