I get to wake up at 5:10 on a Sunday morning because I get to do an Olympic triathlon. I get up to pee, decide I need 15 more minutes in the warm bed, and I climb back in and snuggle with the husband and dog. Then I get up to go.
Because I chose a small, local event for my first triathlon in two years and my first race in 10 months, I get to park close to the transition area. So close, I can go use the port-a-potty—success, in case you were wondering—and then walk back to my car, extract my bike and my wetsuit and all the other gear I need for this triathlon I get to do. I get in a little bit of a tiff with a guy who doesn't like how I set up my transition area—my stuff is too close to his, apparently—so I walk away instead of getting myself too worked up about it.
I get to make those kind of decisions on race day.
In the 62-degree water—trying to focus on the fact the chilliness makes me feel alive—I decide I'm going to lean into the burn going on in my legs as my little school of pink-capped fish takes off for the first buoy. I could take my foot off the gas pedal and slow down, but doing so will create limb-to-limb combat as I fall to the back of the pack. Plus, I get to swim the whole 1,500 meters today anyway, no matter what speed I go. My legs get to keep kicking hard.
Orange buoy on my right. Another orange buoy on my right. Take ten strokes before I sight again. Ok, seven. Green buoy on my left? How did that happen? Reorient myself and take five strokes before I sight again. Five, five, seven, seven, green buoy on my right. Face is freezing, toes aren't much better, not sure I'll be able to shift gears on my bike with my cold hand.
I get to do this.
One more green buoy, breaststroke around it, then head home. Find another pink cap swimming roughly my speed, and ride in her bubbles like I'm surfing. Pretend like I'm swimming downhill. Act like this is no effort at all. Let her carry me. I get to be in a race where somebody does the work for me: How cool is that?
I also get to be in a race where, if I lie down on the pavement after the swim, a really nice volunteer will strip off my wetsuit. That is beyond cool.
Get on Lyle, my bike, who hasn't raced in two years. He definitely hasn't climbed up any hills recently like the ones in this triathlon I get to do. Put him into a fairly easy gear and spin, spin up the hills. Then shift up, and mash, mash down the hills. Go 36.6 mph down one hill, and wish that I could go 40. While climbing, pass two riders pulling people (one child, one adult) with special needs in their trailers. They've already pulled them on a raft in the swim, and will push them in strollers during the run. "Great job," I pant to all of them.
Holy cow. I get to do this.
I get to be out here, on smooth pavement, looking at Colorado exactly as She should be: blue and green and white-capped and crisp. I get to be out here with legs that can hum and lungs that can breathe and eyes that can see and a mind that is doing its very, very best to be positive and grateful. I get to do this.
An unexpected friend appears to cheer me on and I'm teary with appreciation on what I thought would be a solo morning. "I'm, like, not trying to be rude Mom," my daughter said the previous night, "But going to races is really boring." Roger that. I get it. Except when you're like me this morning, and you get to do a triathlon.
Then the run on a still-healing foot that doesn't always cooperate. The run out starts out surprisingly easy and pain-free, and I decide I will stick with my planned 9 minute run/1 minute walk intervals. The first one is cake. 10 minutes done, 1 mile done. The second one, still ok. I'm one third through the run! This will be over in no time! Third mile, well...huh. Rat farts. Foot is burning and f**k, this is hard. My legs are fried.
I get to do this. I.get.to.do.this. Igettodothis.
Start counting my steps as I head towards the mile 4 marker. 25, 43, 60, 70, count from 61 to 70 again to stretch out the 100—110, really—and get closer to the 9-minute mark. Back creaks, steps shorten, foot yells, nobody is around. Nobody will know if I walk prematurely. All the speedies have passed me, and I have no idea where anybody else is. Too much energy to turn around to check.
But no. I get to not let myself off the hook. Get to 100, and get to start counting again. And again. And again.
Get close enough to the finish line that I can hear the announcer. Then I get to run this way and that, up hills and down, back out and in every direction but directly towards the line. I get to do this. This frustrating, exhausting thing that has me wincing and wondering why I even care and wanting so.very.bad to just walk.
My whole life, I see the holes before I see the whole. I anticipate what will go wrong, instead of relish in what has already gone—and will go—right. I plan for bad moods, bad days, bad races, bad months. Probably don't have to tell you that's not the most seamless or smart way to live. I'll never be a pathological optimist like Sarah (bless her!), but I am making a conscious effort to turn my mental barge slowly in a more positive direction.
So on a gorgeous Sunday morning, even though I've been on the travel-too-much/sleep poorly/never swim training plan, I grab the wheel of that barge and head straight for I-get-to.
Every time I started to go in my normal negative direction, I diverted myself. My brand new goggles are perfect! I'm surfing behind this swimmer and she doesn't even know it! I'm back racing on Lyle! And Grant cleaned him and gave him a new back tire and his gears are smooth as silk! I love to ride my bicycle! I'm running a freakin' 10K! I passed a few people at the end! I hung in for the full 9/1 pattern!
Thinking in exclamation points is not my M.O., but if you're trying to turn a barge, you've got to pull out all your (!!!) tools.
Most of all, I reminded myself, I don't have to do this race. I don't need to do this race. Nobody is forcing me to do this race. I chose to do this race—because I have the body, the mind, and the means to get to.
Yes, I know that ending a sentence in a preposition is crappy grammar, but I get to.
I get to. I get to. I get to.