Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Night before the Race

I read the colors of which bag goes where a thousand times... checking over and over.  Blue is bike, red  run, yellow bike special needs, green bike special needs, the colors are burned into my mind.  I think I packed every bag a hundred times.  At this point though, all the nerves are gone, nothing can happen that will change the outcome at all.  Everything has happened exactly as it was meant to and tomorrow will be no different.  The worry stopes, the nerves calm, I think i might even be able to sleep.

My brain almost refuses to accept the fact that the day has come, that tomorrow is the day of the race.  It doesn't feel real.  My life feels like a dream at this point.  I can see the anticipation and excitement on the faces of everyone around me, it's all anyone can talk about.  The hotel's across the island are chock full with the ironman contestants, more cardio fitness packed into one island than ever before, since the last ironman.  I talk to people who have done five before, three before.  I talk to people who have never done a full ironman, but they have done multiple half's and have trained for years.  I talk to a precious few who did the unthinkable and trained for an ironman in just a year, all of which have a history of physical endurance racing.  I've thought and rethought my plans, strategies, and backup plans a million times, there's nothing left to think about.  The only thing left to do is visualize.

I went for the practice swim today, felt the waves, tasted the salt... I like salt... it makes me feel like I can fly.  Some of the other contestants are talking about a strong current during the swim.  I can imagine the water on my face, the motions of the swim.   I have swam miles and miles and miles preparing for this race...  I feel good about the swim

Transition one: get out of the water, supposed to be showers there somewhere, take your time.  What if I forget, can't think that way.  Go over the blue.. no .. yeah blue bag...  Shoes, equipment, water, nutrition.  What goes in which pocket...  Bike helmet, make sure it's buckled, don't get on too soon... Find my wife... I like her... give her a kiss, then ride away.

I can feel the wind on my face from the few practice races I have done here in Cozumel.  The pedals feel good under my feet.  I love the feeling of peddling, makes me feel fast.  The surging muscles in my legs are almost in slow motion in my mind... The course fly's by in my mind as I imagine the road... three loops.  I have been thinking of the crosswinds for months... other people are worried too, but the forcast is for low winds and a cool day... what will be will be... think about transition 2.

off the bike by 4, just get off the bike by 4 no matter what!  change my socks, put on sneakers.  I remember the practice run.  Felt heavy, slow, lumbering... like I was made of rock.  I hope it dosn't feel like that tomorrow... I really don't like running, but I like the way the road feels, the stride.  Feels like i could go forever, just moving.  Farthest i've ever ran so far is 16 miles, and that was very rough.  Worried about my knee, stupid IT band... i've done all I can do, as long as I've off the bike by 4 I will be ok.

I am not worried, but excited, so very excited.  I can feel my heart pounding, slowly, as I visualize each moment of the day to come.  So aware of the events that will follow, feeling the swim, feeling the bike.  Cant wait for it to be over.  will this really be worth it?  I hope everything will be ok... but deep, down I know God will take care of it somehow.  At the end of the day I know, making a move like this requires just two things... Faith, and Determination.  I've done the work, I've put in the hours.  I have a plan I will not fail.

I fall asleep without any hesitations.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Flying to Cozumel

I am sitting in the airport, or flying on a plane, on my way to Cozumel, Mexico to actually race in the IronMan.  I am writing this blog while traveling, so I don't' know when i'll be able to upload it.  I can't believe the day has come, that it is actually three days away and really happening.  Even though I've visualized it a million times and practiced for it for the last 6 months almost every day, it's still hard to believe it's here.

The nerves feel the same as if I were 10 years old going out for my piano recitals again, or about to go through my exit exams for Engineering, about to speak in front of more than a hundred men for the first time.  It's not really fear, that comes over you, more like you become more aware of things.  You start to visualize things that you had never thought of before.  Scenario's and possibilities start racing through your head.  The advice of so many people, trainers, partners, friends and family race through your mind.  You start to think of all the people you would let down if you failed, but instantly shut those thoughts down because they are the enemy.  On Sunday, the contest will be between me and the road, me and the water.  But today the contest is happening between my ears.  I have to control what I allow my mind to visualize, because your mind does not know the difference between reality, and what you visualize.  If you tell yourself not to miss the ball, you'll miss it.  So you have to tell yourself to hit it.

The truly amazing thing is that our minds are capable of visualizing things we have never experienced.  Situations and circumstances we have never gone through.  I can actually see myself climbing those blue stairs after the swim, feel the salt water in my mouth and on my skin, though I have never done these things yet.  My mind will execute them when the time comes according to the dominant thought in my head leading up to it.  It's easy to stay positive when your surrounded by people that believe in you.  And in this modern age of Facebook and social media, it's easy to be 'surrounded' by people that believe in you.  I am sure that the people who encouraged me and thought well enough of me to tell me they were watching will be the thing that carries me through.

After all, once you've told the whole world you're going to do something… well, you just have to do it.  Time for me to go 140.6 miles... because 140.7 would just be insane...

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Best Laid Plans...

We are officially less than two weeks away from the ironman, and basically I have two feelings; great and terrible.  As the event approaches, and my head has more time to work, I start imagining every possible outcome, from stubbing my toe on a buoy line, getting elbo-KO'd in the water, breaking my collar bone in a bike accident (Seriously Harriet, you are an all-star), even cardiac arrest during the race!    All manner of things has happened in the past during IronMan races, and my imagination is powerful enough to fill in the gaps, wherever they may be, for the freak accidents that haven't happened yet!  I think each and every one of us is guilty of being our own worst cheerleader.  The things I have thought in my mind make the rest of the events in my life seem mundane and simple, but the battle between the ears is where the battle in the real world is won or lost.  I even daydreamed once that I had been abducted by aliens 3 feet from the finish line and they wouldn't let me go!  Seriously!  but before you think of me as a total loon, think of the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone.  I don't mean a baby little toe outside, I mean one big giant double footed LEAP outside your comfort zone!  And it's not just an internal battle that get's your head going in the wrong direction either, sometimes real issues can pop up, and have to be dealt with and accounted for.  If you're head is in the wrong place then those issues that may just be mole-hills can seem like mountains, and the mountains can seem like planets!

The plan from day zero, for my IronMan, was to train on one bike that I had borrowed from a buddy, and then before the race exchange bikes for a really nice time trial bike I would borrow from a buddy (I know, cheap right?)  Well, a couple days ago, I found out that I wouldn't be able to get this sweet honey of a race bike, it wouldn't get here in time.  and so naturally I paniked!!  Oh crap I don't have a bike!  the training bike is falling appart, I'll never finish, this is a disaster, how could God have let this happen!!!  And once the malstrom of evil thoughts and horrible feelings was done rampaging my carefully thought out plan, I calmed down and did a little thinking.  I called a few buddies of mine, who are both IronMen and super biker people (Patty and Brian, rockstars the both) and they downloaded some wisdom.

The truth is, it would be a really bad idea to change bikes this late in the game anyway, with the race less than 2 weeks away.  My wife has been telling me to use the training bike in the race for months now, I tell you I should listen to her more often.  Turns out it would be a bad idea to change bikes even a month away from a competition like this... but the bike makes me faster, i need the extra time so I can have it easier during the run, I thought to myself.  Not true.  Sometimes the lies you say to yourself, the fibs you let yourself believe are just little trifle harmless things.  But they are designed and laid out in an almost calculating way, so that at the right time they can all pounce on you at once, like springing a trap.  See all the pieces of a trap are totally harmless by themselves, just like the little fibs in our heads, but when they come together, you've got a deadly combo.

When you ride a bike, for long periods of time, the muscles and ligaments get used to moving in a certain way, pulling and thrusting with a certain force, and in a specific direction.  They maximize their ability to ride THAT bike in THAT way.  once this pattern has been started, riding on the same bike with the same setup only strengthens the groove.  Until even a tiny adjustment in the bike, like a seat hight change or seat angle change, can seriously degrade performance and even cause injury, numbness, cramps, or worse.  This is what I found out after I was done throwing my little tantrum that I wouldn't have the bike I had told myself I needed.  Good thing too!  If i had changed bikes this late in the game I would be opening the door and inviting in all sorts of problems that I didn't even know where lurking there!

The moral of this story, and the truth about the way the world works, is that we all have somebody looking out for us.  He want's whats best for us and cares about us deeply.  when I started this IronMan, I invited Him in to help me out, to carry me through!  Truth be told, to this day, i am still not sure if the IM was His idea or mine!  But when you ask for help, you usually get it.  My wife was ready to drive her butt, with our twin daughters, all the way to Chicago to pick up the bike if I had asked her to, Brian and Patty both took my call and talked me off a cliff.  Vanessa has always been there, most people are willing and able and will jump at the opportunity to do a good thing for their fellow man, and we are made in the image of God!  How much more do you think HE is willing and able and ready to jump at the opportunity to do a good thing!?  and he did just that for me with the bike.  Although at first I was quite angry about it, once we calm down and let wisdom into our lives, we learn the truth about things and usually, we see providence rather than chance, opportunity rather than opposition.  Because that's the truth.

Honestly, the whole experience, and the experience of our lives, on a daily basis, would be much smoother and more enjoyable and amazing, if we would all just take a deep breath, and have a little more faith in God.  For everybody who is experiencing something a little different than they had hoped, just remember... He is out there, and he cares, and he is willing and able to help.  He is usually just waiting for an invitation.