When I was out in Colorado visiting, we spent Friday night eating and talking about a lot of things, in particular racing. And Michelle said something that has really stuck with me this past month. She told me how, a few years ago, she had been struggling to execute on race day despite being really ridiculously fit and all the while she was talking, bells were going off in my head. The magic puzzle piece, the sprinkle of fairy dust, the lesson that she finally learned was to get out of her own way. That's what has been going around and around in my head, that was repeated to me over and over by Sonja in her response to my race plan, and if I had one goal for this race, it would be that. To stay out of the way, out of my OWN way, and just let my body do.
I do understand that fitness doesn't equal speed. I don't believe in race day magic, I don't think that my body can lay down my 5K race pace for 13.1 miles at the end of a hot and hilly day. But I also believe that I have yet to truly race this distance. I feel like I've never attempted it before, not like this, I feel like it's brand-new. And the best decision I can make is to have no expectations for time on this race. Not even secret ones inside my head that no one knows about. I have none. I want to give my fitness the chance to show me honestly where I am right now, and if I'm trying to squash that into a time-goal-box, I'm not letting my free flag fly.
I think about all those races I ran last year, especially the ones that I was hugely disappointed by, and all they did was light a slow fire. I've done a lot of training in the past six months leading up to this day, but the biggest training I've done hasn't been while swimming, biking, or running. It's been done in my head. It's been learning how to quiet the voices, to silence the noise, to not care what this person or that person is doing. I have done my own work. I have started to learn how to focus, how to pop up the blinders and slam down the earmuffs. For the most part I have been consistent about my own work, I don't think it is lying to say that I have been consistent with nutrition and recovery and going easy and going hard and giving myself every single opportunity I can to fine-tune my fitness. I have not been perfect, but I'm hoping it's honest to say that I have been dedicated.
So here is what I know. Here is what I will not apologize for. (A lot of this I am stealing from Sonja but hopefully she won't mind):
I am a good swimmer. I am a fast swimmer. I am fucking legit and I belong at the front of the pack. I will swim as aggressively as I know how. I have never done this before, I have never hurt on the swim, but it's time to get over those thoughts. I will fight to protect the fast feet that I jump on, I will not give myself the time or head space to worry about what I am doing, I will breathe hard and blow bubbles and chase chase chase. I will swim. Hard.
I am a strong cyclist. These thighs aren't just for decoration. This ass is powerful indeed. I will ride steady and tough and whatever that turns my time into at the end of the day is whatever it will be. I will let my brains run the bike, I will eat and drink like clockwork and I will focus on holding things constant and hard. I want the bike to feel like the sound the engine makes when you really should have shifted up to third gear 100 rpms ago, like I am riding the sharp knife edge of what is acceptable for the distance, like it is almost-but-just-a-hair not too hard, breathless.
I know how to run. There is so much emotion wrapped up in running for me, and I need to leave every single bit of it behind in transition. I will not be afraid of the numbers I see on my watch. I will not be afraid to really hurt because I know that I will not die out there. I will hold the pedal down as hard as I know how and do everything I can to keep my brain quiet. I will let my heart take over on the run, I will make the choice to hurt hard and dig my heels in the ground and go. I will be tough, no matter what happens it will be tough, but I will put my nose down and grind it and push all the noise away from my ears and focus. I am ready to hurt on the run.