I'm not someone who likes change, who embraces it. I like the safety of a routine, of creating a schedule, of knowing exactly what is coming and when. But I have changed. I look at myself a year ago, at a silly girl fussing with shoes and yogurt and mph averages, fussing fussing fussing. Always comparing myself to everyone around me, never coming up good enough, strong enough, fast enough. It's been such a process, training for this race, and so much of it hasn't been about the swimming, biking, or running. It's been a process of working on my mind, my life. Figuring out how to be more accepting of who I am right now. Figuring out how to identify the things in my life that are (and likewise, are not) important, because those are the things that are still here. The things that matter. And a lot of the rest has just fallen away.
I almost don't want to talk about how I'm feeling right now (but I'm going to, obviously, so sit down). I definitely don't want to talk about my training and what I did on which day for how long and with how many pops at race pace. I don't want to chat about nutrition or who is wearing which helmet and why. The time for all of that has passed. I am tapering, I am recovering, I am letting my body heal from the mother of all destruction. And just like my muscles are knitting back together, just like my glycogen stores are filling, are plumping with water and turbo fuel, so is my mind. I'm coming out of hell, and it feels so peaceful.
I remember feeling this way, sitting on the plane coming back from Colorado in April. I felt like I had put the tip of one finger on the way I wanted my life to be, and then a bomb was dropped on it later that week and it all blew out the window. Now it's here again, and I want to hang onto it. It's so easy to look back on my life and see the happiest moments - to see those times where I was in balance: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual balance. And there was never perfection in these moments, but there was joy. I feel like I'm there now. My life is not perfect. But I feel like the way forward from here is so clear.
Other times in taper, I've experimented with restriction and with carb-loading and with shoes and clothes and all kinds of things. I'm not disrupting my life with any of that this time around, I'm keeping the peace. I'm continuing to eat the way I've been eating for months. I'm continuing to drink the same fuel out of the same water bottles. To swim in the same suits, to run in the same shoes. And other times, in taper, I've gone out and spent time with friends again, I've been social and remembered what my life was like before peak training stole every minute of every day. This time around, I don't feel that pull. I feel the pull to do it in July, I am already planning the raging party which will probably only be one of many, many celebrations, but between now and the race, I want to save that energy. I want to store it all up for June 24th.
I've been making it a taper project to either re-read or finish for the first time several books I've started since December. Some of them were recommended by Sonja as good mental training and some I've just picked up along the way. During peak training, all I could deal with was trash with a hot pink cover for 10 minutes before I went to bed. I didn't even want to think about the sport for one more second. Now that I'm a week into taper, there is nothing better to do with my time than read. I'm trying to absorb it all. I finished Chrissie's book, Macca's book, Mark Allen's hippie crunchy Zen book. The yellow book. The grey book with all the visualization crap in it. All of them. I've been pulling bits and pieces out of everything, letting it all marinate in my head. Planting seeds.
When I think back through other training cycles, there have always been more races lined up after an A race. More steps down the road, the path forward has been already laid. The fact that I haven't done that this time, that right now life after ironman is a blank space, has an interesting twist on my mindset. I can't think of a time in my life when I've been so singularly focused on one event. On the one hand, this isn't the high point for triathlon in my life. There will always be more races, and the only thing I am certain about going into this race is that it will not be perfect. I'm sure that little things will happen throughout race day, my shoe will come untied, I'll flat on the bike, I'll rip my wetsuit again, whatever. On the other hand, I know that physically, my body is as ready as it can be. In the past six months, I can only think of 3-4 workouts that I've flat-out skipped. A handful more that I've completed not in the spirit of the session. But in general, I've been a mule pulling a cart around. I do not feel concerned about my physical ability to complete the race, and because of that, I don't want to waste my day worrying about paces or numbers or other athletes or the time on the clock. There will be time for that, in the future, there will be other races to chase all of that. But this is it. I only have one chance to race this distance for the first time. When I think back on some of the great races of my life, they have nothing to do with time. Overcoming adversity, allowing myself to be joyful, being surrounded by love and friends - those are the races I will be thinking about when I'm standing at the starting line, and you can be sure of it, I know better than most that there are no second chances.
The tuck in, before the push.