I'm taking the fourth crack at racing 70.3 miles, and I'm hoping that this will be the time that I finally can release my demons of this distance into the past. Looking back at my first three attempts, I've walked the back five miles of the run after coming back from injury way too quickly, I've crashed my bike and I've puked for an entire half marathon. Worse than what the clock has said, I've had two pretty rough and unhappy days as an athlete through these miles, and that is the history that I would really like to just wash away.
I think that a lot of my mental problems stemmed from a significant amount of pressure I was putting on myself, and I've done everything I can to let the pressure just simmer down this round. For one, I will be racing this distance twice this fall, which means that while I do have goals for this race, if I don't meet them I'll be excited to troubleshoot and try again a month later instead of being pissed that I won't get another jump at it until the spring. I also pretty seriously considered not talking about the race or my goals here, because I feel like talking about these things in a public forum adds pressure. But the flip side of that is, talking about my life in a public forum, no matter how dull the topic, is how I roll. And if I'm going to force you to read blog posts on granola bars and look at eight million pictures of my dogs, not to mention my ass, then I sure am going to reward you with a goals post so you can scramble to your google chat with mean-spirited glee when I fall on my face and fail to meet any of them Sunday morning.
So let's start by talking some numbers.
Swim, 1.2 miles
In my three races, I've shown steady and solid improvement on the swim at each race (spoiler: this is the only leg where this occurs). 38:43, 36:06, and 33:46. But the swim is also the one place where it's hard to make time goals, because you never know how far you're going to have to run out of the water until you hit the timing mat or if the guy dropping the buoys is drunk or asleep or just in a pissy mood. So while I think I'm in shape to whack another serious hunk of time off of this distance, I'm not going to be mad if I don't due to factors having nothing to do with how quickly I move through the water. At Knoxville I was the fifteenth woman out of the water, fifth in my AG. Not having any clue at all about who is showing up to race, my goal is to be one of the first ten women out of the lake. I'm going to try to make this happen by not freaking the fuck out the first thirty seconds of the race, going out too fast, having a heart attack and breaststroking for five minutes until I've calmed down. Instead, I'm going to try and find some feet, swim strong but not at the redline, and flip over zero times to bring my panicking heart rate under 200. Hopefully the entire cast of Stanford swim team alumni won't be in Ohio this weekend to beat the living crap out of me in the water.
Bike, 56 miles
My first 70.3 race was the Kinetic Half, which has a magical bike course and still holds my PR of 3:05:48. The crash at Waterman's resulted in a 3:18:21 and the trying-not-to-shit-my-pants at Knoxville resulted in a 3:13:01. I was pretty happy at Druid Hill to roll in on the fastest female bike split of the day, but I am very pointedly NOT trying to do this on Sunday. The last thing I want to do is bike a 2:35 and then walk the back half of the run. However, the time has come and gone for me to break 3 hours, so that's all I want to do. Do I think that I can bike 56 miles at a much faster average speed than 18.7mph? Absolutely. Do I want to try and find out how hard I can hammer through those miles this weekend? Absolutely not. I'd be thrilled with a 2:59:59. Anything else will just be unicorn poop to roll around in.
Other than that, not much to think about on the bike. My nutrition is so ingrained that I don't even notice it happening anymore, and I feel pretty confident that I know what half-IM effort feels like in my legs. I've got a heart rate window, but I'm not going to nail myself to it. Instead, I'm going to check in every so often to make sure that I'm not overriding and spend the rest of the ride with my nose down, pushing the pedals around and around, emptying my head over and over and getting ready to really hurt on the run.
Run, 13.1 miles
Even I am weary of talking about this leg of this distance, my GOD I am tired of these numbers. The fastest I've ever run this distance off the bike is 2:26:55, also at Kinetic. Severely undertrained and walking the better part of the last five miles still gave me a better run split than stomping my angry little feet around Maryland (2:35:58) and puking through Tennessee (2:47:12, and looking it up for this post was the first time I knew either of those last two times). My stand-alone PR was almost a year ago in Philadelphia in a really poorly-executed attempt to race my brains out (2:01:02). I am terrified of how much it is going to hurt, I'm scared to even think about what it is going to feel like, but I am going after that PR. And the only way I'm going to be ready to hurt that hard is to not think about it at all between now and then, so that is ALL I really have to say about that.
I've done the math - and you can too! - so I know what a perfect day would look like, but I only sorta kinda care about what the total clock time looks like when I cross the finish line. I also know that even if I have the greatest day of my triathlon life, I'm not setting world records or getting on any podiums, so you probably should have stopped reading a long time ago if you think I'm that kind of athlete. Because I'm not. I'm the kind of athlete who loves the crap out of this sport and just wants to keep figuring out how to do it a little faster, a little smarter, with a little more joy in the day. I've been able to find that joy quite a few times already this season, and I'm ready to take on what is for me a scary distance with some scary goals. And if I don't PR every leg like I want to, I will try pretty hard to not stomp around being pissed about it. Because in the end, I get to wake up and spend my day racing, and waiting for me at the finish line is my fantastic and mostly-furry family. Who will love me even if I fall down, even if I crash, even if I make mistakes and fail to crush the living shit out of these miles yet again. I'll try and remember two years ago, when this same weekend I decided to have surgery because I couldn't stand not being able to run for longer than 25 seconds one more day. Or three years ago, when I was getting ready to go to court to finalize my divorce, or four years ago when I was 45lbs heavier than I am right now, trapped in an unhappy marriage with no idea how to get out. I'll try to remember all those things, and I'll try to find joy in the moments I can, because in remembering the story of my life, it will never, ever matter what my half-ironman PR is. It will matter that I was happy, and lucky, and loved.