Last night at dinner, with a few of my best girlfriends, we started talking about race day. A little, not really specifics, but about the ins and outs of the day. And it led to a discussion of what we are afraid of, this time around. We all had very different days at our first shot at ironman, and we all fear different things out of number two.
I know what I want and I know what I am afraid of on race day. I can guess at what a perfect day might look like, but the thing about ironman is, you rarely have a perfect day. Because what everyone says, when they are striding about with their shaved legs and their 3% body fat postulating with wisdom to an eager audience of newbies, is actually true: anything can happen. You can get a broken nose, you can trip running into T1, your helmet buckle can break, you can flat, you can pop a spoke, you can break a chain, you can flat some more, you can eat too much, you can eat too little, you can puke, you can chafe and sunburn and bleed and shit and cry. Ironman strips you of any dignity you think you might possess; ironman levels the field between the young, old, fast, slow, cocky, humble; ironman is one of the rare opportunities where you get to find answers to the questions that plague you when you can't sleep at night.
I am at peace. This year has brought me a lot of peace. A lot of big changes in my life, but as the dust has settled, I've realized that my life, as an entity, is heading exactly in the direction that I would like it to go. I have seen growth in myself this year, I have struggled and fallen and made mistakes, I have experienced my own small victories, I have failed, I have fought for the finish and found acceptance. And my mind, right now, the day before, it is quiet. I am silently gathering the ammunition I will need to survive 140.6 miles, and I am hopeful that what I have is enough. That I, alone, am enough.
I am curious. I've done this once now, and I've put in a year of physical and mental training, and I wonder what my day will look like with that in my pocket. Will it look the same? Will I be asking the same questions and troubleshooting the same problems I was a year ago? Or have I changed in ways that I don't even realize, will my day be different because of the year I've lived, loved, lost, found, fought?
I am afraid. I think - no, I KNOW - that it is okay to admit the fear I'm feeling, not acknowledging it isn't going to make it magically disappear. Fear is healthy, fear is humbling, fear is telling me that I am taking a risk, that there is something to lose, that I am reaching, stretching, grasping higher, further, faster. I am afraid of looking into the mirror that ironman will hold up in front of my face tomorrow. I'm afraid of what I will see in myself, I'm afraid that I am not the athlete I would like to believe that I am, I'm afraid of the truths I will discover. I am afraid that I am holding too much peace and will not be able to GPS locate my desire to fight.
I am afraid that he is wrong, and that the suffering will, in fact, be worse than the fear itself.
I don't know. I don't know the answers to those questions, but I do know that there is only one way to find out. To stand on the line. To go from the gun, be steady be happy be unwavering be focused be joyful be humble be smart be unrelenting. To bend down and pick up the edge of the rock and heave it over with a cry that will raise the hair on the back of your neck, to face all the ugly things that I am sure will coming pouring out the other side of my mind, to stand tall and to look myself straight in the heart, whatever it is that I may be. To walk calmly, peacefully, directly into the fire, to go in search of my dreams.