If I could draw a circle around me with chalk, I said to the poet the other day, I would draw the tiniest circle that I could, and you would still be inside of it.
And then Graham would shove his butt between us, he replied.
The week leading up to ironman is a quiet time for me, I've discovered. It's not a time to be bursting with energy and socializing and tweeting a million pictures of the M-dot logo. It's definitely not a time to be using the words crush or smash or destroy. That isn't what ironman is about, not for me. So, for maybe the only time in my life, I pipe down. I spent the week leading up to Lake Placid talking quietly with my husband, having deep and peaceful conversations with good friends, reading alone, or sometimes just sitting quietly with my thoughts. I leave the iPod packed away, I let the TV shows wait, I stay off of twitter except for the occasional hit-and-run post, I give the volume button on my surroundings a good hard twist to the left.
I'm not just sitting around obsessing about the race, usually very little of what's going on in my head has anything to do with the race, or with triathlon at all. I like to write the race plan early, to cement it in my brain, and then let that go as well. I've practiced it all time and time again in training, I don't remember who said it but race day is simply the day to hit the play button and then stand back, get out of the way.
My circles have been smaller this year. I said that at the beginning, I know who's on my team and who is standing outside just waving their arms and making distracting noises. The universe has a nasty habit of helping me to be able to distinguish between those two, and ejecting people, places, and experiences from my life when they don't belong. Sometimes it ejects these things before I am ready to let them go, while I'm still saying hey, wait a minute, I'm not done trying here! In the past few months this has happened more than a few times, but perspective in the rearview mirror is fantastic, so much easier than foresight. I see that all I've been doing is drawing smaller circles on the ground. And everything, everyone left on the inside, they have only become brighter.
I was on the phone the other day with someone I'm working with in 2014 and I said something that the poet says about me all the time. I am happiest when I'm surrounded by people that are smarter than me. I don't like being the smartest person in the room, I want to fill my life with people who are painfully intelligent, unbelievably joyful, curious, bold, strong. And now it's November, almost December, at the end of a year where I said on the first day that I wanted to be different. To be okay with being imperfect, but to grow. To be challenged, stretched, it might even hurt a bit, and to fill my life with people and experiences that are awesome in the truest sense of the word. And I look around, standing in the middle of my teeny tiny circle, and I am here.
Standing at the line in Coeur d'Alene, I was looking for joy. Explosive joy, I wanted to spend as many moments as I possibly could with a smile split across my face. I found it, I had the day I wanted, I had no regrets. In Lake Placid, I wanted to suffer, to see how much I could pull out of myself. And again, I found suffering, not really all that I wanted, but it was there.
I'm not sure yet what I am looking for out of Cozumel. A two-ironman year has been a different experience than I expected. I thought the second time around would be tougher to hold my shit together but it's actually been less work than it was for Lake Placid. Mentally, maybe, the physical work is the same. I imagined that it would be tough to keep going to the pool and getting on the bike when it's freezing outside and most of my training buddies have packed it in for the winter, but instead I found that when I had to do it all alone, I was there, and I was surprised to feel strong, stronger than I thought I could be. So instead of going out looking for something in particular to find on race day, I'll go out with an open mind and heart, and I will know that inside of me I already have everything that I need.