A runner friend of mine out in Colorado told me one time after I shared that I was a little bit “afraid” of an upcoming marathon that if you are a runner and are not at least a little bit afraid before a big race you are, “either incredibly arrogant or a fool. You Joe are neither.”
The race was the 2011 Austin Marathon and it was the first time that I had the thought of running with the 3 hour pace group and making a run at a time of 2:59:59 in the marathon. I was a nervous wreck in the days leading up to the race, Dom had passed away on August 15th of the previous year, and “Austin” was my first marathon after Run for Dom. It was the race that he told me to, “go out and run the next one for you and absolutely kill it.”
The weather forecast for race day kept getting worse and worse as Sunday drew near and we woke up to 68 degree temperatures, 86% humidity and 20 mph winds on race day. The goal of a sub 3 hour marathon was quickly dismissed as I got out of the truck and walked to the starting area. I knew that I needed perfect conditions to have even the slightest chance of my A+ goal for the race, and instead I got D- weather. The butterflies were still there however when I ran my warm-up and as I tucked into the corral at the front I still had that feeling of uneasiness in my stomach. I had trained hard, was well prepared, tapered properly and I was 100% healthy. All of the things you need to have occur to give yourself a chance at running a personal best race.
I did exactly that taking 2 minutes and 42 seconds off of my Marathon PR at the time and earning our way back to Boston.
I realized after the race that morning that fear when it comes to racing is actually a good thing. It keeps you humble. Requires you to focus on the task and hand and take nothing for granted. It is not a surprise to you when things get difficult during the race – you were expecting that all along. It is at that point when you need to channel that fear into something positive and start to fight. None of this is easy. It’s in fact the “hard” that makes it great.
So with each alarm clock that sounds at 4:50 a.m. this week, we awaken one day closer to our first half-ironman.
Usually it is Thursday or Friday of race week before I start to get a nervous stomach and my anxiety level increases.
This week those feelings arrived on Tuesday morning shortly after my run wrapped up after 6 taper miles. 3 “Off” miles or recovery miles in the 8:00′s, and 3 “On” miles at 5K effort in 6:03, 5:54, 6:01.
I had hoped that a quick, confidence building run with a few miles at or under 6:00 min./mile pace would calm my nerves and let me know that I was right where I need to be from a fitness standpoint. But alas, it didn’t work. I feel very confident in my race preparation, my nutrition plan for Sunday and for my pace strategy. But I can’t help feeling nervous about the opening 1.2 mile swim, the 56 mile bike and finally a half-marathon to finish off the triathlon.
All workouts that I have done dozens and dozens of times during training individually – but never back to back to back.
Perhaps this “fear” is a good thing as my friend Lara told me a couple of years ago, I’m neither arrogant nor a fool. I know it is going to be a humbling day at times on Sunday. We are going to take our share of body blows and maybe even be forced to a knee at some point.
But it is not in the getting knocked down that makes the athlete, it is all about the getting back up. With Dawn and Landry looking on and with Dom dropping by to check in on me to keep me honest we are going to have all the motivation that we need to keep moving forward. I’m not entirely sure how many times we are going to get knocked to the ground on Sunday, but I do know how many times we are going to keep getting back up.
As many as it takes.