90 hours to race day. A place we’ve been almost 100 times before.
Big races, small races, long races and short races.
International Marathons. Local 5K’s.
Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Denver, Charleston, Virginia Beach. The list goes on and on.
But this one I have to admit has me feeling as uncertain as I did back on November 19th, 2006 as we were getting ready for our first ever marathon. I remember thinking before the race that I knew what I had gotten myself into. That my training had prepared me. That once the gun went off, all of the nerves would go away and we would be fine. Surely at some point things would get challenging, but we would be able to push through and finish.
I was right in some ways. Wrong in others.
In fact, I had absolutely no idea how high the highs would lift me and how low the lows would drag me.
That race made me the runner that I would become. Without it, there are no New York City 3:o8’s or Boston Marathon Finishes X2 in my pocket.
Which brings us basically full circle getting ready for Ironman Texas.
One of the things about Ironman training is that it provides you a lot of time to think. Long swims, long bikes, long runs all done for the most part by yourself. No matter how confident an athlete you are, no matter how much work you put in or how many workouts get skipped due to illness, injury or life simply conspiring against your training – I don’t think you really “know” how it is going to turn out until you are approaching that finishing chute on the marathon. Instead you play scenarios over in your mind and hope that on race day a few of those play out in your favor.
It is what makes this type of race so life affirming and exciting.
It is also what makes it pretty darn uncomfortable at times.
I’m not going to use the word afraid, as I think that is thrown around a little too often in situations like this one.
Do I have concerns? Certainly.
Are the first 10 minutes of this race going to be one of the most uncomfortable and stressful situations as an athlete I have ever been in? Absolutely.
Packing over 2,800 athletes into a narrow lake, firing a cannon and having them all swim off to a single Buoy a mile away is not exactly a peaceful situation. There are going to be elbows flying, people are going to be swimming on top of me, pushing my feet down as I try to kick to the surface, splashing water in my face, nose and mouth as I rotate out for a breath. It is going to be a good old fashioned street fight until we can get some clear water.
I’ve worked hard on my eight 2.5 mile Open Water Swims to stay calm, fluid, concentrate on the things I can control. My strokes, my breathing and my sighting. Everything else is just background noise. I need to filter it out. Push it out of my mind. Concentrate on what I have to do and not worry about anybody else.
Saturday is going to be a long, long day. Close to 6 hours on the bike more than likely, 4 hours on the marathon course if we are fortunate and the weather cooperates. The 1 hour and 18 minute swim +/- is just a warm-up, it needs to be treated as such and I am going to try my best not to lose it out there and burn precious energy fighting over a 2’X6′ area of water.
Once we get out of the water, I am going to keep repeating my race day mantra.
Move with a sense or purpose.
Act with a sense of urgency.
Keep moving forward.
The Bike course will prove to be much flatter than anything we have trained on. That is a fact. 1,100 feet of elevation change spread over 112 miles is 1/2 as hilly as our 50 mile route that we train on. The hills should not be an issue.
The wind however will most certainly be. By the time we make the turn “for home” at the top of the bike course, 55 miles in, we are going to have head winds and cross winds to deal with for the next 40+ miles. Somewhere in the 10-15 mph range. Not good.
The wind can really sap your energy, but it also can break your spirit. You pedal furiously and watch your speed drop from a comfortable 20-22 mph down to 14.5 and there is no escaping it. The only way through it is to keep moving forward.
I am going to use that time to focus on our nutrition, drinking every :10 minutes, sports beans every :30 minutes, salt tablets every :45 minutes, stinger waffle every hour. If we keep up that pace we should be taking in around 320 calories per hour and be right where we want to be coming off of the bike. Barring a flat tire, something mechanical or some sort of injury/soreness – we should get off our QR CD.01 around the 5:45-5:50 mark.
Then it is marathon time.
9’s off of the bike, 8:45’s as long as we can keep ticking them off (I’m betting about 15 of them) and then someone is going to throw a bagful of hammers on our back. I know it is going to happen, it is a matter of when not if. High 80 degree temperatures, dripping wet, feet sloshing, blisters likely, muscles in full-on revolt.
Keep moving forward.
I’ve always been big on visualization during the final stages of the marathon. Imagine yourself making the last turn, entering the chute, seeing the finish line bounce into view, pick out faces in the crowd, thank them for being there to root the athletes home. Try to spot Dawn, now Dawn and Landry. Imagine how great it is going to feel to be able to stop.
Only this time there will be an extra boost as we approach the finish line, the words of Mike Riley calling out, “Joe Marruchella, You. Are. An. Ironman”.
Just like the pain that is going to come during the marathon. It is not a question of if. Only when.
On to Houston.