Feels Like the First Time
Ironman races are a funny thing. I signed up last year, slimmed down, got healthy, (mostly) stopped eating like a complete moron, did four races with mixed results (one win, one DFL), juggled training amid the stresses of starting a new job. And now here I am, on the eve of showing up at the start line to Ironman Canada for the second time. But despite the fact that I feel as prepared as I’ll ever be, it still feels like I’m racing for the first time.
Feels like the very first time!
I told Teresa exactly that when we sat down for my pre-race athlete meeting, and she laughed and asked why I’d feel that way. Racing an Ironman has an entirely different feel to it. I’ve done three half Ironman races this year, eight since I started doing triathlons in 2008. I’m healthy enough to bust one out a month during the peak of triathlon season. Yet there are only a handful of Ironman races a year, and a mere mortal like myself typically only tackles one per season (or, in my case, one every other season). So although I’ve done this exact same race in this exact same location on close to the exact same date two years ago, it kind of feels like my first Ironman all over again (even though technically it’ll be my last Ironman Canada since next year the series gets changed to Challenge Penticton under new organizers).
Sure, I sort of know what to expect this time around, and I figure that I should be faster than I was back in 2010, but it’s a long enough day and enough time has passed since I was at the start line that I’m going to have to rediscover the feeling of racing Ironman all over again. In some ways that’s a little nerve-wracking, but in other ways it’s kind of exhilarating, like being able to recapture the magic and excitement of a first kiss or rediscovering the joy of Saturday morning cartoons and a big bowl of sugary cereal when you were a kid.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bit nervous, especially as the list of friends who are planning to spectate or track me continues to grow. A prime example:
Steven “Good Steve” Hooper, after our last training ride together, in a cheery, optimistic voice: “Good luck at Ironman Canada! Wish I could come up to spectate, but I’ll be tracking you on race day!”
What I heard:
Steven “Don’t Let Me Down Or Our Friendship is Over” Hooper, in a menacing voice: “I’ll be tracking you on race day.”
And when I met with Teresa to talk about my race, she talked about getting in and out of transition as quickly as possible, pushing the descents, pushing my pace when I turn around on the run, and generally treating the day more like a “race” than last time, when my goal was more to “finish.” I of course interpreted her advice as Asian Mom levels of expectations and promptly peed myself a little bit.
But ultimately, despite my personal goals or the expectations of others, I know that everyone will be cheering for me no matter how I do. So tomorrow I’m planning to have fun, stay strong, and be thankful that I’m healthy and privileged enough to make something that is the dream of so many people a reality.
A few mantras to keep in mind on race day:
(My body tells me no / But I won’t quit / ‘Cuz I want more)
(It’s gonna be alright / We don’t even have to try / It’s always a good time)
And, of course:
(Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground / So I like to keep my issues drawn / But it’s always
darkest before the dawn)
See you soon!