Saturday, April 14, 2007

tensions and thoughts: race week, days 6-7

the past 2 days have been by turns a flurry of frenetic activity and moments of supreme boredom. i suppose it's just the nature of sharing accommodations with other race participants--we're all on the same schedule (in terms of having to get prepped for the race), but we're also not (in terms of when we sleep, wake up, and personal habits). it's been fun, somewhat tiring, most definitely nerve-wracking, and now supremely tense.

one saving grace is that the winds appear to have abated. they're mostly gone. at least, now they're just intermittently 15-30 mph, which is a whole lot better than the sustained 50-60 mph of thursday. of course, it's gotten much warmer. but in the desert you have 1 or the other: wind or heat, you can't avoid both. given the choice, i'd rather have heat than wind.

most people would agree; there's nothing more demoralizing than high winds. just trust me on this. there is no suffering like pedaling into a headwind with all-out maximum effort, and seeing yourself only managing 5 mph. it's enough to make a person agnostic.

we'll see. the forecast is for temps in the low 80s, with light wind.

we're telling ourselves positive thoughts. positive thoughts. that's the motto this time: positive thoughts. fresh legs. positive thoughts.

no matter how bad things are, positive thoughts.

no matter how hard things get. positive thoughts.

no matter how we’re feeling. positive thoughts.

will it make a difference? who knows.

but that’s being negative.

we’re going for good karma. good vibes. the welcome mat for good wishes. and luck. good luck. lots and lots of good luck.

remember: positive thoughts.

day 6

friday was spent doing the obligatory shopping trip for Ironman merchandise at the pre-race expo, and getting into race check-in to get our packets.

for those who don't know, Ironman race check-in and packets are a little different from other triathlons. the check-in has the usual assortment of waiver forms, picture ID confirmation, and goody bags. but for Ironman there is the added step of weigh-in (so in the event you need them, medical attendants can determine your actual weight for judging potential cases of hyponitremia, electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, etc.). the packets are also different, with a healthy dose of plastic bags marked with clearly marked titles (swim-to-bike bag, bike-to-run bag, bike special needs bag, run special needs bag, and morning clothes bag). there's also a greater number of race number stickers relative to other races.

we also made the decision to go out and get professional massages to soothe our muscles for race least, that's the theory. i've never had one, and this was my first. i'll say it was nice, but will withold judgement as to its value until after race day.

the rest of the time was spent taking inventory of equipment and supplies, and then making excursions to the bike shop and grocery stores to load up on missing nutrition, equipment, etc.

day 7

today was bike check-in and transition bag drop-off. Ironman races have very clear, demarcated, and time-tested procedures for transition: competitor equipment is kept in bags identified with each competitor's race number; competitors never grab their own bags in transition, but instead wait for volunteers to deliver their bags to them (including the bike); there is a transition bag for swim-to-bike and then another one for bike-to-run. bikes are checked in the day before the race and left overnight in the transition area.

we also spent a good chunk of the day prepping the special needs bags. these are bags that competitors are allowed to access on the race course for emergency rations and equipment. there is 1 bag at mile 60 of the bike and another at mile 13 of the run. you don't have to use them, but almost everyone does--because you just never know when you'll find yourself in dire need of food, liquid, a spare bike tube, extra sunscreen, fresh socks, or an emotionally rewarding memento to lift your spirits and get you going to the finish.

i also took the liberty today of shaving down. it's time. i shaved everything. my head, my arms, my chest, my legs. everything. not that it will make a difference. but i figure it's a mental thing to get me into race attitude, and maybe the sensation of feeling smooth and sleek and tingly and tight really might, just might, translate into a faster time.

right now, as a competitor, you'll do anything to help with race day. because when you're at mile 125, and the sun is set and the sky is dark, and you're all alone trudging through the night with another 13 miles to go, you'll call out for any aid that might be out there in the wilderness, and you won't care how little it might be. because anything will make a difference. and you'll take anything.

we were originally meant to meet up with some other alumni for lunch, but our schedules were so incompatible, and we all were moving so slowly, that we ended up canceling lunch and making do with promises to see each other on the race course.

apart from that, it's just been rest and mellow time.

we got a little goofy from pre-race stress and spent a wasted hour pasting temporary tattoos on random parts of our bodies. don't ask why. it just seemed like a good idea.

i think we're all feeling it. the pre-race jitters. when you're on the eve of a major event, and you know at this time tomorrow you will be in the thick of it, and quite possibly suffering more than you ever thought possible.

the anxiety level goes up the closer you get to the race. everyone starts to zone out into moments of quiet solitude, taking their time to deal with the tension, lost in their own thoughts. not that it helps. but it does in a way. sorting out the emotions and motivations and worries and uncertainties and contigencies that may befall you on the way, and trying to accept that none of it--the thoughts, the worries, the equipment, the nutrition--might make any difference at all.

and so we go to sleep praying to our gods, our last recourse for the afflictions we cannot know that may be yet to come.

tomorrow is race day.

the only day.

a single day.

but for us, everything.

and we'll see each other on the other side.

1 comment:

Robin said...

Glad to hear the winds and temperatures will be cooperative. All the best out there on the course, an amazing day for you!