Less than a week to Vineman, and it’s really here, it’s really happening. Nine months of slaying fear dragons and getting knocked about, and here we are. It’s strange when you’re training for something for that long. It feels like you’re just going to be in “training mode” forever and that, somehow, the actual day of reckoning will never arrive, but will simply loom, mirage-like, on the horizon. Now the illusion is materializing, and, with it, of course, comes a windfall of hard realities.
My anxieties over my bike time have always hovered in the background, as I have watched my teammates become amazing athletes and cyclists, and I’ve stayed lagging behind, repeating Teddy Roosevelt’s words, “Comparison is the thief of joy” in my head as my mantra. Now I have to face the hard edge of truth, that, I’ll have little margin for error on that bike. Come hell or high water, I have to push, push, push, through pain, through tears, through any random curveball that comes my way.
Last weekend, Coach Jason told me to “keep moving forward”, no matter what. Even if I do face dire challenges that put me in the position of not being able to make that bike cutoff. “Don’t stop until they come sweep you off the course,” Jason advised.
So many of my coaches and friends have told me that they key to accomplishing what I want to accomplish on that bike course lies in my own tangled brain. I should believe, with my whole heart, that I can finish this bike leg, that I can make the cut off. So, when all else fails, I must arm myself with facts:
1) I have been training all season long for this race. I have the strength and endurance within me.
2) I know that I can finish 100 miles in 7.5 hours WITH lots of long stops, so there is no reason to believe that I cannot finish 112 miles in 8.5-9 hours.
3) Race day will provide lots of motivation and adrenaline, and Vineman is a beautiful bike route to provide distractions.
4) I cannot gauge my performance based on what happened at Vineman Training Weekend. Besides the temp climbing to 104 degrees F, my Accelerade did not absorb, causing me to bonk early on. Note: Prior to bonking, I was making good time out on the course.
5) I cannot compare myself to others. As long as I remain within my own pace requirements, I can focus on enjoying the day and appreciating everything that I’ve done to get here.
I will try to keep this logic in my back pocket. I think I will write “Believe” on my arms to keep me in a positive head space during the ride. Once the ride is over, I get to jam on the run (and by “jam” I mean keep a steady 10:30 pace throughout, if possible–Vineman’s run is a little bit tough).
I suppose that, even typing through these thoughts, I feel a bit better. Rather than letting my emotions gulp me down into a neverending rabbit hole of strained nerves and sick stomachs, I’ll try to remind myself to get back to the real world and look at the evidence of my own success.
And, again, so what if I don’t finish? Anything can happen on race day. It’s a long a$$ day. What happens? Well, yes, it’s disappointing to have to come home with a medal-free neck, like I did at Wildflower, but, really, was the medal the point of all of this? You don’t get to wear all of the things that you have accomplished on the outside, but they still show. I walk a little taller now, fear challenges a little bit less, I live with the knowledge that, if you really want something, you can go for it with your whole heart, and you can achieve things you never imagined you could do. I live with the knowledge that I’m tougher than I look, and that I have the strength to weather any of life’s natural disasters.
Of all of the strengths I’ve gained during these last nine months, the most powerful is the strength to believe in myself. With that strength, I’ll keep the forward momentum.