Monday, February 25, 2013

Racing Free

In a few hours, I'm leaving for Taupo, the site of Ironman New Zealand.

This will be my second Ironman in (just) less than six months. Unfortunately, I've found out the hard way that experience with this distance doesn't necessarily alleviate the nerves. Going into this race, I've been just as nervous, or even more nervous, that I was before Ironman Wisconsin. The nerves and fears are slightly different. With Wisconsin, there was fear of the unknown. Can I make it? Just how much is this going to hurt? In what possible sane world does it seem possible to run a freakin' marathon after riding a bike, over hills, for almost six hours? You know, that sort of stuff.

Now, there's a fear of the known. I know it's going to hurt. I know I'm going to want to walk, a lot, in the last part of the marathon, and I'm going to have to use every mental toughness trick up my sleeve to just keep going. I know people are going to punch me during the swim. I know there will be a part, during the bike, when I swear I never, ever am going to ride again. I know I'm probably, at some point, going to have a stomach that is unhappy with me. I know all those things are going to happen, and I also know that there are about a gazillion other little struggles that could pop up. That's of an Ironman.

To be honest, there have been a few other fears that have consumed me more than they should. I had the race of my life in Auckland six weeks ago and snagged a Kona slot. That should have taken the pressure off this race. I should be going in completely free and excited. No concern about place, just for fun, just for the experience. In reality, I've struggled with that. I've still felt a lot of nervousness about the outcome....what if this performance doesn't measure up? What if I'm slow? What if I'm not ready? What if I get beat? What if Auckland was a fluke?

I've been doing my typical pre-race introspection and (over)-thinking, and yesterday I think I finally got to the point where I'm just flat out sick of the nervousness. It doesn't help, it's counterproductive, it feels quite a lot melodramatic, and it's not fun. And I'm done.

Is it that easy, to just say, I'm done with being scared? I don't know, but I kind of think...yes. It is that easy. It's a choice to be consumed by fear when that fear doesn't make any sense at all. And I'm chosing to move on from being afraid of this race. I'll still have the jitters come race morning, and probably before then too, but it's not going to be fear, and that's a meaningful distinction.

The very wise coach Liz gave me a great quote a while back: "the other side of fear is freedom." It spoke to me then, and it's speaking to me now. I'm going to race fearless and free. On race day, I'm going to go out, do my best, execute, troubleshoot and fight like hell when it gets tough, and if that doesn't end with the perfect result, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter.

And most of all, I'm going to smile and revel in the experience. All of it. I may have taken my first Ironman, last fall, a little too seriously. I was laser-focused on lofty (albeit unspoken) goals and didn't allow myself to actually enjoy the day, to soak in the surroundings, to revel in the coolness of actually participating in an event as special as Ironman. I didn't smile, I didn't celebrate the gift of simply being able to swim, bike and run, and when I was done, I didn't feel the joy that should follow accomplishing something as awesome as covering 140.6 miles without a motor of some sort.

So this is my do-over. This is my chance to really race free and happy. Instead of hunkering down in my hotel room and avoiding the scene, I'm going to take part in some of the pre-race festivities and enjoy Taupo. On Saturday, I'm going to smile as the day goes on and gain energy from the crowds, even if I feel like hell. When the pain comes, and it will come, I'm going to embrace it and then fight it tooth-and-nail. This time, I'm not giving in. And when the race is over, I'm going to celebrate, no matter the outcome, because just to be there and doing it....that's grounds for celebration in and of itself. It's going to be a good day.

And, oh yeah. In Madison, I didn't hear Mike Reilly's famous, "Amanda, you are an Ironman," announcement. You know why? He never said it. I think I wrinkled my number too much that the spotters couldn't read it, and I didn't get called. Mr. Reilly's going to be in Taupo. So, it may take finishing two Ironmans to get that announcement, but I'm going to make sure I keep that race number nice and smooth and visible, and I WILL get that call this time.

Gots to look around, NZ is kinda pretty (all scenes from my ride last Sunday)


  1. You are ready!!! Stay strong and in the moment, stick to your plan and enjoy this amazing thing you can do with your body!!!

  2. Good luck! Like I tweeted, you are most likely just going to go out there for another killer performance! Go get 'em!