On Sunday morning, I hit the track for mile repeats. My training plan called for at least two mile repeats on a 9:20 pace. I did this same workout back on February 23. Back then, I only managed two repeats and I barely hit my target time. I did the first at 9:18 and the second at 9:20 and felt so exhausted that I called it a day. Today, I managed four repeats and was much faster: 9:08, 9:00, 8:54 and 9:01. I might have had a fifth mile in me, but I called it a day at four. A good day. I like seeing progress, and today was definitely progress. Go me.
Even though I’ve completed four Ironman events, Ironman still scares me. Even though I’ve done Coeur d’Alene twice, including last year, which was exactly the same course that I will see this year, this race scares me. It’s doable. I know that because I’ve done it. But the do-ability depends on so many things going right. The weather. My health. The absence of technical issues like a flat tire. Spot on nutrition during the race. A positive mindset. If any one of those things falters, my day could go to hell.
Sometimes the stress of it seems so overwhelming that I ask myself, “Why are you putting yourself through this again? It’s a crap load of training and a ridiculous amount of worry in the months, weeks and days leading up the race. Is it worth it?” And after I’ve asked the questions, I remind myself that I know the answers and am only asking for one reason – I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failing.
I don’t want the experience of working for months and months towards something and not achieving it. I don’t want the experience of a DNF – did not finish – at Ironman. I’ve been doing triathlons since 2003. I have never taken a DNF. Even if it meant walking my tired and broken self across a finish line, I’ve done it because a DNF isn’t acceptable to me. I don’t want to wake up the day after the race and not head to the finishers’ store. What would it feel like to wake up the morning after and realize the failure wasn’t a nightmare? I don’t want to know.
But even more than fearing that failure, I fear not trying.
The minute I become too afraid to race or too afraid to try climbing a mountain or too afraid to be in a relationship, I stop being someone I want to be. I want to be bold, adventurous, and courageous. I want to always be working towards something that scares me a little or even a lot. I feel alive that way. That was actually a commandment I wrote for myself back in October, on the day before my personal new year – to always be doing something that scares me.
I would love to sleep in every morning. I would, at times, love to convert my week-long trip to Couer d’Alene this June to a regular vacation that involves sight-seeing and spectating rather than competing. It would take so much pressure off me to just decide not to race this year. Those thoughts cross my mind multiple times a week, especially when I’m feeling busy at work or overwhelmed by the training.
Then I have a day like today when the run just feels awesome, and I’m proud of my progress and curious how much faster I can get. In those moments, I remember why I do these races. I do them because the finish line is an awfully sweet place to be – a place where anything is possible – and because the effort I put into getting there helps me be someone I like – someone determined, disciplined and occasionally, seemingly out of nowhere, fast enough to surprise herself.