I leave in three days. I’m heading back to Madison for a second attempt at conquering the massive hill on Barlow Road. Last year, I dropped my chain about a third of the way up and had to walk my bike up the rest. It was still a great race, but that feels like unfinished business to me. So back I go, and this time I feel even more ready.
Last year, I focused heavily on my bike training because I was so fearful of the bike course in Wisconsin. Rather than ride on Saturdays and run on Sundays, I rode both days. That meant I had a solid bike in Wisconsin and then totally fell apart on the run. I still finished and hit my second best time, but I let a possible personal best slip away. This year, I know the course and have been doing a much more balanced job of training. I know there are hills on both the bike course and the run course, and I think I’m ready for them.
I think I’m ready mentally too. There’s so much going on in the world that is rough. I’m grateful – beyond grateful – for the life that I have and for the opportunity I have to do this thing I love with my Dave and friends. Some people are out there trying to rebuild homes after a natural disaster, and my “stress” is getting through a fun swim, bike and run in a beautiful place. The fact of my great fortune is foremost on my mind.
There were eight of us training for this race together. One of our teammates hurt himself just two weeks before the race and is suddenly sidelined. He had been nailing his training. During our last big group century ride, he was miles ahead of the rest of us and looking so strong. My heart aches for the experience he should have had and for the experience that we should have had with him. Again, I’m reminded that the most random things can happen to derail our plans, so we have to be grateful every step of the way.
This year, I will be most grateful. I get to do this Ironman thing for the seventh time. I get to be there with Dave and some friends. I’m healthy. My family is doing well. My home is intact. I have a good job, good friends, and some tremendous opportunities ahead of me. And I feel like there’s something coming down the road for me. The winds are changing a bit, and I’m thinking this will be my last Ironman for a while. All of that makes me want to put everything I have into this experience.
Last night, my coach checked in on me. She asked if I’d written goals for this race. I realized that I hadn’t, so that was on my list to do today. Here they are:
- I want to stay positive the entire time. These long days usually involve a lot of mental ups and downs. As much as I can, I want to keep my head positive because that will affect so much of the rest of my day. And this means staying positive in the days leading up to the race too. I can get wrapped up in what doesn’t go smoothly. I’d like to just focus on the joy of this life and the fact that I get to do this thing one more time.
- I want to run the run and to run it happily. Last year, if I’d had even a mediocre run, I would have hit a PR. But I started the run on empty and walked a fair amount of it. This year, I plan to run and to smile through the run the way I’ve seen my coach smile in her races. Big. Really big.
- Running the run means that I need to nail my nutrition plan on the bike. I’m clumsy on the bike, so it’s easy for me to focus on riding and not think enough about eating or drinking. I have to be intentional about eating and drinking according to my plan.
- I want my finish time to start with a 15. My best ever is 15:58, and that was in Coeur d’Alene in 2013. I want to top that. In fact, I want to hit at least 15:40, which I was hesitant to put out into the world. But I think I’m trained for that, and I’d like to leave this season of my life with a bang.
I have less than three days before I get on a plane. It’ll be a busy three days, but I’ll get through them, and once I get on the plane, my mind will be on having a great experience in Madison and reaching these goals.
I’m so lucky to be where I am. And I’m so grateful to get to do what I get to do. I plan to dwell in that place of gratitude for as long as I can, in Madison and beyond.