It's mid-season, season number four. My first half-Iron triathlon is Sunday: the Door County Triathlon.
Door County is the little peninsula of Wisconsin that sticks out into Lake Michigan. Up there, it's cherry trees, camp sites, and tourism all summer long. I've been up there to relax, and it's prime vacationing country. There is plenty of ice cream - in spite of the agony of waiting until after the race to eat it. And I've heard all sorts of great things from my friends about this race - it seems to be a local favorite year after year. It draws a field of 1,000 for each of two races: a sprint on Saturday and a half-iron on Sunday. Why not a "half-Ironman?" Because it hasn't sold out to the man that owns that particular name. As such, it has its own unique flavor and a lower entry fee. Perhaps not all the same standard perks and amenities, but that's not the kind of stuff I seem to focus on much anymore. I often prefer a B&B to a Holiday Inn. Anyway, without the "man", maybe the ladies better enjoy racing there (??)
A lot of people take the opportunity to camp out, add on some vacation, and get away from it all. I decided to be one of them, if only for a little while. Sure, one of the most important things to do before a race is to relax and get a lot of good sleep. A tent site isn't always the best to achieve that goal - but this will be a good test of my mental condition. In spite of all the variables it brings, outdoors is a great place to feel relaxed. The campground is undoubtedly going to be full of triathletes - so I should feel great comfort being surrounded by my peeps. For an added bonus, I'll bring my comfortable air mattress! What if it rains? Well, you know what I always say - "you can't pick the weather on race day", and you can't pick it any other day, either. So I'm just bringing an extra tarp and a calm demeanor. And a car, just in case.
Am I ready for this race? Sure! I've been tapering this week, and taking the extra non-workout time to stay on top of work and home projects that interest me. I went for a swim this morning through some warm and calm water, and although I know I don't have the muscular endurance for long swimming that I've had in years past, I feel a great comfort in the water and a good command of my mechanics. As such, I can't swim very fast, but I think I can swim "pretty." This has been a breakthrough year for running for me: 34 miles in San Diego after an injury-free spring have really built my confidence as a runner. Now, in the month since San Diego, I've been sporadic as I tried to balance recovery with regaining my consistency, but the extra-hot half-marathon last weekend reminded me that I've got legs. And biking? Well, whether or not I'm in ideal shape, I love my bike and it loves me back, and biking is a great part of the race for a little guy.
This has been a different kind of season. I came into it with a different level of baseline experience, skill, and confidence. Along the way I dealt with a whole new set of stressors. And I have responded to them with what feels like a whole new mindset. As a result, some of my races have arrived with good training, but without big fanfare. Although I've enjoyed the benefit of not spending the money, I haven't bought new gear for a while; when race days come around, I just grab the same trusty stuff, sponge-bathed, lubed and polished. I think, without being on active coaching duty this summer, I miss the Team.
As I think about the imminent half-Iron race in three days, I keep remembering that it's a lot of athletes' first big race. They're nervous, and I'm casually rounding up my gear. They're focusing on it and telling all their friends, and I'm just cruising on up for a weekend vacation. If I'm not careful with a long race like this, I know I'll have a lousy day - but I'll stick to my checklists, remembering that my organizational skills finally have found a good sporting-home. I'll stick to smiling no matter the conditions. As the race unfolds, I'll watch it with wide-open eyes to see how my body reacts to the new distance. As the day arrives, I'll talk it up with my friends and on race morning I'll hope to meet some new ones, too. Although it's not all race-day jitters, I feel ready, just a little different kind of ready. My bike is in my car. I'm "shaved and tapered." Door County, here we come!
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