I will be racing in a few days.
And, yes, it feels absolutely weird but also a little bit wonderful to say that for the first time in 20 months. I wish I was just unabashedly excited to get out there again, but I am…. not. I am full of all the feels, and excited is in there, but I wouldn’t say it’s in the top three.
I feel trepidation. Not as much as when I signed up and started training again, I’ve lost some fears over the last few months, but it’s been a pervasive sentiment through the process. I haven’t started from this out of shape in a long long long long long time and I wondered back in June if I had it in me to climb the hill yet again. I’ve had a training cycle whilst coming back from an injury. I’ve had training cycles during absolutely crazy work times. I’ve not had to contend with both at the same time, also during the weirdness which is pandemic/post-pandemic/not-yet-post-pandemic-just-kidding times. I’ve been less prepared but also very very very much more prepared and usually when I do cheeky ish like this I have a nice large endurance base to pull from, which I VERY MUCH DO NOT RIGHT NOW, thxuverymuch.
I’ve just had to knock those fears down one by one by doin’ stuff. Yes, my wetsuit still fits and I will be able to swim the 1.2 miles without consequence. I may be super skittish on my tri bike but I should be able to cover the distance just fine. The run will be sunny and hot and I’ll walk some of it, but that’s all part of the plan. Yes, there will probably be some risk being around humans but I’ve done the best I can, and will do the best I can during the race to limit my exposure. And there’s no questions it will be a long day. Perhaps it will be my longest ever in a 70.3.
In the maelstrom which is my feels right now is definitely a dash of guilt. I am an arsehole for letting my health go as much as I did and I’m still not doing a superb job at reversing course. In theory, I should have less friction against training than ever. My schedule is packed, but it’s also flexible. There is nothing stopping me but me. I’ll even make good on giving myself 2020 as a mulligan and give myself some grace earlier this year with the cranky back from hell. However, since I’ve last posted, my training hours have dropped in half, I can only get in gear about three days each week to train, and gosh, if it’s not in the morning, it just doesn’t happen because lunches are hectic and after work, I’m just effing drained.
I’ve typically got about 2-3 months of scheduled training in me before I need a break. I’d say I started too early, but when you’re beginning from zero fitness, 2 months just isn’t enough, not even close. So, I hit that wall, right around the end of August, and have just been winging it the best I can. I should have done more in a myriad of areas, including training but also actually tracking my food and weight, eating healthier, and continuing weight training.
But also, there is a healthy dash of gratitude. Months ago when I started, I had severe doubts whether my body (and frankly, brain) could handle training to go race for seven hours, give or take. That little voice in the back of my head was sneering at me, telling me that maybe this is the end of an era, the end of the triathlete, and I should take up underwater basket weaving instead. I’m ever thankful that I was offered a 2022 deferral to IM Texas, which motivated me to say “well, if I’m going to do an Ironman next year, I should at least try to do a half this year.” And with such fanfare, I started this process to unstick my butt cheeks from my couch this spring post vaccination to see what happened.
It was necessary for my health and sanity. I needed a goal to pursue because obviously “because I like doing these things” isn’t enough. I truly enjoy swimming, biking, and running. I do. But for some reason, it’s tricky to motivate myself to do them just because. I need reasons. Even if I finish the next few races as they’re tearing down the finish line, it’s all worth it.
When I started 2021, I longed for the ability to just go play. I yearned to once again get on my bike and go on long rides, long enough to justify stopping for pizza and beer on the way home without guilt. I wanted to be able to head out the door on a beautiful (or hell, terribly hot) morning and run for an hour with a smile on my face. I wanted to dive into a pool or a lake and lose myself in quiet thought.
Well, I am here. Here I am. I have clawed my way back from injury and the folds of my couch and I can do all of these things now. I’m not breaking any records this season (except for perhaps “the slowest”) but I have retained the ability to persist. And so I shall on Sunday.
I typically have race plans. I feel so rusty at this but let’s give it a whirl, shall we?
Friday, we will get to Kerrvile, set up camp, eat hot dogs, and relax.
Saturday, we will eat all the normal things (bean and cheese tacos for breakfast, turkey bacon guac sandwiches for lunch, chicken potato salad for dinner, some salty snacks and electrolyte drinks during the day). We will get our packets, set up our transition bags, and drop off said bags and bikes, and then drive the bike course to remind ourselves where all the hills are even though we’ve done this race like 8 times before.
Sunday, I will wake up in the morning, drink coffee and eat a bagel with bacon and cream cheese and gatorade, try to poop, stretch, listen to peppy music, make Joel put the KT tape hashtag on my back because I swear it helps, and get to the race early enough to make him not nervous but late enough so we’re not sitting there for 3 hours, wearing a disposable mask around other humans that I can ditch 2 seconds before I start swimming.
After setting up transition 1 and trying to poop 3 more times, I’ll sip some more electrolytes and consider whether downing a gel is a good idea. I will slather the eff out of my neck with aquaphor to make sure I don’t get chafed, and then shovel myself into my wetsuit. I’m in the second swim wave, so I’ll try to start in the middle of it and stay a little off to the side (since I’m not fast and I’d really rather not get into combat this time). I will just chill through the swim and enjoy it. I’m not in danger of missing a cutoff and I’m also not in danger of a PR, so I’ll just hang with a relaxed pace and enjoy the sunrise and cooler water. My guess is I’ll come in between 50 and 55 minutes, with a personal worst for this race. It’s all good.
I’m a little skeeved out about the swim exit (I’m guessing in small town Texas, the volunteers won’t wear masks), but it is what it is, I’ll just do my best to stay away from other humans when I can and make peace when I can’t. I won’t worry too much about my pace up the big hill to transition, and take the time I need (but not lollygag) in T1. Since I’m skittish on the bike and also aero is kinda uncomfortable for long periods, I made the call to wear my bike gloves since I’ll be up on my hoods more often.
And on the bike, I’ll just… ride. However I can. Whatever gets me from mile 1 to 56. I will take a gel (probably caffeinated) as soon as I can finagle it and then every 45 mins after (aiming for one more caffeinated before I finish the ride). I have zero pace or power goals. I just want to enjoy as much as I can and survive the rest. There’s one big hill I remember kicking my ass that we have to do twice. I think it will be okay as long as it doesn’t take me by surprise. If I had to venture a guess for my bike time, it will be around 16mph, or 3h30.
Once I get to the run, I’m golden. I mean, sure, the longest I’ve ran since Jan 2020 is 10 miles, but at least I can’t drown or crash, heh. I have solid plans to run/walk (at least a tenth of a mile each mile of walking) and TBH, it could potentially not be my worst half because I’m not going to run until I blow up (physically and mentally) and get all pissed and walk for a mile and a half. Last Kerrville I broke down on the run and averaged about 13 minute miles even though my running pace was 9-10 minute miles. I could optimistically see improving upon that. And… if I don’t? Who cares. I just need to make the cutoff of 8h30. Pretty sure I could walk the entire thing and still finish.
The run aid stations are the second part of the race that feels a bit skeevy with Covid. I will do the best I can – I’ll take things from the tables myself if possible, and if not, try not to put my mouth on the actual surface of the cups. I’ll attempt to take in 2 gels during the run and get on the brown pony train (yay coca cola!) as quickly as I can for the energy.
I’ll stash a disposable mask somewhere for after the finish. I’m sure there will be lots of teammates I haven’t seen in forever and we will want to hang out a little. We will probably try to limit our time around all the humans though, and we’ll probably mosey back to the camper quickly to eat all the food.
It certainly doesn’t look like the 2019 race plan, but I’m just happy to toe the line, reasonably confident I’ll be able to traverse 70.3 miles on my own accord. After the last 20 months, it is enough, really and truly. Because through all the other doubts and inadequacies I feel right now, gratitude that I can go play outside with my triathlete friend, slow as it may be, definitely is shining through.