"Being relaxed, at peace with yourself, confident, emotionally neutral,
loose, and free-floating - these are the keys to successful performance in
-Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
It still hasn't hit me yet but my mind and body are yelling at me - WE ARE READY!
I can't believe on Sunday September 23rd, 2012, I will be doing my 7th half ironman with Karel on the hardest bike course in the world. Well, this course may be ranked "hard" because of the average bike times (average "fast" female bike times ranging from 3:10-3:20 for 56 miles) but I'll let my legs help me write my race report after I finish 70.3 miles in Branson, Missouri, on Sunday. I can't wait to finish this challenging event with my best friend and life partner.....I wonder how long he will have to wait for me??
Can we say, confidently, that this is a course designed for a former Category 1 cyclist???
This has been one of the most amazing journey's of my life. Sharing a deep passion of mine with Karel, who needed a new challenge in his athletic career. Side by side, ups and downs and lots of laughs (and yummy food) along the way, I am filled with memories from the past 3 months.
I've seen Karel go from not being able to swim 400 meters continuously in the pool to speaking like a swimmer, telling me his splits and letting me know he can "most of the time" feel the catch in the water. We covered almost 3 miles in the ocean for an open water swim event last month and Karel is really loving the challenge of swimming. Still a lot more room for improvement before IM Lake Placid next year but hopefully Karel will carry confidence with him on race day, trust his swim training, keep good form, remember that it isn't won in the swim and to never forget where he came from. What I've learned in the past 3 months is that I am still a fish and I love to swim. But I still get lazy in the water as a triathlete. Karel has showed me how to challenge myself and I will remember all the oxygen-deprived sets in the "boys lane".
Give him two wheels and he will ride it. No longer does Karel suffer on a time trial bike for omnium cycling races. Karel has fallen in love with his speedy machine and really enjoys riding a tri bike. I've enjoyed his draft for the past 3 months, although never an easy ride to stay on his wheel. Since IM #1 in 2006, I've seen my cycling advance from scared newbie on a tri bike to experienced rider who craves hills. I feel like I still have so much more room for improvement but with Karel by my side (or in front of me), I know I'll continue to have fun on the bike. But most of all, I love riding my bike. It is likely my favorite part of the triathlon (by a hair to the other two disciplines) because it is my chance to reflect on where I was at one point in my triathlon career. I have struggled many times with the bike portion in triathlons but Karel has done an exceptional job of preparing me for Branson. I believe I can be stronger and faster but the work is done at this point in my triathlon career. Always room for improvement but I'm feeling strong thanks to Karel's constant encouragement, ability to help me train smart (and analyze files) and teach me how to "hurt so good." There's no question that Karel will enjoy this course. Certainly, knowing how and when to back off will be the constant question on his mind but I am sure he will race smart.
Don't be fooled by this Czech cyclist. He doesn't only run for beer.
I think this is the area where we both feel as if we improved the most. I am running injury free and with more confidence than ever before. Karel excels in criterium races. He loves lactic acid. Enough said.
My happy moments on race day will be when my body is hurting and legs are screaming for rest, but I will have to dig deep to remind myself that my mind is my only limiter. Although we didn't do much run volume on a weekly basis, the runs we did on the track, off the bike and with the group, really counted. I'm not certain how the day will turn out for both of us, for a challenging bike course requires discipline and a few risks to ensure strong legs for the 13.1 mile run. I continue to struggle with that sweet spot on the bike to set me up for a strong run so I hope that we can both pull it together on race day. I was able to achieve a huge PR off the bike at the Macon Rock n' Roll Halfman in May so I will remember that feeling in Branson (boy, it sure did hurt but it was worth it!). There are no guarantees in racing so I believe that hard work sets athletes up for successful race performances. We trained hard.
Success is determined on an individual basis and often, not until the pain has removed from the body and the reflection period has begun. For success at Branson will not be about finishing times. We have zero time goals in mind. As for other things that can signify a successful race performance? Anything from crossing the finish line with a healthy body to placing on the podium. Our goal is to put our training to the test and to enjoy this experience together. The successful performance will be determined throughout the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run....not based on a finishing place or time.
Interestingly, no matter how long you are an athlete, the questions, concerns and fears never go away. First time or 20th time, the unknown questions rarely get answered until the finish line.
Taper is an interesting thing. Feeling a similar thing before the 2011 Ironman World Championships
last year, the heavy legs and overly sleepy body has transformed into a body full of energy, craving to race. With a well fueled and healthy body, I'm thankful for this opportunity. Another opportunity in life to make memories and test my limits.