Ironman Coeur D’Alene Race Plan

It’s getting real. This morning as I sit in the airport in San Diego waiting to board my flight, the Ironman Coeur D’Alene website showed this on the official countdown:

Scary huh?

After a year of anticipation, the day I’ve been spending the majority of my free time working toward is almost here.  I’ve had plenty of time to research and think about how to race an Ironman. My race plan as I will share here has been in the works for a long time now. It comes from things I learned from reading  triathlon books like Going Long and The Triathlete’s Training Bible, articles from Active.com, Competitor.com, Runners World and LAVA magazine, and of course, fellow age-groupers who have hashed out every detail of their personal journey’s to the ironman finish line via their own blogs.

Race Goals

Here they are:

1)      Cross the finish line under 17 hours.

2)      Have fun.

Yes, of course I have some general ideas of times I’d like to hit during this race, but I’m not going to share them here and put any added pressure on myself. In the end, I just want to finish. I’m not going to say I want to finish without getting a flat tire, throwing up, crapping my pants, getting black eye in the swim, injuring myself, spending 30 minutes in the warming tent after the 53 degree swim, or crashing my bike. I’m accepting all of those things as possibilities. I’ve mentally prepared myself for each of them to happen and I know what I’ll do if they do happen. The only thing I can control is my reaction, not the obstacles that come my way.

Race Strategy

Pre-Race

Eat a large bowl of cereal and almond milk with banana for breakfast and then head to the start by 5 a.m. Get transition area ready, apply sunscreen, lube and put on my wetsuit. Set my watch to multi-sport mode, give my parents my cell phone and a jacket in case I get cold on the run. 20 minutes before the start, take a Gu with half a bottle of water. Get down to the beach for the start with 15 minutes at least to spare and get in position.

Swim

Get to the far right of the beach and about mid-way back in the pack. If possible, go down to the lake and slash some water on my face (pros start at 6:20 so I’m not sure yet if this will be possible). Stay as calm as possible and try to envision myself having a smooth swim to calm my nerves.

When the gun goes off, stay calm and don’t push for space. Start my Garmin at the sound of the gun. I plan to start far to the right and to the back and I don’t care if I lose some time by starting farther from the first buoy. I plan to veer left as I swim and join up with the buoy line at a point that feels natural. I will try to find feet to draft off of and stay on those feet for as long as I feel beneficial. In the beginning, when the water is chaotic, I will keep my head down as much as possible to avoid getting hit in the face. If my goggles come off, I’ll just keep swimming. I plan to swim at a pace that is comfortable – not comfortably hard, just comfortable. A few minutes added to my swim time is worth the energy saved by not being frazzled. I will sight the landforms, not the buoys, and will sight often, as I tend to veer left when I swim in open water. I will focus on my form and remember to pull and lengthen my body with every stroke. When I’m reading the end of the swim, I will kick a bit more to get the blood flowing to my legs and prepare for the bike.

Transition

When I get out of the water, if I’m flustered and out of breath, I will walk to transition rather than run. Once in transition, I’ll grab my bag and head for a changing tent. If a volunteer doesn’t approach me, I will call for one. In transition, I’ll completely change out of my tri shorts and sports bra and into cycling shorts, a dry sports bra, and my jersey which is already stuffed with nutrition. I will spray myself with sunscreen before putting on my arm warmers. Then I’ll put on my socks, shoes, helmet, and sunglasses and get my bike and start riding.

The Bike

For the first 20 minutes of the bike, I will drink water only. I will focus on getting my heart rate down. For the first 30 miles of the bike, I will ride only in zone 2 (under 150 for me), repeating to myself the phrase “stupid easy.” I won’t get upset when I get passed by literally a thousand other cyclists – this is my race and I don’t care about anyone’s by my own.

I will begin consuming food after 20 minutes, starting with my bottle of 400 calories of Carbopro and 1.5 tablets of Nuun (always chasing with water since this is concentrated), and my peanut butter Nutella banana sandwich. Starting at mile 30-60, I will get in my heart rate into low zone 2, mid-zone 2 on the climbs (my zone 2 is 150-170). I will continue to eat and drink, with the goal being to consume my entire CarboPro bottle and sandwich by mile 60/special needs. This will give me about 250 calories/hour.

If special needs is also near an aid station, I will stop and refill my cage water bottle with 400 calories of CarboPro and 1.5 Nuun tablets. If special needs is not by an aid station, I will only stop if I need something ( I plan to carry 400 extra calories with me on the bike so Special Needs will only be necessary if I drop something) and continue on to the next aid station, where I will get off my bike to refill my bottle. I will be refilling my water-only aero bottle without getting off, most likely at every other aid station, or as needed. I will drink to thirst, not on a certain schedule.

If it is very hot, I’ll start taking electrolyte tablets (Hammer Endurolytes) – 2 every hour. My nutrition plan does not include this, but I did practice with them a few times to make sure that they go down ok.

Between miles 60-90, I’ll keep my heart rate in Zone 2, allowing it to reach the upper limit (165-170) only on climbs. I’ll focus on eating my 3 Stinger Waffles (broken up and all together in a baggie in my bento box) and sipping my 2nd bottle of CarboPro/Nuun, followed always by water. If I realize that I’ll be on the bike for over seven and a half hours, I’ll take either a Gu (depending on how much longer I have) or I’ll stop and refill my water bottle and put my 2nd dose of CarboPro/Nuun in it and only sip that for the rest of the bike course. I will try to only have liquids for the last 30 minutes on the bike.

Transition 2

In transition 2, I will also be changing. I’ll be careful running off the bike since my legs will probably feel like jelly. I’ll grab my bag and head to the changing tent to get into my run outfit. After putting on my hat, a new pair of socks, and my shoes, I’ll grab my frozen (now unfrozen presumably) disposable water bottle with 1 Nuun tablet and head out.

The Run

The first thing I’ll do when I start running is celebrate the fact that I made it this far. I’ll slowly sip my water bottle with Nuun, but if it doesn’t taste good, I’ll toss it. I need to make sure that I’m not going out too fast. I will never allow myself to run under a 9 min/mile no matter how good I feel. According to Going Long, if you fuel and pace yourself correctly on the bike, you can run a marathon at about 20-40 seconds/mile slower than a recent open marathon. My recent marathon pace is 8:45, so I don’t plan to run much faster than 9:15, best case.

I plan to take 1 Gu every 40 minutes, which is the same strategy I use in marathons. However, I do plan to sip the Cocacola on the course. I don’t plan to drink the Ironman Perform drink available on the course, as I have never practiced with it. If it’s hot, I’ll continue to take 2 Endurolyte tablets per hour. If my stomach is behaving and I’m craving something salty, I’ll eat pretzels and other snacks on the run course, but only if I’m feeling good. I’ll listen to my body and not push it too hard.

I plan to walk quickly up the large hill that is on the run course rather than attempt to run up it and spike my heart rate. I plan to walk through aid stations but would like to run the majority of the marathon. However, I won’t be disappointed if I have to walk most of it. The odds are pretty high that I will have to walk, from what I’ve heard (or use the “Ironman Shuffle” technique).

If I get to a really low point in the race where I feel that I won’t be able to make it, I’ll think back to all the tough workouts that I was able o finish along the way. I’ll think to the final miles of the Surf City Marathon where my body screamed for me to quit, yet I still pushed on. I’ll think of my friends and family at home tracking me. I will never give up.

The Finish

When I approach the finish line, I’ll make sure that I have my space. I’ll rejoice when I cross the finish line (I won’t be surprised if I cry) and take pride in knowing that I am an Ironman.

10 Ironman Racing Lessons Learned From Fellow Bloggers

As a self coached athlete, I’ve actually learned a significant amount about Ironman via other bloggers, rather than through books or articles. Although I do read a lot of professional work on the topic of triathlon and Ironman, I always want to hear it from an age grouper that actually ran a race and has all the facts clear in their minds. I’ve read A LOT of race reports over the last year – I mean  A LOT. I have googled “Ironman CdA race report” too many times to count and every time a blogger than I follow completes a race I get excited to read the impending report.

Over the last several month’s I’ve been saving some of my favorite tips from Ironman blogs as I learned lessons on what to do and not to do on race day. I thought I’d share some of my favorites with  you:

  1. Katie: Put tums in run belt and in bike sack .http://www.runthisamazingday.com/2011/05/kinetic-703-race-report.html
  2. Lauren: Store an extra pair of socks (and possibly even shoes) in special needs bag.  http://laurenstriblog.com/2011/12/ironman-cozumel-race-report-part-tres.html
  3. Emily: Don’t put all your fuel in one place (ie in your water bottles) in case you drop it. http://www.sweatonceaday.com/2011/07/ironman-lake-placid-race-report.html
  4. Jon: Wait for others to cross finish line if you are in a group so you get your own moment. http://www.swicyclorun.com/2011/08/part-3-t2-and-run-lake-placid-race.html
  5. Maria: Bring paper or plastic cups and put them over the top of your draw-string Bike and Run bags so that water doesn’t drip into them overnight (also a lot more great tips here): http://www.runningalife.com/?page_id=1912

    Photo Thanks to RunningALife.com

  6. Heidi: Mark transition and special needs bags in a special way so you can spot them. http://heidileeaustin.blogspot.com/2010/11/ironman-lessonsnewbie-tips.html
  7. Abby: Drop your bike off at transition early so that if something is wrong you have time to fix it. http://www.runnersworld.com/community/persona/index.jsp?UID=1000010000271110&plckPersonaPage=BlogViewPost&plckUserId=1000010000271110&plckPostId=Blog%3a1000010000271110Post%3aabbb2339-93fe-42e0-b91e-76659e7e61ba&plckBlogItemsPerPage=5
  8. Katie: Make yourself an awesome wake up message on your Iphone alarm to pump you up:  http://www.runthisamazingday.com/2011/11/philadelphia-half-marathon-race-report.html

    Photo Thanks for Katie at runthisamazingday.com

  9. Amy: Pre-print cards with your loved ones phone numbers and hand to someone on the side of the road so they can call and tell them you’re coming http://www.amy-larson.com/cda_2010.html (blog has apparently been removed but the tip is still good!)
  10. Jaye: Write a list for yourself of things to do in T1 and put it in your transition bag so you can give it to the volunteer who is helping you (or read it for yourself if your brain stops working).  http://262toboston.blogspot.com/2011/06/ironman-coeur-dalene-race-report.html (more great tips from Jaye – http://262toboston.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-do-your-first-ironman.html)

Stay tuned for my race plan and goals (don’t get too excited about the goals- I don’t plan on making any time goals!).

Do you have any race tips or handy websites to share? 

Ironman Training Week 28 – Taper Week 2

Week 2 of taper wasn’t too different from week 1 – just less volume! Check it out:

Week of June 11-17

Monday – Rest day!

Tuesday – Before work I ran 4.3 miles including 2 Yasso 800s. I felt pretty crappy on this run – legs felt heavy and my lower back was still sore from wearing my wet suit for the 2.4 mile open water practice swim on Sunday (I think my wet suit is too short and it adds pressure to my back). This was one of those runs where it almost feels better to run fast – the 800s were almost more manageable than the easy miles.

After work Mike and I did 60 minutes of spinning while watching the Bachelorette. My bike computer, as usual, is on the fritz so I have no idea what my watts were. My legs actually felt pretty good but I kept it at a pretty easy pace for the entire ride.

Wednesday – Master’s swim again on Wednesday! We stayed for the entire set and got in 3,900 yards of swimming. The main set was:

8 x 100 base, 8 x 50 base

6 x 100 base + 5, 6 x 50 fast

4 x 100 base, 4 x 50 base

2 x 100 base +5, 2 x 50 fast

Overall I felt good during this swim although I woke up very tired again. I decided that i would rearrange my workouts so that  could sleep in Thursday and promised myself that if I was still tired Friday, I’d skip swim.

Wednesday night I had planned to do yoga but when I got home and Mike said he wasn’t going to join me, I decided to just skip it and take a walk with him instead.

Thursday – I slept in and was happy that I did although the sluggishness was still following me around. That evening, however, it was miraculously gone. Asia, Jeremy and I went to our local Running Skirts store which is just a couple blocks from each of our houses, for a 4 mile group run with two pro triathletes, Beth Walsh and Heather Jackson.  Once the group started running, we realized we were falling behind so we picked up the pace. After about a half mile Asia ran up  next to Beth and Heather, who were running together, and started talking to them. She looped me into the conversation and soon we were running along the coast with two pro triathletes at a 7:30 min/mile like it was no big deal. I wasn’t wearing my Garmin but Jeremy told us that at one point we got down to a 7 min/mile. Oopsie! But the miraculous thing was that it felt pretty easy to us – maybe it was the excitement of chatting it up with pro triathletes. On the 2 mile run back, we slowed down a bit and dropped back from the group.

Both were really nice, but Beth was particularly friendly and once we told her about CdA coming up she gave us a few pieces of advice. The first was to expect three things to go wrong on race day. When the first thing goes wrong, you will deal with it or fix it and then think to yourself, “ok what’s next!?” rather than dwelling on the mishap. I really liked this one! She also said she definitely recommends changing clothes for each segment – she wishes she could still change but of course now that she is pro she can’t waste valuable seconds or minutes! She also told us that we’d do better than we think we will and that our bike pace will be much faster than our practice rides. We’ll see!

Running Skirts Zoot Pro Triathlete Run!

After the run I headed home for the second part of my brick, a 45 minute spin on the trainer. Nothing too eventful here – just kept it easy.

Friday – This was our final full length masters swim! A lot of people get out at the 1 hour mark but Mike and I usually stay for the entire 1 hour 15 minute workout. This time we got in 3,900 yards of swimming . After the warm-up and some kicking and drills, we went into 8 x 100 at base, 8 x 50 at base, 6 x 100 base + 5, 6 x 50 fast, 4 x 100 at base, 4 x 50 at base, 2 x 100 at base + 5, 2 x 50 fast. It was a good workout and I felt really strong.

That night we met up with Asia and Jeremy at our favorite local ale house for a couple of beers. All we could talk about was the upcoming race – excitement, fears, strategy, everything!

Saturday – Saturday we did a 40 mile bike ride down the coast. This was a very flat ride and overall I felt strong. I kept the effort moderate and didn’t push it at all. I tried to stay in aero a lot. I just didn’t feel like eating a lot on this ride and ended up only eating half a Bonk Breaker bar (which I was testing out because they were will be available on the course – I don’t plan to eat them on race day but I wanted to try it out just in case I do end up eating one) and half of my water bottle of CarboPro, for a total of only about 300 calories over 2.5 hours of ride time. I meant the eat the second half of my Bonk Breaker when I got off the bike but forgot and realized it only 1/2 mile into my 35 minute run (~4 miles). I felt ok for most of the run but the second half I was afraid I”d faint from hunger!

Sunday – We met up with fellow SD Tri Club members for the weekly open water swim in Del Mar. We swam about 2,000 yards (left my watch next to the computer all night so it only had enough battery for the first half of the swim). I felt ok on this swim – swimming in the ocean without buoys is mentally tough because you feel like you are getting NOWHERE. I found that counting my strokes helped. I know that it takes me about 18 strokes to swim 50 yards so about 36 is 100.

After the swim we opted out of the  60 minute spin we had planned since my knee was feeling a little tender (it didn’t feel sensitive on the bike but did afterward for some reason) and we knew we had to get our  bikes off to Tri Bike transport by the early afternoon. We spent the rest of the morning cleaning and lubing our bikes. It is definitely a lot of work to maintain your own bike but I was glad to save the money by not having the bike shop do it for me. My cassette went from disgustingly greasy to shiny after about a half hour of work on it. Rory (I finally named my bike!) is going to look GREAT on race day!

Cassette Cleaning is FUN!

Mike Working on His Bike


Weekly  Totals

  • Yards Swam: 9,800
  • Hours Biked (door to door): 4.75
  • Miles Run: 12.6
  • Core/Strength: 15 min
  • Total Time: ~10.25 hours

Thoughts

This week was interesting – I’m not feeling that “restlessness” to workout like I had heard I would. Hopefully it will come this coming week. I’m actually feeling a bit sluggish during workouts (which I also heard is common but that it would go away and it hasn’t!). I did a lot of research and planning this week for the race – things like putting together my packing list, reading the athlete’s guide, putting together a rough draft of my race plan and weekend schedule, buying all the nutrition and miscellaneous things I need for the trip, and getting my bike shipped off.

Nutrition for the week started off really well and ended poorly. I made a big veggie roast one night and a big crock pot of turkey chili with several extra veggies thrown in which we had two nights for dinner and as a side dish for our salads at lunch. I cooked a healthy dinner for us Monday – Friday –  however, the weekend entailed plenty of beer and BBQs (two of them), as well as homemade pecan banana pancakes. Overall I ate a ton of fruits and veggies so I think it’ll be ok!

Going into this last week I am a mix of emotions. I am somewhat regretting not flying out to CdA on Wednesday so that I could get checked in on Thursday and have more time to rest before the race. I’ve put together my race week workout plan and I feel good about it. I probably have a little too much going on this week – a massage, a pasta party with friends Tuesday, and a hair appointment Wednesday, but instead of worrying about it, I plan to just go with the flow and try to get to bed as early as possible. I just need for focus on the end goal – finishing the Ironman.

How was your week? Have you experienced taper sluggishness? Did it go away!?

Getting Fit

I’ve received a lot of advice when it comes to training for an Ironman, and one of the most prevailing was that I should pay to get my bike professionally fit. Not fit by the guys at the bike shop in fifteen minutes after the purchase of my bike – a real, detailed fit performed by someone’s whose profession is to make people as comfortable as possible on their bike rather than to make money selling bikes.

However, after not experiencing pain or discomfort after my bike shop fit and not wanting to part with a couple hundred dollars to double-check the bike shop’s work, I ignored the advice of my veteran Ironmen. That was a mistake. As you all know, I recently experienced some nagging knee pain and it derailed my Ironman training as a result. In the end, I sucked it up and forked over the money for a professional fitting. And let me tell you – it was worth every cent.

Studeo DNA & Retul Technology 

Upon the recommendation of my training buddies, I made an appointment at Studeo DNA in Carlsbad for a “Retul 3D Motion Capture Bike Fit” in Carlsbad. According to Retul’s website, “Retul Technologyis a cycling-specific motion-capture bike fitting system designed to provide qualified bike fitters highly accurate and comprehensive bike fit data. The system incorporates three-dimensional measurement, immediate report capability, and a millimeter-specific digitizing tool to provide the most accurate dynamic fitting solution in the industry.”  

Not only was Nestor, the owner and operator of Studeo DNA, highly recommended by my friends, he apparently also fits pro triathletes. To a pro-triathlete stalker admirer, this was all I needed to hear. If the pros trust him for their fit, so do I. Plus, the studio was near my office and they had appointments available at 5 p.m. so I didn’t have to miss much work to make it.

The Fitting Process

My P2 At Studeo DNA

Nestor’s studio was very clean and professional looking and he made me feel very welcome from the moment I arrived. This was the first time I had transported my  bike in my car (usually we use Mike’s bike rack) and I had taken off both wheels. As soon as I walked in with my disassembled bike, Nestor immediately took it from me and went about putting it back together. After introductions and paperwork, we went over my reason for coming and discussed my knee and Nestor mentioned various possible causes, with the forewarning that the fit would really tell us what was going wrong.

The first thing he had me do was lay on the massage table so he could test my flexibility. The degree of flexibility in ankles, hamstrings and hip flexors is a determinant in the proper fit. If you are extremely inflexible you will not be able to sit in the same position as someone who is very flexible. After the flexibility test, Nestor had me walk barefoot in a straight line so he could watch how my feet naturally move. Apparently my right foot turns out a bit when I walk, so Nestor mentioned that he would need to adjust my pedal by adding a small washer so that it allows my foot to move outward like it naturally does. He also adjusted one of my cleats.

It was thirty minutes into the appointment that I actually mounted my bike. My bike was set up on a trainer which was on a wooden platform that rotated. A television and camera were set up in the corner of the room to capture my every move. I warmed up for about 10 minutes and Nestor and I chatted – he was very easy to talk to and quite interesting. He used to be a competitive cyclist, yet he thinks that Ironman is a bit crazy. I agreed – it is crazy! After the warm-up, Nestor placed Velcro dots on the right side of my body. He placed them in very particular places – for example, he had me spin my legs while he pushed on my hip bone so he could determine exactly where to place the dot on my hip.

Once the dots were in place, he connected a cord with complimentary Velcro dots to each of the ones on my body. Essentially, the information picked up from the cord and the dots would be sent to the computer and give Nestor an idea of how my body moves on the bike. He instructed me to first spin at an easy pace – about 4/10. He changed the intensity using his computer, not by having me shift gears. Once we got to 4/10, I spun for a couple of minutes and he collected data. Then we changed the intensity to 8/10 and collected data from me going at a “hard” effort. Once we finished that side, we moved the cord to the other side and did the same.

Nestor Making the Adjustments

Once Nestor looked at the data, we discussed my habits and he showed me some charts and numbers. Honestly, it was hard for me to understand what it all meant but I got a few things out of it – my current bike fit was not making me comfortable in aero, my seat was a little too low (hence knee pain), my knees move outward when I pedal which puts more pressure on them, I slightly slouch to the right on my seat, putting more pressure on my left knee. After we talked it over, he made some changes to my bike fit and then we repeated the entire process over again with the new fit.

Results

Here’s a screen shot of some of the notes on my analysis as well as the changes that were made:

Here’s my before and afters:

Before Retul Fitting

After Retul Fitting

Biggest Change – Aero is Now Default Position

Besides the fact that I need a tan, these photos also illustrate why I wasn’t very comfortable in aero prior to my fitting. As you can see in the first photo, I am very stretched out. My  new fitting allows me to comfortably “rest” on top of my aero bars, rather than stretch out to them. Since my fitting, I’ve noticed that being in aero is actually MORE comfortable than out (and actually being out is quite uncomfortable while I’m on the trainer). When I was discussing the fit with Nestor at the beginning onf my appointment, I told him that when I’m in a race, I get in aero for about 80-90% but when I”m on the road,  I’m only in aero about 20-30%. He told me that I should be in aero as much as possible since that is how my bike was designed to be ridden. If I don’t want to do that, I should get a road bike! I understand his point but I’m currently not in the financial position to purchase a second bike, so by default, I’ll just have to work on riding in aero more often. Since I”ve found that it is actually more comfortable, I’ve discovered that even on my long rides I am in aero much more, probably 60-70%  now. When I’m on the trainer, I’m in aero about  90% of the time.

As for my knee pain, it has subsided and I’m sure the bike fit has a lot to do with it. I was bit disheartened on my first ride after the fitting because my knee still hurt, but obviously getting my bike fit isn’t going to cure me – it will only prevent future injury.

Data to Keep

One the best parts of a bike fitting using Retul technology is that after my appointment I was emailed a PDF with my data from before and after the fit. The data can be used to re-fit my bike if for some reason it were ever messed up (i.e. disassembled to be shipped or if my seat slid down or something). I still don’t completely understand all the data that was provided but I can bring it to someone who does know what it means and have my bike back to normal in no time.

I was very happy with my fitting experience. It was well worth the money and definitely something that is going to help my cycling, both in terms of speed and injury prevention. Nestor was a pleasure to work with – easy to talk to, understanding and very knowledgeable. I highly recommend Studeo DNA for anyone in the San Diego or Orange County areas looking for a quality bike fitting from a seasoned professional!

Have you had your  bike professionally fitted? Could you tell a significant difference? 

Fear

“We must travel in the direction of our fear.” John Berryman

Fear of failure is one of the most common reasons that human beings don’t begin to attempt to achieve their goals. We make up excuses for why we won’t ever achieve them and then justify inaction. Many of us play it safe because safety is more comfortable than uncharted territory.

There have been many times in my life that I’ve given up on a dream or avoided a situation due to fear. These moments were much more frequent when I was in high school and much of college, when I was more insecure, always worrying about what others thought of me. I gave up on my dream of becoming an author or becoming a magazine editor because I knew they were competitive fields. Instead, I went into accounting, a field that I could get instant, quantitative results of my success. Every A in an accounting course meant more than every A I received for a well-written paper that I submitted to one of my Communication Studies courses because I knew that no matter which teacher was grading my accounting exam, I’d still receive the A. The papers and essays, however, were subject to the teacher’s discretion. I knew that straight As in accounting would land me a job in a “Big 4” accounting firm, but straight As in my communication classes wouldn’t get me a writing job.

Since college, I have matured significantly and grown much more confident. The Nicole in high school passed being on the Varsity swim AND Varsity field hockey team out of fear of failure. What if I couldn’t compete at the highest level? Since I started on the field hockey team as a junior, I wasn’t as confident in my abilities and feared sitting on the bench all season on Varsity, so I opted to be the JV team captain instead. My swim coach in high school saw potential in me and wanted me to swim Varsity but I used the excuse of 6 a.m. practices to avoid moving up. I think in all honesty I was afraid to give it my all and then fail (I really didn’t want to wake up that early though – I used to sleep til noon every weekend in High School). I was afraid that my best wouldn’t be good enough. So I stuck with JV and then quit the team  before my senior year so that I could get my first part-time job instead.

After college I faced quite a few fears by quitting my secure and highly coveted job, breaking up with a long-term boyfriend and living alone for the first time in my life. Soon after I traveled through Southeast Asia for 4 months, traveling for nearly 1.5 months on my own. My ultimate fear – being alone – changed from a fear to a source of confidence. That period was both the most difficult and the most satisfying of my life.

In terms of athletic fears, signing up for my first half marathon was a big step for me. It was a lofty goal coming from someone who have never run over three miles. I feared failure but instead of running from it, I faced it. My first marathon was the same, but my confidence had grown. I could do it. Triathlon presented another challenge but I was gaining confidence in my athletic ability and went for it.

Once Ironman discussions  began, I started thinking of excuses not to sign up. I even e-mailed my training buddies with a list of reasons why we weren’t ready. In the end, I knew I wanted to do it but I was scared of failure. Scared that I didn’t have what it took to finish an Ironman.

Well now that fear is going to be put to the test. In just about 11 days, I’ll be at the starting line of my first Ironman. Just me and 2,500 of my closest friends, ready to kick the crap out of each other as we run down the beach and try to get our own space to swim in for 2.4 miles. Over the last year of training, I have gained a lot of confidence in my ability to not only complete the Ironman, but to do it at a decent pace. However, I still have a lot of nagging fears about this race.

This will be the first race that I have ever attempted that I am not VERY confident that I will finish. Although I am certain that I have put in the required work and I am quite confident that I won’t be pulled out of the swim or off the bike or run due to time cut offs, there are a lot of things that can go wrong on race day. Even the most well prepared athlete can DNF a race due to extreme weather conditions (hello – St. George), hypothermia due to a cold lake, GI distress, bike malfunction or worse. I’d be lying if these thoughts of failure haven’t crossed my mind over and over during the last year. Yesterday in particular I got myself quite worked up over the lake temperature and the weather in CdA. Other than the lake temperature, I am most fearful of the swim start. I’m scared to death of being pummeled by large men during the swim – and since I’m a middle of the pack swimmer, it doesn’t make sense for me to start at the back of the pack to avoid the crowds and then spend 2.4 miles swimming around people.

BUT… even though sometimes I want to hide and not even show up to the starting line on race day, I will be there with a smile on my face. Instead of focusing on all of the things I can’t control, I need to take comfort in all the work that I did to get my body ready for the race. I’ve purchased a neoprene cap and booties to keep me warm on the swim, I’ve learned that I need to just keep my head down and swim to avoid being punched in the face (and also learned to accept that it will probably happen anyway), I’ve practiced changing my tires, and I have practiced race day nutrition over and over. I’ve done everything I can to mitigate the risks that inevitably will be present on race day. I need to let go of my worries and visualize myself crossing that finish line on race day.

That moment will be worth every 5:30 AM wake-up call, double workout day, seven hour day out on the road, mile ran, and dollar spent.