Yesterday evening, Justin and I made our way through the rolling hills of Eastern Oregon and crossed the border into Idaho, arriving to Boise just after 10pm thanks to the one hour time change. We are staying at the Grove Hotel, which has just gone through some major renovations and seems like a great place for a bunch of sweaty triathletes and their greasy bikes to slumber for the week. Great hotel, minus the battle I continue to have with the Internet connection. As we were driving into town the song Bicycle Race by Queen came on the radio…
“I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle…” Heck ya I do! It’s gotta be a sign.
I’m pretty sure my mind is in full-blown triathlon mode. Yesterday on the drive over, I wrote down a lot of my thoughts, emotions, and goals not just for the race but for the next few days in general, because for me the experience starts the moment we arrive. I am looking forward to packet pick-up, being around other triathletes, seeing my friends and feeding off their excitement, driving the bike course, checking out the reservoir, and walking along the same path I will be running on Saturday. I’m really glad we arrived a couple days early to acclimate and not feel rushed.
I have people asking me all the time, especially given that this is my first triathlon, what are your goals? I’ve been thinking about this on and off for the past few weeks and honestly they change from day to day. Now that I am here and only two days away, I have been able to compile my thoughts and establish some concrete goals that I hope to attain.
1) Finish. Pretty cliché eh, but let’s be real. Finishing would be an accomplishment in and of itself. You never know what will happen out there. Plus, I have to survive the swim if I’m going to have a chance on the bike and run. The good news is, the weather is supposed to be great!
2) Have fun, take it all in, learn, and enjoy my first triathlon. I can honestly say that training these past few months has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. To have discovered a new source of happiness is quite remarkable and a reward in and of itself. Not every workout was great – some even brought me to tears (I still feel baaaad for the innocent sheep I screamed and cursed at during one particularly windy ride in Corvallis) – but every one of them left me feeling accomplished and thirsty for more. Why should the race be any different?
3) The swim. Stay calm during the swim. I have a tendency to overthink and get really nervous, which leads to panic and disorientation. This is the last thing I want or need while swimming amongst hundreds. My goal is to start comfortably, steady my mind, and swim at my pace in my zone (and avoid getting kicked and beat up). And if I do find myself getting worked up before or during the swim, I have my “Once Upon a Dream” song from Sleeping Beauty to help calm me down and settle into a groove.
4) The bike. Gain back some time on the bike and give my legs a good, solid spin. I’ll be using power on the bike for the first time and will be better able to monitor my efforts to make sure I don’t go out too hard or blow-up somewhere along the way. I have a tendency to ride as if the ground is crumbling behind me. I’m hoping to average around 20mph, give or take depending on the wind (and yes, there will be wind).
5) The run. Feed off the energy of the crowd, maintain a steady pace, and strive for a negative split. I want to reserve enough energy and fight to push it the last couple of miles and sprint my way into the finish line. I have felt pretty good during my bricks, although the longest run I have done during a brick is 6 miles. It will be interesting to see how I do, knowing that the finish line is only miles away. The run is typically my strength and I’m hoping that my half marathon on Saturday is no different.
6) Don’t beat myself up. I can be quite competitive and have fairly high expectations for myself based on what I know I am capable of achieving. However, I am still battling bronchitis (I had my third trip to the doctor on Monday and was finally able to discuss all of this with my primary care physician rather than an urgent care P.A.) and was told that until I rest for a good 2-3 weeks, my lungs will remain irritated and inflamed. Apparently it is quite common for endurance athletes to experience these symptoms for a prolonged period of time (he called it “Ironman cough”), because the body is spending so much time healing itself elsewhere, it doesn’t have the resources to fight off the virus that is lingering. I know it is going to affect my race because of the high intensity and stress, so I’m just hoping that I can push through even if I’m leaving traces of chunky lung gunk behind. After I finish, I will be taking a couple weeks off of training to rid myself of this stuff once and for all (sad days for me).
How am I feeling? Well, as someone who gets notoriously nervous before big, important events, this one takes the cake. The nerve levels right now surpass those of my first marathon, defending my dissertation, and teaching my first lecture at Oregon State University in front of 300 students. But, with nerves come excitement, adrenaline, and challenge – all of which I relish and feed off. These moments are some of the most joyous in my life. I couldn’t imagine not doing something truly outrageous that makes me feel this alive. So, yes I’m anxious and feel as though someone is using my stomach for knot-tying practice, but even more so I feel invigorated and alive.
I am also feeling very grateful to be given this opportunity and for all the support that has been given to me from day one. I feel like I will not be alone on the swim, bike, and run, and that there will be many people, moments, and reminders that come across my mind and fuel my desire to stay strong and finish. It’s pretty heartwarming to know that others care and are willing to expend a little time and energy to encourage me in completing this journey.
I have a feeling that the next few days are going to go by in a flash. It’s amazing to think that 161 hours of training and endless hours of emotional and mental investment are all leading up to this one colossal event.
For any who are interested, you can track my progress on Saturday, June 7 at the Ironman Boise 70.3 athlete tracker site. My Bib number is 1049 and I’m the only athlete with the last name Yax. My wave starts at 12:39pm Mountain Time. Just click on the logo below and put in my info!