I thought maybe with the race less than one week ago things would get easier. Life would settle down, the taper would settle into my legs, and my nerves would settle too. But that has not been the case. Even before breakfast on Sunday, my stomach ached and I felt dizzy and nauseous. Standing in the kitchen, I went through the entire race, start to finish, writing down what I needed to bring, do, think along the way. Two hours later, I found myself pacing, hot but cold, lightheaded, dry-mouthed, significantly overcaffeinated, and thinking through every big or little situation I might encounter on the Big Island. I kept thinking of things I needed to buy, pack, look up on the internet, a trip to the bank, don’t forget to pack your shoes, where’s your helmet. I was running through the what if’s and the what to do’s when the phone rang. It was my mom.
“You know, there was an earthquake on the Big Island,” she reported.
“No, I didn’t know that,” I replied curiously and surprisingly. Our limited cable channels leave much news uncovered and the fact that we do not have internet at home doesn’t help much either. My mom relayed that earlier that morning the Big Island had been shaken by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake, leaving some landslides and power outages across the islands.
A multitude of questions and scenarios began multiplying in my mind and after a few seconds of having no clue how to answer them I simply said “Well, that figures, doesn’t it?” Years go by with no hitches at Hawaii and the year I decide to show up the whole earth starts crumbling down. I began picturing myself riding down a road littered with rocks while the earth started trembling from aftershocks as I tried to keep my aerobars still. Extreme weather I expected, high winds, heat, humidity, scorching sun, swells, these are things I was looking for. But an earthquake? Didn’t exactly make my list of things likely to happen before or during race day.
“So what are you going to do,” my mom asked anxiously.
“Come Saturday, in Hawaii or not, I will be doing something of an Ironman distance. I don’t care if I have to go to the pool, swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 in my basement, and follow it up with a run, I am doing an Ironman on Saturday,” I promised.
She laughed at that and agreed that all the training should not go to waste, but after the laugh subsided she said, “No, really, what are you doing to do,” this time looking at me firmly, and seriously, like only a mother could, demanding an answer or else.
“All I can do was wait, check the computer tomorrow for any news of race changes, and take it from there,” I said with some semblance of confidence that the race would go as planned.
But my lackadaisical approach didn’t seem to satisfy my mother.
“Are you beginning to think why you are doing this?” she asked with a sense of urgency waiting for an answer to satisfy her needs, to allay her fears, to calm her down from thinking that not only was there risk of her only daughter becoming shark bait but she could also be rumbled into the ocean while standing on quaking land.
“Yes, the thought has crossed my mind,” I replied. In fact, last night as my list of items to pack lengthened and I found myself in Target for the third time in 24 hours, I told myself it would be worthwhile to take some time on the plane to reflect on the reasons I am doing this so I have something to pull from on race day if I happen to find myself fading, doubting, or losing faith.
“I just want to get out there and get it done. I’ve worked so hard,” I admitted, hoping she would understand my drive to achieve this goal no matter how incredible, how increasingly difficult, or how unimaginable it seemed.
“Well your mother is very nervous for you. And your brother is worried about you swimming in the ocean,” she said with sincerity.
I’ve got to admit that I’m worried too. I leave for Hawaii on Tuesday and doing the race is becoming more and more tangible as the time ticks closer. But it’s good to be a little nervous, a little shaken up to remind myself that this race is much bigger than me but inside I know that I can be bigger than myself. And that thought will hopefully carry me through the day.