Monday, October 24, 2011

The Power Of Stillness

You are now entering...

The off season.  Or, the place where you magically lose what feels like a year’s worth of fitness and gain a shitload of weight in less than 2 weeks.


I’m kidding.  I think.  It’s been nearly 2 weeks since Kona and so far….please please let’s not say this too loudly…I feel good.  Doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and race any time soon (though I did have thoughts of competing in the local cyclocross race this past weekend until I figured it would probably be much more fun to heckle – drunk – instead) and doesn’t mean I’ve ramped back up my training (unless you call 2500 yards of swimming in the past week “training”).  I’ve been enjoying lighter activities and taking a nosedive into anything that has calories (the more, the better!). 

We’ll see how long this lasts.

In years past, I’ve felt absolutely wrecked from Ironman.  As in, needing to take 2 to 3 weeks off to regain my desire to do anything swim, bike, run again.  This year that did not happen.  Perhaps it was better fitness going into the event, better recovery after the event, the IVs or just that I’m not as psychologically wrapped up in the results of sport.  Don’t get me wrong: I love the sport and it’s a big part of me.  But not the only part.  It took me a long time to reach that level of clarity

Once you let go, you find the freedom to reach peak performance.  Clarity makes everything seem simple.  It’s funny how much we can overcomplicate the easiest things.  The best races come from executing your plan, going on “autopilot.”  In other words, trusting your stuff.  The more demanding the event, the more this freedom and trust is required.  Without it, you just don’t see things for the way they are and get easily distracted.  

I read a lot of race reports – both from my athletes and just randomly on the internet.  Something I’ve noticed is the difference between satisfied versus dissatisfied athletes.  When an athlete has a satisfying performance, the report is often about them – their execution, their confidence, their joy.  It is very free.  When an athlete is less satisfied, they recount a lot of distraction, worry and things beyond their control – other competitors, weather, terrain. 


A few months ago, I found a quote that resonated with me is: our mindset in the moment creates our experience.  It’s no secret that one of the hardest things about training and racing is weathering the long miles in our head.  100 miles is a long way to ride.  Worse yet – 20 miles is a really, really long way to run.  I’m not sure I will ever love running long though I absolutely love running.  During that time, you have hours upon hours of time to fill in your head.

Or should you?

Earlier this year I found a great blog and the author wrote an even better book, Stillpower by Garrett Kramer.  The idea is that rather than forcing your “will” upon the outcome of events, you need to be more “still”.  In other words, quieting your mind and letting things be.  Stillpower.  I practiced this approach on every single long workout and let me tell you – the difference was amazing.

What is stillpower?  Kramer explains it in a recent teleseminar:

Stillpower is the opposite of willpower.  Most of us are taught that the road to success is based on how hard we work, how much we grind, how much we exert our force of will.  The opposite is actually true.  The more quiet, the more still we are, the more success we’ll have.  This does not mean effort isn’t a good thing.  Stillpower is the psychological perspective from which the effort comes.  When a child runs around, it looks like they have unbounded energy, that they are exhibiting effort but in truth – they are just playing.  They are just free.  That’s the source of success.  That’s the answer to following your passions.  The opposite of what most teachers/coaches think - they want us to work, the only thing you can control is your effort but that is not so.  You cannot control your effort nor would you want to. The more you try to work through the lows and control your effort, the more revved up your thinking gets and the more failure you find.  Stillpower is a simple word that says the more clear we are, the more still we are, the more success we’ll have.

How did I put this into practice?  How many times have you been out on a long ride hating yourself.  Your coach.  Your bike.  Your head is filled with negative chatter about everything.  You start writing the bad story about yourself.  About how you’re too ____ for this (tired, busy, old, detached) for all of this triathlon bullshit.  What you need at that moment is your coach to step out from the shoulder, slap you and say “get over yourself.”  Unfortunately, us coaches don’t get paid enough for that.  You just have to find a way to get over your own bad self.

I used to be one of those people that was always trying to turn every negative into a positive.  Think positive thoughts!  Focus only on the good things!  You know what – when I’m out there and the winds are gusting to 30 mph, I’m ready to lick my own arms for salt and my legs shout NO with every pedal stroke, the last thing I’m thinking is positive sunshine, cupcakes and puppy thoughts.  And when I did try to fill my head with positive, it felt like I was fighting myself. I felt even worse.  If I’m not supposed to fix it, what was I supposed to do with my head instead?

Nothing.

That’s right – nothing

Accept that negative thoughts are just that – thoughts…that will pass. The same strategy is true for “time” in Ironman.  Whenever I’ve felt like I was going to be out there forever, I snapped myself back into reality – no one really rides their bike forever.  At some point it will end.  I always tell myself: the time will pass, it always does.  That brings me back to reality! So too shall negative thoughts pass.  Just give them time. 

The difference in doing this was immediate.  No longer was I having long, overdramatic battles with my head.  I was just letting things be.  Rolling with the punches.  Let things pass in and out of my head.  Telling myself, that’s just a negative thought.  I don’t have to accept it or believe it.  I don’t have to do anything.

Kramer said it best in a recent teleseminar:

Negative thoughts are just that – just thoughts.  Negative thoughts are productive.  They are our body’s built in defense mechanism that tells us we’re not seeing life clearly.  Those thoughts are telling you that you need to pull back; you don’t need to act from that place.  When you try to over-ride and fight through the negative thoughts, that’s when you make bad choices.  You don’t need to control or fix negative thoughts (you can’t).  If you’re thinking negatively, let it be.  What you think is not necessarily so.  There is no reality to them.  They are an instinctive sign you are not seeing clearly, just look in a different direction. 

In doing this (or not doing anything!), I can’t say that my head ever filled with positives but what it did was empty.  It was not uncommon then for me to go on a long ride and honestly – think about nothing.  There is great freedom and pleasure in going out for 100 miles with a quiet mind.  We live in such a world of clutter and distraction that for a few hours on a Saturday, having peace and quiet – especially as a parent! – was a luxury.  I didn’t have to make every training ride an exercise in thinking positive.  No longer was my mindset a factor in determining if the workout was a success.  Did I hit my watts?  How was the execution of my fuel plan?  All that really mattered was what really, truly mattered.  Following my plan.  Getting the work done.  Not waging a battle in my head. 

The result of this is freedom and clarity.  You start to see things for what they really are.  That wind in your face – it’s just wind.  Not a deal breaker, not something which will last forever.  It’s wind.  Let it be.  See how that works?  

A funny thing happened in Kona.  When I was on the ride – I didn’t think about anything.  The only word I can think to describe what was going on in my head was: stillness.   

It was awesome.
 
Whereas in the past I needed mantras, mind tricks and “crisis management” plans to manage my head during the ride – this time, I just let my mind be.  I didn’t even need to do that – I was riding along and was already there.  I was surprised at how quickly the ride passed, how effortless it felt.  Not once did I have a thought about it’s long, hot, windy.  When it mattered most, my mind was quiet and free.


I had a stillness about the entire race experience.  Because of that, I don’t feel the need to jump back in to do anything, fix anything or prove anything because the race was what it was supposed to be.  I always feel like a weeks after Ironman should be a “no-zone” – no puppies, no haircuts, no babies, no race registration, no major life decisions.  For a few weeks, just let yourself be.  Let the dust settle and then once you’re in a state of clarity figure out the next big thing. 

Until then – my “big” things are active recovery, enjoying the weather and trying new things.  A local yoga studio has a free week of yoga deal that I've been trying.  And the idea of "stillpower" is carrying over.  In the past, I've deplored yoga for all of its "quiet the monkey chatter" uppityness.  What if I like chatter?  What if I like freakin' monkeys!?  Nowadays, my mind in yoga is more still and quiet.  I can even fall asleep in shavasana.  This is a big step! 

Other "big" things I'm tackling: eating bad things and drinking good wine.  Yes, for a few weeks each year, fun Liz emerges from deep within her cave and her power animal is…wine.  My new iPhone just told me there are 13 wine bars nearby my home.  Siri even sorted them by rating.  (by the way: it’s nice to finally be able to talk to something in my house during the day and have it talk back to me in logical, complete sentences)  Looks like I’ve got some off season training to do – visit all 13 bars and confirm the ratings.


I’m going to need more down time.       

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kona 2011

Ironman Hawaii is complete – and I’m not exactly sure where to start.  So I’ll go back to the beginning…

It started with a song.

An entire collection of songs that Bree sent me from Hawaii.  15 months ago, in our first days home from the hospital, as I tried to figure out what to do and how to do it with a newborn, Max and I listened to the songs.  I thought about Hawaii.  I thought about Kona – specifically treading water waiting for the start cannon.  That moment seemed a million years away as I sat there sore and heavy while caring for an infant.  Listening to those songs made the impossible seem possible.  They gave me hope that I could be what I once was.

Now after a season of competing, I’ve since learned that I cannot go back and be that athlete. 

I can be better.

Arrive at Kona.  October 2011.  Long story (actually 10+ hour story) short, I executed my race plan.  I did what I set out to do.  There were no low moments, no epiphanies, no life changing realizations.  Rather it was a culmination of knowing what I could do, going out there and doing it. 

Simple.    

The long version.  Warning: it’s long but then again – so is Ironman. 

This is my third time racing on the Big Island.  This year, Kurt got me ready to put together my best Ironman.  His training was simple, consistent and effective.  I did not swim/bike/run one more mile than I needed to.  I did 2 x 20+ mile runs, 3 x 100+ mile rides and oodles of 4000+ yard swims.  The focus of training was repeatability – to work at race pace, recover and then a few days later – do it again.  I stayed ridiculously healthy – not sick once since Max was born.  How?  Appropriate training, attention to recovery (nutrition, sleep, maintaining low stress) and keeping it all in perspective.  I don’t sweat the small stuff and I don’t do the big stuff.  No monster epic weekends/hard core intervals/big miles – no time, no desire.  I’ve also learned it’s not necessary. I believe if you can achieve optimal performance on less training – by all means, do it.  You’ll have better health, better recovery and longevity.

As such, I arrived at race week feeling fit, fresh, tapered and ready.  I reached race weight.  I survived 9+ hours of air travel with 3 children and 8 adults.  If you’re wondering how, let me just say that I packed 25 pounds of snacks and toys, of which only Mr. Potato Head kept Max entertained for a few minutes before he realized that throwing his pacifier over the seat and pulling the hair of the woman in front of us was way more fun.

Race week was like being in the eye of a storm.  A storm of 14 members of my support crew including 10 of my in-laws, my husband, my kid, my mom, Dr. Nuts (yes, he is real and is really a doctor) and Sherpa Thomas (to clarify: not a real Sherpa, but a real person indeed) – all staying in the same house.  With no air conditioning.    

The days leading up to the race went by quickly.  Each day, I did my workouts then spent very little time in town mingling or at the expo.  The “scene” of Kona is an energy drain.  Plus, you risk illness when you spend time around 1000+ athletes on edge.  I washed my hands a lot but also mentally prepared for the craziness of Kona, the chaos of my family, the “stress” of doing a world championship.  To help, Chris graciously took over 99 percent of the Max responsibilities.  I slept in my own room.  I also didn’t put much emphasis on the label of Kona as a world championship.  Like Kurt told me, it’s an Ironman that you’re doing in Hawaii.  Enough said. 

Two days before the race, I eliminated all fiber.  My biggest fear in Ironman was what happened on my last trip there – poop.  Lots of it throughout the marathon.  No one knows specifically what causes this but risk of poop can increase due to overheating (the skin being the largest organ requires a lot of blood for cooling; more blood to the skin, less blood to digestion, possible hypoxia in the large intestine which then leads to poop), jostling of items in the intestines, dehydration or too much fiber in diet leading up to the race.  Dr. Nuts said that 48 hours of reduced fiber was sufficient.

The day before the race, I ate a large breakfast then tapered calories throughout the day.  I ate one of the smallest pre-race dinners ever.  Afterwards, Dr. Nuts painted my feet in Dermabond – a skin seal used after surgery.  I don’t wear socks when racing (ever) so wanted to be sure I limited the risk of blisters (and yes, it worked).  Once it dried, I was in bed by 7:30 pm.

Race day started at 3:30 am.  Sherpa Thomas dropped me off in the darkness of early morning at the King K.  I dropped off my special needs bags before getting my numbers painted on at body marking.  Next, I got weighed.  Before I stepped on the scale, I made an emphatic plea: DO NOT TELL ME HOW MUCH I WEIGH.  I knew I arrived at race weight and didn’t need to hear the consequence of heat-induced edema (hello cankles!) and carbo-loading for 3 days.  When transition opened at 4:45, I was one of the first in there.  It was an amazing feeling, even the empty transition area was buzzing with energy.  And so was I – today I get to do an Ironman! 

After getting my bike ready, I tucked myself away behind the King K, hiding behind headphones.  Music pumped through my ears while I did some stretching.  A lyric pops out: take control of your now.  A perfect mantra for the day. 

Before I knew it, it was time to get into the water.  My plan was to start far left by the Ford inflatable.  Treading deep water for 20 minutes was tiring so I hung off the inflatable until foam chunks started coming off and the paddlers told us to back up.  At a certain point, we stopped listening.  Kurt warned me that within 1 minute of the start, the “creep” would begin – the point at which everyone starts swimming before the cannon goes off.  Sure enough, within 1 minute, everyone starts creeping.  By the time the cannon sounded, athletes were already swimming.

The swim start in Kona is one of the most aggressive, frenzied starts out there.  Throw world championship in front of a race name and you get nearly two thousand top notch athletes swinging punches without holding back.  Everyone is good at Kona.  Everyone has nearly won something to get there.  If you don’t go with your big girl panties on, you’ll get eaten alive and find yourself with a mouthful of DNF.  Grace under pressure is critical.  Within seconds, I was getting pulled at, swatted, swum over and hit.  A few times, I actually had to stop to “gather” myself.  I looked behind me to see a giant swarm of angry blue and pink caps with arms like chopping blades.  Keep swimming!       

Every minute of that swim was fierce full contact.  Some people call this poor sportsmanship but really it’s just fear.  Most athletes in Kona are blatantly nervous and afraid.  You can read it between their lines, see it in their face.  Everyone is swimming, biking and running scared – of the pressure, the risk of failure, the reality of just being “good” amongst a field that is “great”.  If you go to Kona, you must go accepting that everyone is fitter, leaner and faster than you.  Get over it then focus on yourself and manage your own race.  

Finally, the swim exit.  Climbing the stairs, I see 1:06 on my watch.  A two-minute PR but initially I was disappointed.  Then I looked around me under the freshwater hoses: Rachel Ross and Lisbeth Kenyon, both women who have won their age group before in Kona.  I turned my disappointment into excitement.  

My plan for transition was to be assertive and quick.  A volunteer appears and the first thing I said (shouted) was: SUNSCREEN.  She smeared me with a white mess and I shouted MORE.  She did it again and I shouted MORE!  Dr. Nuts told me that sunscreen would be imperative for my day.  As soon as your skin starts “feeling” hot, you risk overheating and then gastric shutdown.  I came out of that tent looking like Casper.

The run out of transition is long.  Once on my bike, I was surrounded by a thick clump of men that didn’t shake apart until the return trip on Kuakini.  The pace was fast and we had tailwind. 

Once on to the Queen K, I settled in and focused on holding my power range.  The first aid station was about 15 miles into the ride where I grabbed water – something I would do at each aid station every 7 miles from there.  The day was warm but then again when you’re riding on black pavement that extends what looks like forever and surrounded by fields of black lava – you’ve got to expect it’s going to be a little toasty.

I sailed through the first hour in 22.7 mph.  Tailwind is a glorious thing.  Up to Waikoloa, the miles clicked off quickly.  The ride simply became all about executing my plan.  I controlled the controllables: my hydration, salt tabs, nutrition, my pacing, my mindset.   Mostly, I found my mind empty - not negative, not positive, just still.  Not once did I hit a mental low or wish I was somewhere else.  How would you feel if you got to do everything you loved for a day?  You would embrace every moment, you would enjoy it.  I took the time to look at the lava and ocean.  With all of this beauty and opportunity, how could this not be my day?  Soon enough, I found myself at the turn off to Kawaihae. 

The entire course is a series of long, gradual climbs with a mixed bag of winds but once you turn at Kawaihae, the climbs are more prominent and the wind seems to always be in your face.  I got the sense that it was windy at Hawi based on how the pros were riding back down from it – Kurt told me to be aware of this.  The climb to Hawi is about 7 miles long and today the winds were gusting around 30-40 mph.  I held on firm to my bike.  Everyone was sitting up.  A lot of bigger girls were passing me.  At one point, I think it took 6 minutes to cover a mile. 

At mile 60, we hit the turnaround and started to sail effortlessly.  I made a quick stop at special needs then cruised down from Hawi.  According to my power file, I coasted easily for 38 minutes.  Thank you, tailwind.  Tailwind turned into a pretty calm wind once back on the Queen K.  Towards Waikoloa there were a few who opened the oven door moments of heat but other than that, the ride felt fairly easy.  From Waikoloa to the airport, there was significant crosswind and the crowds had thinned out.  Yet in the last 20 miles, I was on top of my power range and my legs felt amazing. 

Coming into transition, one of my athletes yelled my name and caught my bike (thanks, Kris!).  I shouted YEAH!  I knew from training that I could ride 5:30-5:36 and did 5:36 exactly.  But more importantly: my big goal was to break 10:30 for the day.  I dismounted the bike at 6:46 and at that moment got a little giddy: for sure I would break 10:30 today. 

In transition I assertively shouted SUNSCREEN and dumped my bag.  In doing so, my salt tab container opened up.  And there went 16 salt tabs all over the ground.  I shouted at the volunteer, PICK THEM UP!  I was loud but Kurt told me not to be afraid to gently “boss” them around – that’s why they are there (and of course I said THANK YOU!).  I ran out of transition with a face full of sunscreen and zippy legs. 

Never look at the whole of the marathon – it’s too long!  Instead, I ran aid station to aid station.  I was told to keep the first 5 to 10 miles very easy and when I hit the first mile in 7:06 I had to remind myself that easy meant nose breathing.  It’s hard to go slow along Alii Drive – it’s lined with spectators and along the ocean.  I yanked myself back and told myself sustainable.  Hold a pace that you could sustain all day no matter how hot it is out there.

And it was hot.  I took advantage of any shade I could get.  At each aid station, I grabbed a sponge, dumped two cups of ice in my bra, grabbed two cups of water and then (as needed) grabbed gel.  This year, I decided to rely on the course for gels and almost regret it – every gel was my least favorite flavor and caffeinated!    

At mile 10, you make a right turn up Palani which always feels 10 times longer than it actually is.  I wanted to keep my effort low so slowly chugged up it before making the left on the Queen K.  Shortly thereafter, I hit the half way point at 1:43 – and knew I was on track to have a strong run.  Just another 13.1 miles to hold it.  Mentally, I broke up the Queen K with landmarks.  I clicked off a few faster miles, passing some women in my age group before getting to the Energy Lab.  Chris was all over the course telling me where I was in my age group, how long to 5th place.  I got off the bike in 13th place and made my way to 7th by the Energy Lab. 

The Energy Lab goes by quickly.  I was passed by one woman but kept moving at a consistent pace.  Out of the lab, I had 10K to go.  I was given specific directions to pick up the pace at this point but I couldn’t make it happen.  Maybe because I missed about 5 months of running in late pregnancy and even before that had about 6 months where I wasn’t running long miles.  To excel at this distance, you need an extensive base of miles and strength.    

Not only that but I think I settled.  When I qualified for Kona, I told Kurt I wanted to break 10:30.  Yet in training, I got the sense that based on fitness/data, I could break 10:20.  For whatever reason, I didn't commit to it.  I settled for sub 10:30.  Next time, I will dream bigger - no, BIGGER - and then commit to it.  So much of long course racing is how bad you want it.  At a certain point, fatigue is a choice.  You choose your outcome out there. 
 
The last few miles were a series of thoughts running through my head about just wanting to be done but at the same time being sad that I only had a few miles left.  I heard Chris shouting but wasn’t listening – I was quietly retreating into that place in my head where I go to hide from pain.  Nothing else mattered but seeing the next mile marker.  The next aid station.  I couldn’t drink enough water or get enough ice.  I got passed by another girl in my age group bumping me down to 9th place.  Each street passed slowly – Henry, Kalani, Hualalai and finally: Alii Drive.

Any regret about the last 10K fades as I approach the finish.  There is nothing like running the final ½ mile down Alii Drive.  The crowd is lined thick and makes a tunnel towards the finish line.  They are all shouting my name, clapping, the cheers are deafening.  I cross the line in 10:22:02 and 9th in my age group.  Arms up and a giant smile spreads across  my face.  It was the only thing I could think to do and was 100 percent genuine.  It was a year’s worth of work, sacrifice and making it happen day after day – no matter how many times I was woken up during the night, how many people told me I was crazy, how many pounds I still had left to lose.  I did it. 

After the race, I am greeted by two catchers.  I was thirsty, hot and wanted to sit down.  A woman pours cold water over my head.  Finally the catchers pass me over to Sherpa Thomas.  He takes me to the back to sit down.  I can’t do it – he has to assist me.  Dr. Nuts appears soon after to take me to the bathroom.  I considered it a huge victory that I did not poop all day.  But after the race – that’s a different story.

My feet are throbbing and I cannot walk by myself.  Dr. Nuts piggy backs me to my family.  I tell my mom that I never want to do another Ironman.  She reminds me of a photo I took 4 years ago saying the same thing.  Using the stroller as my walker, I make my way back to the car.  The short walk feels like forever. 

That evening, Dr. Nuts pumps me full of two IVs and a bag of dextrose.  He tells me not to drink water or else it will cause my intestines to spasm.  I eat 2 pieces of pizza which pretty much have the same effect.  I spend a lot of time in the bathroom hating Ironman.  Chris spent a lot of time holding my IV bag while I was in the bathroom.  Pretty sure he was also hating Ironman.

The next day, I woke up feeling ok.  I was slightly tired but the IVs seemed to help with recovery.  Dr. Nuts said that could be psychosomatic.  I tell him to shut his overeducated medical yapper.  My feet, however, were killing me.  My big toe bunions were badly chafed.  I had no appetite.  And I got a nasty case of edema that lasted the next 5 days (Nuts said it’s from the trauma of Ironman – the only “cure” was time and wearing compression socks). 

I spent the next few days on the island – visiting beaches, shopping.  I ate Haupia ice cream (coconut pudding – delicious).  I did not eat vegetables.  I drank porter at the Kona Brewing Company.  While overlooking the ocean, I had a few Mai Tais.  I laughed with my friends and family.  I did absolutely nothing.  It's called recovery.

When I started training again after having Max, I set big goals.  Make the impossible possible.  Take control of your now – don’t wait!  I took it one day at a time and never doubted myself.  So many people tried to pass their doubts on to me: you’ll never have time, you won’t want to leave your child, you’ll never run the same again.  In the end, I achieved what I set out to do – I broke 10:30 at Kona, I set a 10 minute PR, I finished top 10 in my age group at a world championship.  Now I have the confidence of knowing I have what it takes and because of that, a door has opened.  A door of possibility.  Where it goes?  Well, that’s for me to decide as I plan out what to do next….

It goes without saying that a lot of people contributed to this accomplishment: my husband, my child, my family, my coach, my babysitter, my friends, my lanemates, my athletes, my sponsors.  You know who you are and know what you did for me.  Thank you!  

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Counting Down

Right now I’m writing to you from under several thick layers of bubble wrap. 

Seeing that my child woke up this morning with a cold, I’m also breathing through a mask laced with Vitamin C and wearing plastic gloves.

I’ve made it this far.  This far.  I’ve survived months of training with no illness and no injury. For crying out loud, I arrived at race weight!  Have you any idea how difficult that was?  Wine has not touched these lips for many weeks and all I can say is I AM THIRSTY!

All that stands between me and the Ironman start line is a few days and 9 hours of air travel.  Last night I did some online research on how to handle a long flight with a young child.  After finding some great ideas on a forum, I am now equipped with crayons, a roll of scotch tape, a wallet with old cards, a lock with key, a Magna Doodle, paper, stickers, magnets, trucks and enough snacks to feed the entire plane.  All of that will keep my child entertained for roughly 30 minutes until he realizes that hitting the seat in front of us is way more fun. 

In addition to sending me your prayers for that flight, you can send me your ideas on Ben & Jerry ice cream flavors I must try after Ironman.  I’ve been working on a list of things to do when I get my life back.  Most of them include riding my cross bike to/from an alcoholic establishment.  To clarify: I don’t race cyclocross, I just ride my cross bike to get drunk.  I’m pretty sure that makes me a winner in a very special category.  Other things I want to do include eating things in the food group of sugar, fat and coffee.  And at least one line item contains the idea that I just want to NOT eat at all.  Like skip a meal and not worry about the implications.  Maybe wake up and not eat breakfast for – oh – an hour?  One of the most challenging things about Ironman training is that you are always eating.  Not because you’re hungry but because you need it for recovery.  Trust me – this is not a dream come true.  You don’t recover by eating crap.  You have to eat good stuff – lots of good stuff. 

This gets old after about 2000 calories.

In some way, preparing my family for travel has distracted me from the fact that I am doing an Ironman in less than a week.  Packing probably should have been a workout scheduled in Training Peaks.  My entire bathroom countertop was consumed by piles, baggies and lists.  By the time I had counted out enough salt tabs, packed for the race, gathered my own clothes, got together Max’s clothes and assembled a bag for the flight – at least 4 days had gone by.  And Chris?  Tonight he walked into the bedroom, dumped a small pile of clothes on the bed (pile under one arm, beer in the other hand) and said “I’m packed.”

Oh, to be a man.

While Max was sleeping last night, I spent some time putting together my race plan.  Before every race I write everything out – a timeline for the week, my fuel plan, my pacing, my mindset.  The one thing that kept coming back to me was: keep it simple.  Racing 140.6 miles is a very long way.  There is a lot of room for extra “stuff” to enter your head, your body, even your race bags.  I’m keeping it simple.  I’ve got three things I’m going to use to focus (and refocus) myself.  Beyond that, I am going to enjoy the opportunity to do what I love for nearly an entire day.  By myself!  When I think of it like that – WHAT is the rush to get the finish line and back to real life?  Wait…when is Ultraman?  You mean I can disappear from parenting, responsibility and the world for more than an entire day!?  After going through the past week, which I shall label “the week of no naps”, SIGN ME UP!

Life after Ironman.  I’ve got ideas.  And goals.  BIG things.  I will find a way top myself.  That is the goal of life – to continually challenge yourself and grow.  I’ve got a life list of things I want to do and that list is always in front of me.  Do you have a list?  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  One of my list items is Rim to Rim to Rim.  Another is a specific time in a marathon.  I’d like to take one triathlon season and just focus on short course.  I want to get more into weaponry.  Dork moment alert: one of my favorite shows is Top Shot.  I watch it and I want to shoot something – gun, bow/arrow, cannon.  Chris told me to not say a word about this to his father or else I might find myself boar hunting in Hawaii.  

I also want to get into competitive parenting.  Yes, be one of those.  I’ve been seeking out classes and storytimes where I can show up, be the pushy parent and talk my kid up as the smartest and fastest prodigy.  Just as long as no one finds out that he spent nearly 30 minutes today crawling around the house while carrying 3 small packages of dry active yeast.  Why?  Ask him.  I have no idea!

In other taper-worthy news…wait…you mean I’m STILL tapering?  It’s been what – 6 months?  Feels like it.  I’ve done my taper workouts which honestly feel like going to school and the teacher gives you..a worksheet.  That’s it?  I showed up to fill in the blank?    

Anyways, my mom got an iPhone.  We kept joking that if she ever did send a text, she would have to get a cord to plug in to a giant detachable keyboard that she'd keep in her purse.  Except there’s no way that would fit in her purse so how would she ever send a text?  Somehow, I just got one:

I’ve got Mr. P.  Can bring him later.

A cryptic way of saying: she has the Mr. Potato Head!  He’s another one of the toys that will guarantee me at least 10 minutes of silence on the plane.

This morning I went for my last run at home on one of my favorite paths.  The temperature was perfect, my legs are rested and I have the one thing I’ve been chasing after all season: fitness.  Fitness is that feeling of ease and lightness when you go running.  Fitness is hitting all your landmarks in some of your best times ever.  Unfortunately, fitness is always fleeting.  And I know the next time I run on this path, it won’t feel so easy and I won’t be as fast.  The feeling of fitness you have before a peak race is amazing, isn’t it?  Something you want to just bottle up and hold on to.  But part of becoming a better athlete is using up that fitness, letting it go and then rebuilding it. 

I am confident that letting go after Ironman will not be difficult.  Done properly, Ironman purges you of the need to do anything triathlon for at least 4 weeks.  Looking forward to that.  Also looking forward to testing my theory that the only thing that gives cankles worse than childbirth is Ironman.

Note to self: pack compression socks. 

The final countdown has begun.  I'll wake up in my own bed two more times before I wake up in Hawaii.  One thing I love about waking up in Hawaii is the sound of the birds in the morning.  I think it's a type of dove.  Whatever it is, it reminds me that I'm on island time.

Can't wait!