Clearwater: 1 Week Remaining…

Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Clearwater, Florida USA
1 Week Remaining
Introduction, Training, Random ThoughtsIntroduction

With one week until the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida, I am filled with feelings ranging from excited anticipation to wishing it were over.

The excitement of the race to come and how I will perform, the experience to be had, and to be a part of a world-class event with many Pro’s and Elites and some of the very best Age Groupers in the world has me giddy with excitement.

At the same time, the event for which I have been focused for over two long months – made longer by an already long season that started with an early season Ironman in Coeur d’Alene – couldn’t come soon enough. The weather is getting colder here in New England, the days shorter and the mornings darker. I have been ready to shut my season down since before I even qualified. Since then I have managed to recommit to this new goal, but it has wore on me. I’ve ignored these thoughts and instead thought about the great honor and pride of racing among best in class. And when I wanted to sleep in or go only for an easy ride or run, I instead set the alarm 10 minutes earlier, went hard on the bike, and scheduled in a speed session at the track. It wasn’t easy.

These conflicting feelings come to a head with the common theme that I am truly ready for this race. I am ready physically, and I am ready mentally. I am ready for a final token event to part with my season, and I am ready for a last race to let go of my focus. At times I have had to play mind games to take my thoughts away from this race that seemed so far off. And at times I have engaged like a greyhound chasing a rabbit as I pushed harder and harder on the bike and at the track.

Come Saturday, November 10, 2007, I will be the greyhound in my mind, I will give it my all for a season ending celebration, and I will hunt down that rabbit like I know I am capable and set to bed a year of my life that has so far been the most magical sports-active one in my entire life.

It has been honestly been an amazing season. It was a year in which I not only got fast on the bike and capable in the water, but it was a year in which I achieved many goals in my running life and also triathlon. I still pinch myself when I think back to the race of my life that was Ironman Coeur d’Alene. The race was so personally satisfying and eternally rewarding that I would feel completely satisfied if I never do another Iron distance event again. I had been so focused on that race, and than to perform well and have it over, I took the remainder of my season as “extra” – as in, it didn’t matter, because I achieved in that race more than I could imagine. In that mode of training, I was surprised when I landed a roll down slot for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship with my performance at Timberman.

When I was a kid I used to dream about going to the Olympics. I was so drawn to the five rings, especially in how it was truly a world event, that I used to scour the coverage on television and dream big. So taken by it I was that it didn’t matter how I got there – which sport didn’t matter – as long as I was there. That to me was a dream – the dream, being among the world’s greats. I knew it wasn’t a reality, but dreams led to hope, to new goals, and to the yearning to want more in life.

Clearwater is, to me, like getting to the Olympic Trials of my youth. It not full-time, but it’s almost there. And it has the child in me giddy with excitement at being a legit part of such a world event.

We all long to be good at something, and I am no different. I have no illusions; I don’t hope to be the best. I like my life the way it is, but there is a part of me who wants to excel, who wants to get closer to the athletes who call themselves the world’s best. So when I learned a qualifying slot to Clearwater rolled down into my lap, I snatched it with pride and excitement. Seeing my name on that qualifying certificate was the validation I sought. I smiled the shy smile of my childhood self, only this time I stared into my little Ironmate’s eyes and asked if she wanted to go to Clearwater. She, as she’s done so well before, saw through to my desires and said yes.

Training

I am ready. I am so very ready. In fact, let me shout it out loud:

I. AM. READY.

I am worried about the swim and if the water will be wetsuit-legal. I have never swum in salt water, and I have never swum without a wetsuit. But I am hopeful that my continued good luck will paint a happy picture. And if it doesn’t, I know that I can and will get into that water, fight off other athletes, and punch through the warm Gulf waters of Florida. I am looking forward to seeing fish 30 feet below that are larger than a Volkswagon Beetle. And I’m already visualizing climbing out of the water and running up the beach into Transition. I will smile. And I will try not to be slow. But if I am, it’s okay, because I have already won – as I will be an athlete in a World Championship event. That is enough motivation to get me to strong-arm any water conditions.

Yes, I am ready!

Random Thoughts

o A week ago I received a very special e-mail. Although I will not divulge the topic (not at this point), I will say that I am extremely honored and hopeful that something good will come of what was discussed. To this point in my life, I have longed to do something better for society; I have wanted to take an underprivileged youth under my wing; I have wanted to inspire and motivated others doing what I love; and I have wanted to do many things, in a way to pay forward, I honestly have not done. This makes me sad, because I know I am better than that. I have a heart of gold that wants to sprinkle some magic about. But I have for the most part done very little. In this regard, I feel I have failed society. I’ve also felt that I’m one push away from Making Things Happen in areas such as these – areas that are selfless rather than self-serving. The note I received a week ago might be that shove. If nothing else, if all comes through, it will at least allow me to inspire someone who might otherwise feel their athletic day is done. And that makes me eternally happy. Stay tuned.

o You’ll never believe it. Here we are, now into November, and I’m still swimming open water. The water temperature has just this week dipped below the danger line of 60 degrees, but through October it slowly inched from a rather comfortable 70 to a chilly but certainly manageable level in the low 60’s. Although low 60’s is getting cold, there so far have been several soldiers more than willing to don a wetsuit and dip a toe. Back in August when I had qualified for Clearwater, if you told me I would be able to swim open water through October, I would have called you crazy.

o The other day I got to thinking about Clearwater and the branch of my family who lives nearby in the area just north of Tampa. That’s when it occurred to me that in all my years of running marathons and doing triathlons, there has only been one race – the 1993 NYC Marathon – where I had family come out to cheer me on. Nearly 15 years later, one of the things I am most excited about it the fact that my mother and a small contingent of distant relatives will come out to cheer me on. I have gotten so used to having a support group of one, my dear Ironmate, or none that I am seriously very excited to see them on the course. You know each and every one of them will get a sweaty hug and salty kiss.

o My dream bike is a Cervelo P3 Carbon. I really want one. With a set of Zipps. Heck, I’d even take Jr’s bike. Maybe I’ll find a frame on eBay and just take the components from USS Wisconsin, my current bike, on it.

o It really sucks when your laptop dies.

o This is cool. My very first triathlon, a small Sprint in Rhode Island called Try the Tri, was in August 2005. My second was in November the same year at Miami Man, a half Iron. I chose Miami Man because it was near my birthday (the day before, to be precise), and since I like to do something special on my special day, a trip to sunny Florida fit the bill. Now two years later, on the eve of the second anniversary of that magical event that made me a triathlete in my own mind, I am going back to Florida, this time to Clearwater, to race again in a birthday celebration that I know I will never forget. Can you tell I’m excited!

o I’m in a situation similar to how I felt with each of my Ironman’s. Leading up to each event, I truly felt that no matter what happened on race day, whether I had a good race or suffered through a nasty crash and burn, I couldn’t lose, for I had already won by just making it to the starting line. I feel the exact same way with Clearwater. I have already won in so many ways. Just to be a part of such an event is enough. The outcome and how my performance stacks up is a mere afterthought. Of course I’d be unhappy if I crashed a nasty burn, but just being part of an event with so many world class athletes is enough for me. That plus an amazing season makes Clearwater, regardless of what the day brings, a resounding success.

o I’ve got very simple goals for this race. I am looking to win the race. I am. I refuse to get caught up in a time goal and instead will do whatever it is in my power to go under 4 hours. That’s right: I said under 4 hours. That would put me near contention for a win, my first ever. Mind you, I know I am not genetically predisposed to go that fast, and I know I haven’t exactly trained at speeds in any of the disciplines to go that fast, but I am shooting for the stars. I plan to survive the beginning of the swim and, once I have clean water, and if the waves are manageable (not like Coeur d’Alene), I will settle into a workman-like rate to knock off a decent for me swim time. I am hopeful for 37-38 minutes, but I’m shooting for the stars with a 30 minutes swim. But the swim is just a warm up, for I will go hard on the bike. I want to average, regardless of what others do, 24 mph. I’m not kidding. Mind you, I haven’t come anywhere close to that in any training or races, but like I said, I’m going for the win. Then with the run, I will leave whatever I have in me out on the course. I hope upon hope I can hold on, but know that if I crash, it’s because I’m aiming for 6:30 minute miles, a full 30 seconds per mile faster than any of my previous best half Iron run pace. Overall I don’t care what the clock reads, because I know – I just know – that if I do what I can and do it the way I know how, I will be squarely on Simon Lessing’s shoulder. And if he crashed a nasty burn, then it will be Spencer Smith. I’m looking to stomp, because you know what, I have nothing to lose, for I have already won, and everything in the world to gain. Just a very, very long way to say that come Saturday, November 9, when that gun goes off, I will start easy and work myself into a full-fledged yet controlled hammer to put together a race that will ride on the very edge of my ability. Nothing more. Nothing less. If I crash, I certainly will not fail. If I hold on, I certainly have not succeeded anymore than I have in making it to the starting line in an event that I’m simply just excited to be a part of.

o CR Multisport: Thank you. I am blessed. And I think the most beautiful thing in the world is that I know, and I know you know too, that Clearwater would NEVER have been possible without your amazing support. I don’t even need to say, “Know that, because it’s true,” because you guys truly know that. Your help and undying support have been more than I could have asked for when, two years ago, I happened upon this little forum. What an amazing little slice of inspiration heaven. Thank you, folks.

o LRR: Words cannot express my thanks for your friendship. Thank you.

o Thank you for reading!

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