My experience training for my second Ironman has been quite a bit different than training for my first. Firstly, I actually trained with a schedule and mostly kept to that schedule. I really do owe a lot of that to my coach, who was always willing to shift things around for me and listen to what I wanted and needed. I felt like I had some flexibility in my workouts, but knew that I needed to do them. That was very helpful. Also, I was able to put in a lot more time and energy into it due to some life changes. When training for Ironman, one really does need to let go of other things.
So here I am in the middle of race week. 5 more days. I’m excited and nervous and terrified all at the same time. Thoughts rush through my heads like, “What if I’m no faster than last time?” “What if I am not as prepared as I think I am?” etc. etc. I remember in my first Ironman meeting a woman in transition after the bike. She was crying so hard. I asked her if she was all right, thinking it was a physical pain. It wasn’t. She was upset because she didn’t take any time off of her first one, the year before. I talked to her for a bit about how completing it once is amazing, let alone going for a second time around. I asked her if her goal was to finish, to which she answered a tearful, “Yes.” I told her she was amazing, but that she wasn’t going to finish Ironman a second time by crying in the transition tent and that we needed to get out onto the course. We ran together for a while and she was much more excited once we got onto the course, where the crowd of people lining the street couldn’t help but give us the energy to start the marathon. She saw her family and stopped to chat so I kept going. She finished that race… maybe not in the time she wanted, but she finished. I need to remember that no matter what my time is, it’s about finishing. My #1 goal of every race I start is to finish. Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily happen, which can be heart-breaking. But even that experience has made me a stronger athlete.
My race-week preparations so far have been just to pack and get everything ready. I might go for a run tonight, actually, because I have some pent-up energy that I think needs to be expended. Running is good for that. I look forward to getting on the road, getting to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and getting the show on the road. In the Olympic-distance, warm-up triathlon last weekend people asked me how my day was and I said, “If I’m doing anything related to triathlon, it’s a good day. I’m doing what I love and loving what I do!” And it’s true. I’m so excited to have a whole day of support to do what I love. To have people cheering me on, and finding energy and inspiration from what I love to do is a great feeling. On top of that, I get to experience this with two other people who have become two of my closest friends. They have pushed me out the door in -40C at 6am, they have invited me into their home for early-Saturday-morning bike training sessions, and they have encouraged me just as much as I have encouraged them. Above all, though, I can’t wait to hear the words again: “Crystal Clarke from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada… YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN!” It’s the greatest feeling in the world. Nothing else matters more in that moment than those words and that feeling.