On Thursday afternoon I anxiously packed my Pathfinder for the last weekend of training hell. I was unsure of what to expect, unsure of my level of preparation and nervous as to how my nutrition plan would hold up. To simulate race day as best as possible I brought all the food I would need for the weekend and cut myself off from the outside world to focus. When I arrived at the Placid Bay Inn, and came to find Rocky IV on TV, I started to think that my July 4th Weekend would be something special.
It's kind of embarrassing to admit but one of my heroes growing up was Rocky Balboa. The underdog who always fought to the finish, the size of his heart and will to win always overcame his shortcomings as an athlete. Oddly enough I think both Rocky Balboa and Hulk Hogan, 2 fictional characters helped develop who I am (a post for later this week). When Duke, Rocky's trainer told him "you're going to have to go hell and back to get ready for this fight and you're going to have to do it alone," I couldn't help but think he was talking directly to me.
I woke Friday morning to perfect blood sugars, with anticipation for what the day would hold. I got to Mirror Lake at 7:55 am but was distraught as the lake was filled with crew shells; after speaking with some of the crew Coaches I found out that there was a big race on July 5th, and while they had been training on the lake for weeks now a bunch of "new" teams were there and they didn't know how observant of swimmers in the water these teams would be so it probably wasn't safe to swim. No problem, I had a ton of other stuff to do so instead of getting into the water, I hopped on my bike and set out for the 112 mile ride.
I can't exactly explain the feeling I had during the first loop of the bike course. But something "clicked", for some reason I kept smiling. I kept thinking of my Mom's final words to me before I left the house on Thursday, "just remember to have fun." Instead of fearing the course I respected it. Under gorgeous blue skies I realized how lucky I was to be out riding, to be pushing myself and to be chasing a dream. I started to have a slight belief that I might actually be ready for the race.
The first loop was incredible, the 3 hours and 10 minutes were the best I had ever biked. During my 70 mile ride on Tuesday my quads were burning and my mind was tired; however for the first 56 of the Placid course I felt "perfect". My blood sugars were only 91 after the decent into Keene so I added a banana to the nutrition plan; at the end of the loop I was at 180 and was psyched to head out to enjoy the course again.
My second loop didn't go quite as well, but wasn't a disaster by any stretch. After the decent my blood sugar was 121; I should have just stuck to my nutrition plan but instead made a HUGE mistake and took in a hammer gel. About 15 miles later my blood sugar had spiked into the 220 range and sapped alot of my energy. The second I took the gel I knew it was a mistake but also learned a really valuable lesson. I need to adapt for my blood sugars but need to be smart about it. I shouldn't take products that Lauren and I haven't tested 100 times before and should use my training experience to know how I need to adapt. The stupid move slowed my pace down 1.5 mph compared to my first lap for a final time of 3 hours and 27 minutes; however I was able to finish strongly and did a 1/2 hour brick at a 8:30 pace - a pace I couldn't come close to holding after the 56 mile bike at Mooseman - tangible proof of improvement!
I was asleep by 10 pm on Friday for a 4:50 am wake up call. To get in some quality swimming at Mirror Lake I needed to be in the water by 6am. There was something incredibly serene about swimming during a sunrise; it was just a fisherman and me in the lake - vastly different than the experience I'll have with 2,000 other people on the 20th though. Most importantly I didn't have any blood sugar issues pre or post swim and my new wet suit felt incredible, my confidence was growing with only 1 hellish session left, a 2 and 1/2 hour run.
After biking more than 200 miles, running close to 40 miles and swimming about 5 miles in a 6 day period my legs shut down on me at mile 10 of my run (I was able to finish 13 miles in all). I didn't run the 20 miles I wanted to on Saturday but in all honesty that didn't matter. 6 or 7 miles into my run on the Lake Placid course, I smiled the biggest smile I've had in months and out loud said "I'm Ready." At that moment I knew I had prepared as best I could, I knew my nutrition plan was spot on, I knew all those people I had placed my faith in hadn't led me wrong. I finally believed in myself, I finally believed in my ability to complete Ironman Lake Placid. The biggest distance we race for an Ironman is the space between our ears - it took me nearly a year to cover that distance but 15 days before race day I finally crossed that finish line.
So much happened over the past 72 hours that I'm not 100% sure how to put it into words. This is the quiet before the storm, the calm confidence that lets me know I'm ready for race day. Before the butterflies come and before I'm holding back vomit in Mirror Lake, I know I'm ready. At this moment I'm not worried about my blood sugars, and I'm not worried about my preparation - I know I've done all I could to prepare for the race. I also had an incredible time sharing all this with a certain triathlete while swimming in Walden Pond on Sunday.
I think all the doctor visits, all the time spent researching about nutrition, the buckets of sweat, the hours of sacrifice and the pain endured are all to reach this confidence and the self-belief that one is ready for race day; I had to put myself through a week of hell after 50 weeks of training to achieve it but now I can't wait to be on that starting line.