Christ, this guy’s thighs. Every vein. Every single vein is popping out; not a drop of fat. It doesn’t even look pleasant. Even less pleasant is the veteran’s circle next to me in the hotel lobby, comparing which Ironman swims they’ve done are the worse – and then comparing them all to their warm up swim this morning. Please just sod off. You’re not helping. I am questioning why I chose to do this stupid bike tour recce in the first place.
The pre-race nerves have been relentless since yesterday. I can’t walk down to the docks and look out over the water without my stomach flipping. In all honesty though, the nerves are good. The fear is good. You stop feeling fear in the pits of depression, and it’s considered an indicator of impending suicidal behaviour. Fear is good. Fear tells me my head is still screwed on.
At this point, I’m not 100% sure what I have left to be afraid of anyway. There’s nothing in the plan, theoretically – I love theoretically – that’s in the plan that I don’t feel I’m capable of on Saturday. I have a simple three part mantra – survive the swim, grit your teeth on the bike, let the crazy out on the run. I think it’ll work.
Rough swim? I really don’t think it’d stop me. Slow me down, sure; but while there’s still big holes in my swimming, I feel confident enough that I’d still get it done and not be too put out by it. The rolling start should still work nicely for me, but again, if someone behind me gets impatient I’ve come too far to let it out me off. The swim is still just about survival more than anything for me, at least in terms of my target splits, so I will find a way and if I lose ten minutes, so be it. I’ve lived through worse – depression, in its own funny way, makes one a very tough cookie in the right frame of mind. Despite the nerves, there’s very much a feeling of grit. As mentioned yesterday, I’ve put the hours in.
The bike course recce (which by the time I come to finishing writing this, waiting outside the doors to the race briefing) has come and gone, and it looks fine. There are a couple of tricky corners, and a big lump in that long bridge I have to cross twice, and a few false flats that’ll mean it’s important I remember to stick to my target effort levels. Of course, you can’t feel wind in a coach. There will be wind, but I’ll grit my teeth and stick to my target effort levels through that, as well. Besides, I have a wind-cheating sleeved Tri top now, so I won’t feel a thing. Obviously.
Then we come to the run, the part of the race that my whole strategy hinges around me doing comfortably quicker than me two years ago thought was a super strong marathon time. After a couple miles of swimming and a hundred plus of cycling. No biggy. At this point it’s kind of immaterial what I have left at the start of the run, so long as I have something to get me going. Once I have the legs turning over, it’s just a series of mile long intervals at a really sedate pace from water stop to water stop. I have a decade’s worth of grievances to settle with myself. This is where it’ll happen.
Even given all of the bravado above, things could go wrong in so many ways, on so many levels – and I think it’d be okay. ‘There’s no time like the present’. It’s a phrase I always liked, but never had to courage to put into action. I’d be too paralysed by self-doubt to ever achieve any of my stupid pipe dreams. But I saw an Ironman, and I didn’t think too hard: I just did it, and I took a shot (or will take a shot in something under 36 hours, depending on when I stop stuffing my face with pasta and actually find somewhere with wifi to post this).
I could panic and choke on the swim, or I could crash (again) on the bike, or I could collapse on the run. It would hurt. It would hurt damn hard, but – hesitantly – it wouldn’t break me. I kinda think that whatever happens from here on out, it’s been a success. I applied myself to something, maybe not as hard as I could have, but I stuck with a goal for months without giving up or losing interest. I grasped a lot of ‘you can’t’ thoughts and threw them out the door.
I made a lot of people aware of a small charity that does some big work. I have raised a fair chunk for them – I say I, I mean you. Cheers for that. I sparked a few conversations about mental health, a few ambitious thoughts, and I’m damn proud of that. Ten hours, thirty minutes? Damn straight I can do it. Damn straight I will put my everything into there or thereabouts. But what I’ll accomplish on Saturday, in a lot of ways, pales to what I’ve already accomplished in the grand scheme of things. Doing that weird Phelps stretch to pat myself on the back now. It’s okay, at some point soon I need to shave my legs again, and that’ll bring my ego back down to earth.
Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!