Tomorrow morning I’m hoping to claw my way through my seventh Ironman race. As my friend Ryan put it so eloquently, anticipation is the sweetest part: “because you can still dream about a great day.”
The thing is, for this one I haven’t been dreaming much at all. I dreamed about the smattering of other races I was going to do all year. I dreamed about the mack-daddy full that would follow. But then, after constantly being re-routed by injuries, I learned to dream smaller: to dream about tomorrow’s workout or the weekend’s adventure. Instead of falling asleep excited about qualifying, or breaking four hours, or whatever it was, I learned to accept the twisting, turning, intersecting journeys of physical healing, patience, and re-thinking goals.
I also had one of the best summers of my life—thanks to a really special place in the mountains, and someone who just so happens to call that place home.
So why Barcelona? (I’ve been very quiet about this one, I’ll admit, so thanks to all of you who’ve messaged me today with surprised well-wishes!) My parents had been planning a Meditteranean cruise setting out from Barcelona all year, and while it factored into my short-lived Ironman Italy plans for a spell, I didn’t realize that Ironman Barcelona was also happening the same weekend. This seemed far too convenient and serendipitous to ignore.
After some hemming and hawing about whether I’m the kind of person who just does an Ironman or whether I was done with simply finishing and only wanted to compete if I could kill it, I booked my trip on points and notified my parents of my plans. Ten weeks off running had seemed to work wonders for my stress fracture, and though I was (and am) slower than ever, it felt great to be out there on my feet again.
And so I thought, what the heck? Why not tag along with my parents, let them look after me for a few days, and then swim, bike, and run my way along the coast of Spain for a day? (OK that was the relaxed, casual Jen, who sits in direct opposition of the other Jen, who hems and haws. See above.)
But something about it spoke to my love of simply training and racing, whatever it is and whatever it brings.
And so tomorrow, I shall race.
I haven’t laid out a nutrition plan. I haven’t run more than 2 hours in a long run, and my run fitness is missing about 4.5 months in the bank.
I haven’t been taking great care of myself, evidenced by a somewhat poorly-planned flight itinerary (hey, I booked on points) that included two red-eyes resulting in 2 back-to-back nights of 3-4 hours sleep, max.
For the first time since my very first Ironman, I haven’t even given a thought to my times beyond vague ranges. That is almost hard for me to believe or type “out loud.” I have thought about performance more broadly—of being proud in retrospect of the effort I gave—but not of placement or PR’s or KQ’s. And that is incredibly liberating!
I didn’t taper, unless you count not doing anything at all (no shake-out or activation workouts, here) for a few days prior in Barcelona with my parents, drinking cava and eating paella and spending all day long on my feet seeing beautiful things like Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.
I haven’t been carb-loading or hydrating properly, and my pre-race meal plan involves eating whatever the hotel plans to put out for us early-risers. (No rice + coconut butter + maple syrup miracle concoction this time!)
I did not relax much, and it was OK. I arrived here in the host town of Calella at 2 pm today, the day before the race, whereupon a mad (but weirdly fun) scramble ensued: assemble bike, find venue, buy needed things, check in, swim and run, pack Ironman bags, realize they didn’t give me special needs bags and decide I don’t care, rack bike, find food, etc. etc. etc.
So that’s that! My plan is to have fun. Real fun, not Type 2 or Type C fun or whatever that kind of fun is that’s only fun later. I get to swim in the Meditteranean sea in a country I’ve never seen before. I get to spend time with my parents in Europe! As a grown-ass adult! How often does that happen? My coach has helped me frame this Ironman as a “supported training day,” but also helped me own that I can still give it my best on the day.
And that’s something I can dream about.
As long as it doesn’t interrupt my sleep.
Main image is a tiny ladybug on the doors of The Basílica de la Sagrada Família.