The magazine sat on the pile, waiting for me to read it.
To be fair, my friend Sue had wanted me to read the article on Kara Goucher in Runner’s World magazine back in January when we ran the half marathon in Miami. Only, I was too busy making out with the photo of Apollo Ohno on the back page to get around to reading it.
As preparation for Texas continued and I started to battle with my mental game, Mark asked me if I had read the article.
OK. I had to read this.
Goucher’s biggest obstacle? Her confidence.
“She has an undermining psyche,” the article says. “When she toes the line in a 10K, the runners around her wonder if she’ll set an American record. Inside her head, though, she’s wondering if she can finish without walking.”
It’s not her ability that has produced a variety of results for Goucher, but her mentality, her attitude, the mental chatter in her brain.
My closest friends wanted me to read this because, I too can have issues with my own mental chatter. I, too, can talk myself out of (or into) pretty much anything. Reading about Goucher’s issues makes me realize that I’m not alone. And that it’s completely something within my own control
That’s been a theme for me recently: What can I control?
I can’t control the weather. Or the water conditions. Or the sea creatures that might migrate into our protected bay swim area for the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas. (Also known as the Ironman 70.3 Lonestar. The race, apparently, has several names.) I can’t control what the clock says.
Here is what I can control: My thoughts. My attitude. My plan for the day.
And so, on the trip to Texas from Buffalo on Friday I thought about my training.
I have done more swimming in the past four months than ever before. My volume might be double what it was previously. I have worked on my stroke technique. I have logged in the yards. It all has to pay off in the open water swim.
I have done true speed work for the first time and I have nailed my intervals. My tempo runs have been longer and steadier. I have trained in the hills and my run feels stronger.
My bike has been consistent. It has been my favorite part. It continues to be.
There are times before a race when you wonder if you’ve done enough. If you’ve prepared as well as could have. If perhaps there was something you missed in training.
Oh, the doubts about my first open water swim in six months or so creep in every so often. The concern about racing in warm weather and not having adequate time on the road on my bike cause momentary panic attacks.
But then, I remember the fun. I remember the joy.
I’m here in Texas with two good friends – one who will be racing with me while the other cheers us on at the finish line. We’ll have stories to tell and retell from the weekend. We already do. I mean, you don’t spend 3 1/2 hours in the George Bush Intercontinental Airport without coming up with some silly stories. And, for those who are curious, when Walker showed up at the airport with my beautiful bike on the back of her car, I ran over and gave it a hug – though I did greet my friend first before groping my Specialized Allez.
The Goucher articles talks about trusting your training. It talks about having key words and phrases to get you through the tough points of a race – words that you used during your training. What did I tell myself during those long runs? I used the word “strength.” I summoned the knowledge that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. I heard the voice of Mark urging me on at the end of one of our first long runs together: “I know you’ve got more left.” And indeed I pushed myself up a few final hills of a 12-mile run.
At the end of the article, Goucher recalled preparing for the World Championship marathon. She told her husband, “No matter what happens tomorrow, this is the happiest I’ve been in my whole life.”
There is a sense of joy when doing something you love – especially when you get to do it with other amazing people.
The last four months of training have brought many new things into my life for which I am not only happy but grateful.
And I can’t help but think that regardless of what happens on Sunday, it will be an adventure that’s worth pursuing – something which will only add to the sense of joy that continues to increase in my life.
For the first time in a long time, I feel rather prepared and ready to ride the wave of uncertainty that comes with a race. For the first time in a long time, I feel supported – as if the cheers will carry me through the distance.