#28: 1 day out: The last look over the cliff

Well it’s here, the final-final, the very last day of race prep.   So far it’s been eventful and now it’s time to chill.  The day started pretty quietly and over my cheerios I did some planning and putting together my swim to bike bag, which along with my bike needed to be checked in today.  With that in hand and after realizing the hard way I made the mistake of doing this BEFORE getting my cup of coffee….I hit the road to preview the remaining bike course that I didn’t see yesterday when I went for a quick 20 miler which felt pretty good.  There are large sections of “chipseal” where, instead of paving a road they just affix gravel to it using tar of some sort……we have roads like this in Hunterdon……and in general I try to avoid them….lots of tiring vibration through the arms and shoulders…..which should be interesting on some recently “swum” arms.
The good news is that my average speed was actually faster than I’m expecting to go in the race and I did this with a very moderate effort and stopping at every stop sign along the way…..enter the mental “what-ifs”…. either I practiced on a very downhill section of the course (the ups and downs seemed pretty even to me) or renting those race wheels was a pretty darn good move……this would put me 6 minutes ahead of my stretch goal for the bike.  Whoa, whoa, slow down there trigger……you haven’t even seen the hilly part yet.

And so (by car) I made my way through the “GunLock” reservoir and up “THE WALL”.  Bloody hell.  This is going to be the real deal…….as I drove and my poor little rented Nissan struggled, my race strategy of save A LOT for the run was reaffirmed.  Absolutely gorgeous terrain and spectacular views of snow canyon…..but sooo much more disconcerting when you see the big picture around it……two loops……prior to a, by running standards, equally daunting course…..and hence, SAVE A LOT for the run.  
Eat, drink and be still:
And so as to not repeat the caffeine issue tomorrow AM, I’m back at Starbucks (along with several other iron-wanna-bes) to get some ground for the AM.  Sort of the calm before the storm…..a still body, but mind that’s pinging like nobody’s business…..I can’t stay too long b/c I need to head back to get my feet up (literally) and resume putting in the carbs in. In addition, it’s time to do the fine-tweaking of my race & nutrition strategy for tomorrow and calming the mind…..which should be nooo problem, now that I got word the family is being rerouted to salt lake b/c their plane couldn’t cut it……where they will drive nearly 5 several hours to make it to St. George…..thanks US Air.
SPEAKING OF RACE STRATEGY:
Anyway….back to calming….I’m taking this race from a couple of different angles. 
Exertion: The first is exertion specific……there is no such thing as going hard the entire time……especially not with the added fun of 90 degrees (with little to no acclimatization) and very little shade expected…..however, like with any race, it’s about picking the right moments to go “a little harder” and equally the right ones to “back off some”.  The experts say: swim easy, slowly build on the bike, get through the first 18 miles of run steady, do an assessment of an ever so slightly faster pace around 20, gently build tempo through 24 and hang on through the finish……and THAT is the vaunted “patience of an Ironman”…..get 136 miles into this thing before even considering it to be a “race”……it’s so easy to say, but when the adrenaline is cranking and you’re feeling SOOOO good in the early stages, it’s about holding back and then when you think there’s nothing left, you have to find something…..

Small bites: The next angle is taking the race in very small baby steps……go mile to mile?  Impossible to tell in the swim and too small for the bike…..so it’s more like, use 20 minute check points……I do this primarily to remind me to eat and drink enough…..I find that I’m really not hungry ever, I just start to suffer when I don’t get calories in…..but not much different than “pavlov’s dogs” I’m pretty good at responding to a bell (or in this case succession of beeps).  In the water I might hear the beeping, which tells me that if I’m on my pace, I shouldn’t hear it more than 4 times maximum before I’m out of the water…..if I do, I’d better regroup and reassess b/c it’s time to make some readjustments to the plan.  From that point forward it’s: hear a bell and put 100 calories of sugar and some fluid in your gut.
Fly under the radar: The next is race stages and time cut-offs. There’s the water, transition 1, the ride to town, the first loop, the second loop, the final climbs, transition 2, run-out 1, run-back 1, run-out 2, run-back 2, finish.  That’s 10 stages before the finish….some with time cut-offs.  
  1. The swim cut-off is 2 hours 20 minutes…..assuming things are going as planned, I should have roughly an hour to spare……
  2. depending on how much heat the water takes out of me, I should be out of transition 1 well before (hopefully an hour before) the 9:30A cut off time.  
  3. There’s a 21 mile ride from T1 into “town” again, the cut off here of 1130A should be no problem….hoping to be there by +/- 10A-ish…….
  4. start of second loop, mile 64 on the bike by 2:05P, which gives me 4 hours to get there….assuming no mechanical issues, I should be there by 1230-1P….
  5. next checkpoint is the top of Veyo (for the second time) latest = 430P….4 hours to travel 29 miles BETTER be more than enough…..hoping to be there around 230/3P…..
  6. out of T2 by 530P….with any luck (i.e. no bike “issues”) I should be putting the running shoes before 4/430P……need to be at mile 18-ish before 1045P….which is some where between 3 and 3.75 hours after I’m hoping to have crossed the finish….so if this cut-off comes into play, it’s been a really rough day.

SOME PERSPECTIVE, NOW TO CALM:

But….no matter what happens in the race, I know that I am an extremely lucky guy to even be here.  For the last several months I’ve not had to worry (more than a little) about the safety or health of my family…..Regardless of how much I hate taxes, I’ve not been exposed to a truly oppressive or unstable government.  I am gainfully employed and even though I find myself putting in long hours and (what feels like) a big effort, I’m surrounded by genuinely good people who help others to change their lives…..

So, while I’ve been out “riding bikes” for the last few months, others around the world have hated people like me, while still others yet have been sacrificing themselves to keep the freedoms intact that allow me and the other 2000-ish racers here to set out to play our little game……and so, my last strategy is to keep it fun and take it in; To get past the challenge and enjoy the gift;l to take NOTHING for granted and soak it all in….which leads me to my final and most important part of pre-race prep.
THE FINAL SIGN-OFF UNTIL THE OTHER SIDE:
If you’ve been reading along the way, you know I’ve been searching for the right sign-off…..and I scoured for famous radio sign-offs that seemed to fit the mood at the time….and so, before I do my final sign-off, I figured I’d preface it with the following since at 330A tomorrow when I roll out of bed to start this thing, I’ll probably not be sitting down at the computer. 
Somewhere in the air right now are my wife, 3 kids, brother, sister and Dad (who gets much of the blame for starting this whole endurance thing) all coming across the country to personally help me get through this.

Sitting in New Jersey right now are my Mom (who in addition to likely going through novenas at a feverish pace, is watching my dog instead of getting flowers on Mother’s day) and the rest of the Eisenhart family (the other dozen or so that couldn’t be here), 

All over the country (and in some cases the world) my extended family, my Pro-Activity family (made up of staff, clients and friends), my PACER people (the rare few who “get” this desire), my friends (who I don’t get to see enough and have had to miss seeing them a few times b/c of training), my professional colleagues and those from the APTANJ (who I will be missing an important meeting to race instead), my casual readers (who have been keeping an eye on this blog from all over the world) and the many who have quietly assured me along the way that I can do this (I’m sure a few others that I’m missing too).

To you people: YOU ARE AWESOME AND I THANK YOU! 
If you’ve followed this blog even here or there, you know I’m very rarely short on words…….but there are no words that I can type that can really express my gratitude for your encouragement, positive energy and (at times) patience. 
 
Training for this thing has been a serious undertaking.  A huge commitment by many and it is no more lost on me that I will not be getting to the starting line “all by myself” than it is that I will get through this without your encouragement.  Triathlon may be raced as an “individual”, but it is NOT a sport of individuals…..every time one of my kids said “Dad, you’re STILL riding your bike” I felt a little guilt for robbing them of a moment together…..and EVERY TIME Lindsay found a way to make it all OK for them and thus, for me.  

Every time I got crazy stressed trying to meet all of my professional and training commitments, there was my Pro-Activity team to do what needed to be done.  Every time I doubted myself (without even realizing it probably), one of you swooped in with a “how’s training going?”, and tolerated my rambling long enough for me to talk myself back into the groove.

I FULLY understand that I am one of very few people who have enough support to be here…..not that there’s a tremendous line of people who want to per se…..but there are more that want to than can…..and the way I see it, I owe you all big time……

I hope to honor your help and encouragement along the way by being a strong, honorable competitor, a smart racer and in something less than 24 hours from now, a something I’ve not yet been…..

I expect to be challenged; I expect to smile, laugh and probably cry.  I expect to question myself more than once, and battle the voices inside that say STOP doing this…..but I owe you one and so I expect to push through.
Truly, I don’t know if this effort will turn out to be RED-iculous by PACER standards…….but I do know that I get butterflies every time I think of Mike Reilly, the “voice of Ironman” announcing, like he does for every competitor who crosses the finish:
“Michael Eisenhart from Annandale, NJ…..YOU…..are an IRONMAN”.

Humbled,

Mike E.