Now that we are in full taper mode (we have less than four hours of exercise to do this week!) I seem to have rather a lot of time for panicking and weeping. Having never really properly trained for anything before, and therefore never really properly tapered, I have discovered that although we were very much looking forward to tapering, it has a rather negative effect on your psychological wellbeing – or maybe that’s just nerves taking over. I’ve been anxious that I have become a totally irrational, teary, grumpy old trout, but was much reassured when a fellow competitor posted the above photo in a Facebook Group Page I’m a member of (Ironman Wales – Women of 2019) – apparently this is entirely normal. Phew. It seems I am not the only one crying with great regularity and for no apparent reason, or shouting at my husband for asking what I want for tea.
I have however discovered a tonic to this emotional turmoil – writing lists. Indeed I have been consumed with this task for last three days. Whilst this has led to much panic-buying (I am currently single-handedly keeping Wiggle in business and we have daily deliveries to the house), it is having a calming effect on my nerves. (Lol as I was writing this sentence, there was actually a delivery at the door). Much of my current anxiety (other than the ever present ‘what if I drown’, ‘what if I get stung by a jellyfish and go into anaphylactic shock’, ‘what if someone crashes into me on the bike and catapults me off a mountain’ type worries) is to do with the fear that I’ll forget something crucial and for example find myself in transition without a bike helmet. And so the checklists.
I have a list for kit, sub-divided into what kit goes into each race day bag*, a food and drink list, again sub-divided into race sections, a list for Mum and Dad and the kids for what they might need during their mammoth supporting session, a small table with estimated times of where I hope/need to be at different points of the cycle to make sure I’m on schedule and back before the cut-off** (this one is even laminated), a schedule of events for race day and indeed the day before race day which is a very complicated rush of registering/setting up transition/race briefing/checking out the course etc etc and then a guide for reminding me what to consume, per hour, during the race.
*We received the ‘athletes’ guide’ a few days ago. Usually before a race you’re sent a document with instructions for race day proceedings. It’s typically a couple of pages long and tells you things like when to register, where to leave your things in transition etc. The guide for Ironman Wales is the length of a medium sized novel, and upon opening, sends one into a spiral of panic, such is the volume of instructions. One of the important aspects of the race is preparing race day kit bags. There is a separate bag for cycle gear and run gear – these are colour coded and have to be put in transition with your bike the day before the race – we don’t have access to them again until mid race, hence the anxiety of forgetting something. We then have a small pink bag that we can bring along on the morning of the race containing what we need on immediately exiting the sea after the swim. Having swum 2.4 miles, we then need to run approximately a kilometre up to transition – so we need an extra pair of trainers just for this section (also water for rinsing feet, a towel and maybe a gel). We hang these on the wall on the way down to the beach and then somehow have to find our individual but identical to the 2000 other pink bags in our wobbly, hypoxic state after the swim. It’s just as well we’ll have our numbers temporarily tattooed on to remind us which bag is ours. There are also ‘special needs’ bags, one for the cycle and one for the run, that we can access mid-course, containing things like jam sandwiches, gels, plasters, Imodium etc.
**There are various cut-off times during the race which you must make, or you are not allowed to continue. This again is a cause of great anxiety for me and I don’t want to be panicking on the cycle while I try to do mental arithmetic in a state of exhaustion to work out if I’m keeping pace. I’ve therefore made a little chart, based on a generous (I hope) swim/transition 1 time which gives me time targets for various key points on the cycle course. If I follow this I would make it back from the cycle just approaching 10 hours from entering the water. The cut off is 10 hrs 30 mins. This doesn’t give me much of a window for emergencies such as flat tyres (I have tubeless tyres. I still don’t really know how these work and I’ve never had a puncture with them so if I get a flat tyre in the race I’m f**ked) but I hope I’ve been a bit generous with these estimates and will be back before then.
One thing the writing of lists has made me do is finally decide what I’m wearing on race day. In fairness, this was also weather dependent and it’s only in the last few days that the forecast has been available. And the weather Gods are shining on us and providing (still keeping fingers crossed this doesn’t change) what looks like a lovely day of sunshine and only light wind. Not only will this make a huge difference to our racing, but I can stop worrying about our lovely supporters who will be outside all day. Now that the outfits are decided, I have also been busy ironing on the giant ‘HILARY’ letters on my T-shirts – I cannot tell you the difference it makes when spectators call out your name during a race (especially a long one!).
4 days to go………