Swim, bike, run, write.

Ironman Zurich 2019: The pre-race jitters

It feels like it's only been a hot minute since I was typing out my pre-Ironman Copenhagen blog post last year. And yet, here I am. Sat in a hotel room in Zurich, with an Ironman Switzerland athlete wristband adorning my right arm and an M-dot shaped cookie cutter on my bedside table because we had a moment of madness in the expo and decided that we needed one. Race day is finally upon us. Nervous, excited, raring to go - but also a little bit scared. It's all part of the emotional pre-race weather.

I've committed fully, and surrendered myself entirely to training this year - which means my sense of self feels irrevocably tied up in triathlon. And that scares me. What if I fail? How will I cope? I feel so wrapped up in triathlon, I'm worried it's going to chew me up and spit me out this time. I'm trying to remember that no matter what happens on race day, the work I've put in and the hours I've trained - the sacrifices, the highs and the lows - are the real story. This is just the final sentence in a long, sweaty, chlorine-soaked novel. And nothing can take that away. It's cheesier than slightly off feta that's been left out in the sun, but I really do feel like this is the year I've let myself become an Ironman.

Whatever happens tomorrow, I can be proud of the progress I've made. I've come along way since being the scared, tearful girl who could barely ride a bike back in 2016.

But enough sap, let's talk race day.

The Ironman tagline is that "anything is possible." It's certainly true in the sense that you can get out on that course and achieve things that you hardly dared to even dream of. But it's also an incredibly long day - and that means that anything really is possible. There's so much that can go wrong, some of it in your control and some of it that's entirely down to chance. All that I can do is control the controllable and do my best to tackle whatever else the day throws at me with strength and tenacity - 'never give up' and 'give it everything' will be written on my hands in permanent marker as a reminder to me, from me, to just keep pushing in those moments where my body wants a lie down and my mind starts to wonder if I'd be better off nipping into one of the bars to have a nice cold beer instead.

With this being my second Ironman, I'm definitely feeling the pressure a lot more. And it's coming entirely from my own mind. I won't be satisfied with "just" finishing (though that is an achievement and a half, without a doubt) - I want to kick last year me's butt and I want to get everything out of myself. I know that it's a foolish game to chase a particular time in Ironman racing. And it would be silly to try and compare Ironman Zurich with the faster, flatter course at Ironman Copenhagen - where we were blessed last year with almost perfect conditions (temps in the low 20s, slightly overcast and breezy - the dream). You could race the exact same course twice over and end up with entirely different results depending on what the day, the weather and mechanical luck brings. With the race day forecast involving thunderstorms, with temperatures set to be in excess of 30 degrees Celsius by the time we hit the marathon, and with a slightly altered bike course which, naturally, adds extra climbing into the mix on top of "the beast" and "heartbreak hill" - Ironman Zurich is going to be a very different day out to Copenhagen last year. I have an idea of what I should be capable of tomorrow - in theory - but in practice it's just about racing strong and being able to come away knowing I gave it my absolute all.

So the plan. Stay calm and in control during the swim (and try not to get the crap kicked out of me again). Work hard and do my training justice on the bike, while leaving enough in the tank for the run. Stay strong on the marathon and push until the end. No dawdling. Do myself, my family, my coach and all the people who have had to put up with me rambling about Ironman training proud.

And as always - Don't. Be. Shit.

See you on the other side!


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