Over the past 10 days, I have been gearing down my training volume in preparation for Ironman 70.3 Arizona on Sunday, October 16. Normally, my race anxieties would be kicking in full throttle by now. About a week out from a big race, I start obsessing over all the little details, the things that could go wrong, the “what-ifs?”. This time, however, I decided that it was time for a change.
My main focus for the 2-week taper leading up to the race has been to stay relaxed and to practice living in the moment. After all, this is the goal on race day, to stay relaxed and to take it one swim stroke, pedal stroke, and step at a time. Aside from dropping my training volume down to nearly half of what it was further out from the race, meditation, visualization, and breathing techniques have been a huge part of my successful taper thus far. I have been able to prevent much of the stress and anxiety that usually accompanies the lead-up to a race.
I have been practicing this during my training as well - living in the moment. More recently, I was on a fairly relaxed ride out at one of my favorite places just to the north of Phoenix. It’s an incredible little stretch of road that cuts through the Sonoran desert. It’s fairly quiet with no real developments along the road. There is an amazing 7.5 mile stretch of road that runs with a bike lane the entire length and absolutely no stop lights, making it the perfect place to do some time trialing without any interruptions. During this particular ride, after I started getting settled into the session, thoughts of my upcoming race started to make their way into my head. Noticing this, I shifted my attention to my breath, focused on my bike position, and soaked in the beautiful scenery that surrounded me. Before I knew it, I was out there, riding my bike, not worrying about my upcoming race or what I did or didn’t do to prepare for it, just living in the moment, only worried about the next pedal stroke.
After taking some time to look back on this experience, I realized just how far I have come along in my ability to stay in the present moment. The mental aspect of the sport is just as challenging as the physical aspect. Learning to live in the present moment, however, has had immense benefits in the other areas of my day-to-day life. There are times when I’ll catch myself worrying about something that is coming up later in the day, or obsessing over something that is out of my control. After shifting my focus back to my breath and reminding myself to focus on the present moment, however, my mentality starts to shift and I begin to relax.
I’m excited to test myself physically and mentally this upcoming weekend. More importantly, I’m looking forward to soaking in as much of the race as I can, embracing the highs and the lows, the pain and discomfort that will surely accompany the journey, pushing past my previous mental and physical limits, and the moment of crossing the finish line having given my very best effort. Live in the moment. It’s simple, yet extremely hard to master. I have a feeling though, that as I continue to get better at it, the rewards are well worth the effort.