The anxiety subsides and the worry lessens as I drive towards the airport. The responsibility of leaving behind my family and packing for the race are behind me. The dogs are walked, eve though I can't look them in the eye when I leave. The flood of questions and doubts about what to bring and eat and wear runs dry. The obsessive checking of weather, old race reports, photos and race updates finds a natural end. It is time to leave.
My husband kindly hands me an Americano when I pick him up from work. We drive towards the airport where he will drop me off. We chat about his day and he asks me for my list of his directions.
Ten, even five years ago I would have had one for him, complete with kid specifics, meal plans, pet reminders, kid-care options and 'don't forgets.' Today I tell him I have nothing. I prepared two school night dinners to make his life easier, but really only to ease my own tiniest bit of guilt in leaving my family after racking up hours of long training runs and exhausted early bedtimes. I leave that speck of guilt on the airport sidewalk just before I kiss David goodbye.
'You're on your own. Do your thing.' David's parting words. They strike me as unusual, but as I walk away and feel the weight of my bags on my back, my head lifts and i feel his confidence in my ability settle over my shoulders like a cape.
These days and hours before a race are filled with opportunity, confidence and imagination. My mind has the freedom to roam freely within the possibility of what race day can be. The intimidating sections of the course on the elevation profile seem climb-able , even enjoyable. The predicted high temperatures that had me envisioning heat stroke and sunburn are now imagined as warmth on my bare arms and back.
Maybe my experience with the distance will kick in this go. Maybe my consistent strength work will make a difference on the climbs. The hard downhill training runs could pay off over the 21,000+ feet of descent over the 100 miles. Maybe I'll use my 28 hour pace card instead of my 30 hour cheat sheet. Hell, a sub-28 hour race feels possible. The potential for success feel limitless.
This is the honeymoon period between realities: the reality of training and preparing and the actual event itself. It is a time of hope for the best possible outcome. It is the comfort of knowing how good it is going to feel until it doesn't anymore. It is the faith of knowing that it will be uncomfortable, pitiful and humbling, but then it will get better and eventually it will get done.
The confidence of having survived what it takes to get to the start, the gratitude for being able to do it and the appreciation of the support of family and friends course through my veins. The anticipation turns to determination. The nerves steel into strength.
The passengers on the plane around me have no idea whats going on. They have no idea about what I am about to do. They haven't the slightest idea that before their very eyes, the quiet gal sipping tea in 30c is moving between realities, transforming into a mile climbing ultra beast, ready to do her thing.