I can hear the wind rustling the leaves of the trees outside my window. It is only early autumn, but the leaves are already turning shades of blazing yellow and orange. Their crinkled nature makes them particularly pleasurable to listen to while curled up in bed. It is not cold. I kick off the doona. It must be a northerly wind. I am getting acquainted with the weather here in Melbourne. I enjoy lying in bed, being still for about 10 minutes, but then it is too much. Sluggish legs and nervous energy do not make for the sort of lie-in I long for; however, the chance of a lie-in rarely presents itself these days, not with balancing work and training. You must stay in bed I tell myself; your body needs the rest. I reach for my laptop. Using my fingers to tap away at a laptop while lying in bed is not exhausting I reason, and after all it seems like the perfect time to jot down some thoughts.
Ironman Melbourne, this coming weekend, will be my first Ironman distance race. I never thought that I would compete in an Ironman when I started competing in triathlons as a kid and then later professionally on the ITU circuit. Why on earth would anyone want to exercise continuously for an entire day? I had no idea but now I know why. It is the same reason everyone wants to do an Ironman. It is the challenge of something new and the challenge of embarking on something quite momentous. You do not get the chance to do many new things when you have been racing professionally for fifteen years. This weekend will be my first time at trying something new since doing my first Half IM in December of 2012. Qualifying and racing well at Kona is also a goal. I have achieved nearly everything I wished to achieve in my triathlon career; however, running under the Banyan tree to the finish line in Kona is something I want to experience. Of course I have done everything in my capacity to prepare for this event and I am striving for a strong debut in Melbourne; however, I am also going into this Ironman with a little bit of fear. I have watched well-prepared and talented athletes’ IM goals fade away via an athlete tracker on endless occasions.
Executing well on race day is about as salient as it gets for an elite athlete. It is the external confirmation that yes, we’ve made the right decisions; we’re living and training where we need to be, and that our future goals are in fact realistic. Nevertheless, there is more to sport than a result, a time or a medal. It is the reason why, as children, we picked up a cricket bat, threw a football, jumped in a swimming pool or rode a bike. It is for the sheer delight we derive from pushing ourselves on the sporting field. The sheer delight of reaching for goals we did not think possible and doing it alongside friends. Whilst I do not pretend that I’m not a highly competitive person and strive to win; the friendships I have developed with my competitors, training partners, coaches, sponsors and therapists means more than any medal in any cabinet will.
I know that come Sunday night, whatever the result, I will be smiling. In fact I am already smiling. This summer spent preparing for Ironman in Melbourne has been one of my most memorable training campaigns ever. The generosity of spirit and belief in me from training partners, friends (near and far), family, work colleagues and all those people who have supported me is something to be cherished. As Mary Lou Retten said, “A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever.”