I don't know what professional triathletes do the day before a race, I don't even know what age-groupers, like myself, do for that matter. I can see what gets posted on Instagram, but we all know social media isn't real life, don't we? To prepare for my first triathlon (where the 40-49 year olds will run into the ocean at Main Beach at 8:20 a.m.) I decided to do what I do best these days, listen to what's deep inside and move from that place.
The mindset I've tried to maintain for the week leading up to the race is "joyful gratitude" for the opportunity to compete in an Olympic distance triathlon. It was only two-and-a-half months ago that I was waiting to ride out of of Cow Palace in San Francisco on my single speed bike to ride 550 miles to Los Angeles. Four months ago, I had my 16th surgery related to complications from Crohn's. I spent most of 2017 under the care of my Stanford surgeon. I'm six years out from a totally different life, living in a different state, inhabiting a different body, with different worries and outlook on the future.
I've done the hard work. Playing in the ocean, taking off on my single speed up Highway 1 and running down West Cliff in Santa Cruz with all these other athletes is a gift I never expected two years ago when I got on that bike for what felt like a last grab at life. Except I imagined it, thirty-some years ago. My family was on a flight to Salt Lake City, heading for Denver, and the man sitting next to me on the plane was headed to an Ironman competition. He explained to ten-ish year old me what an Ironman was, and I was consumed by wonder at what these people were setting off to do in Kona. A few minutes later our plane was struck by lightning, the power cut out and we began to spiral out of the sky. The oxygen masks fell and this man pulled one over my face. The plane recovered and made an emergency landing. While the intense moments of fear are etched in my psyche, equally so is this man's Homeric description of an "Ironman" and a fascination with the drive to test our mettle and live mythically.
I woke up this triathlon-eve feeling a fire sparked off of a pilot light that has been burning inperceceptibly deep within—
I've never been terribly competitive and haven't "competed" in anything since junior high. Even at that age, I was the kid with a lot of heart, not particularly skilled or talented. As I got older, I was more interested in the journey and adventure than the finish line
—I suddenly felt like I had to get on the course to give that flame, some direction, patience and purpose. I went for a slow ride up and back West Cliff, along the ocean, where the bike and run race would take place. Then switched to a run. Slow. Just a taste. Looking at my watch after the run, my slow pace was the efforting of a month ago. Game on.
While I knew my body needed to burn a bit off, I also knew I needed to reserve as much of me as possible. While riding, I listened to The Glitch Mob's, Justin Boreta, on The Duncan Trussel Family Hour podcast (http://www.duncantrussell.com/episodes/2018/9/13/justin-boreta) on my Coros helmet. Duncan has a good sense of humor and an occasionally bizarre intellect that spun into some strange tangents, but worked well talking around spirituality, creativity and Justin's recent project, Imagine. Imagine is a meditative musical experience, where Boreta added an ambient electronic track over a Ram Dass meditation from the seventies (http://smarturl.it/RamDassXBoreta). Duncan and Justin talk about his journey to this meditation, what he was trying to express and how the collaboration with Ram Dass came about.
After I finished my run, I sat down to listen to the Imagine track—with a good set of over-the-ear headphones—and got lost (and found) in the thirty minute meditation. The sonic landscape created by Boreta suits Ram Dass's tone perfectly, an equal guide to the now forty-year-old transmission. People have been asking me if I'm ready for the race. My answer has been some variation of, "well, anything I could do about it has already been done.". After my session with Boreta and Ram Dass, I feel ready, not just for the race, but for who I want to be while racing and how I want to feel when it is over.
My race number, 64, is a good one—a multiple of two, the second exponent of eight, the cube of four. Add the numbers together to get 10, the first double-digit number. In numerology, 64 is the number of self-determination and family focus. One website said the number 64 indicated a triumph over a major struggle of self.
In the Imagine meditation, Ram Dass has us explore, Tat Tvam Asi, sanskrit for "I am that too", an acknowledgement of the relationship between self and Everything.
As my daughters would say, "literally, same".