Five hours until race start, and already my heart rate is probably over 100 beats per minute, I’m sick with fear and doubt, my breakfast sits heavy in my stomach, the demons of doubt run rampant through my head encouraging me to flee, to hide, and each second ticks by like an eternity. It’s the storm before the calm.
I remember the first time I felt like this, probably a decade ago now, when I agreed to enter an event – the Point to Pinnacle race – which climbs from Wrest Point Casino to the top of Mt Wellington in Hobart. A distance of 22kms – every one of them uphill.
I couldn’t sleep the night before that event I was so sick with worry about what could go wrong, about being last, about not being able to make it. I saw a thousand ways in which I might fail, and unfortunately in any event there is always only one way in which you succeed.
So, I’m killing time trying to distract myself from my lack of fitness, and the killer times I just looked up for those people who competed last year. (note to self – looking up past competitors times to distract yourself may just make you more nervous).
Instead, I’ll concentrate on the important decisions that need to be made, like what flavor of powerade to take with me…
Oh, ok that didn’t take very long. Next big decision is which lens to wear in my new fancy sunnies (thanks Santa). This time I’ve actually got 5 whole choices:
It has to be the multi coloured ones right? They’re bound to make me faster.
What food to take with me (and no that packet of snakes isn’t empty, and if it is then blame the nerves)
Do I bother tidying my mess of a room – yea, you’re right that ones’s easy as well.
So, that’s passed an hour, only four more to go, and like any true athlete I’ve migrated from my accommodation to a coffee shop to get my caffeine fix to calm me down before the event.
The thing is that I know that on any one day I could ride each of the next four days routes, and really enjoy it given enough time, After all even the longest day is only 68km. However, when you stack them back to back for four days in a row, when you put 350 other people out there, most (if not all) of whom are much fitter and faster than me, well then I find myself sitting here wondering, hoping, that there are other people out there heading towards the event who have also just come here for the experience, who are also concerned not about their time, but whether they can actually do it.
The thing is though that you don’t know where you sit until you settle into the event, when you see the leaders and the pack surge off into the distance, and eventually get a chance to look behind and see if you are alone at the back …
I got to the top of Mt Wellington all those years ago, and yes I was pretty far down in the field, but I made it within the allowed time, and in future years I got faster and faster. I entered this event in part because I wanted to prove to myself that even with a broken knee and other injuries I still had the backbone to compete no matter what level I was at.
I guess today I begin to find out if that is true.