How many World Triathlon Series races will Gwen Jorgensen win in her career?
“As I sit here staring at my pile of race gear, I can't help but think that every stroke of water I've taken, every mile I've ridden, every step I've run, has finally lead to this: Nationals is in T-minus 2 days.”
This is the quote that I woke up to on Facebook this morning. All week I’ve watched my teammates ride the emotional rollercoaster that is taper week, and I’m happy to see that as the race gets closer, they are arriving at a good place.
Taper week has a way of playing with the mind. As elevators are taken instead of the stairs, and the most painful part of the week is taking an ice bath, niggles in the body start to surface, race anxiety lurks constantly in the back of the mind, and it’s extremely hard to focus on classes or homework or studying or life. Questions consume the mind. Could I have trained a little harder? Eaten a little better? Slept a little longer?
Done right, taper is a time to reflect on the last eight months of training. A time to focus on the journey taken, the experiences had, and the sacrifices made. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to forget what we have invested in this race. To this day, I am not sure why we have 6:00 a.m. swim practice once a week (it’s probably just when our coach is available), but I see it as a test. All season long, that one day a week when the alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m., we face a choice.
The thing about triathlon being a club sport is no one cares if we go to practice. There is no scholarship weighing on our performance, no coach who will be on our backs about sleeping in. It’s up to us to decide how badly we want it. Every time that alarm goes off, it asks us: Are you committed? Then in December, not only is it 6:00 a.m. but also 32 degrees, and again, we are asked: Are you committed? As we crawl into bed at 9:30 p.m. and our roommate reminds us that we are in college and this act is absurd, what we really hear is: Are you committed?
This weekend, in the final 30 minutes of the race when the pain sets in and demons creep into their minds to whisper that stopping is an option, I hope my teammates remember the alarms they didn’t sleep through, the holidays they spent training, and the Friday nights they spent at the pool instead of out doing what normal college kids do. And I hope they find the strength to show those demons that for a TriCat quitting is never, ever an option.
The time is here. The work is done. The pump-up music discs have been burned and distributed. All that’s left is to believe.