When I was a kid, I was afraid of roller coasters. The dizzying heights. The sudden drops. Going upside down! In thinking about it further now, perhaps I was afraid because I couldn't control the experience. I was locked in, hurtled about every which direction, and blasted back to the platform dazed, startled and nauseous.
The coaster I recall being the most afraid of was Colossus, at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia. It towered over the freeway at the time, intimidating all who dared approach the massive structure. There were also reports, as I recall, that coaster carts had fallen off in the past, killing people. That didn't help my paranoid nature.
But the thing I remember most about Colossus was the first time I rode on it. Sitting in the cart, scared and trying not to act like it. Until the restraining bar was closed tightly on my waist. Then, I started to panic. There was no turning back! I had to ride out this coaster no matter what happened. If I plunged off the tracks to my death there was nothing that could be done about it! I was at the mercy of Colossus.
That's sort of how I feel today about Ironman Arizona. I saw my bib number in the Athlete's Guide online at the IMAZ website. For whatever reason, seeing that number, alongside the other 2,300 athletes, made me realize that I was committed to a 140.6-mile journey in 11 days no matter what.
It's amazing how "unreal" this event can feel because it's been so far off in the distance for so long. But now, like the roller coaster approaching off the freeway, it's here. Staring me in the face. Challenging me to step up and overcome my nerves. To face the unknown.
The bib is my bar.
And ya know what? I rode Colossus. And eventually loved it. The rickety wooden coaster actually became my favorite at the park. I just had to feel the ride -- the experience of it -- to know what to expect.
The IMAZ Colossus will be no different. It's just that I don't know what I don't know about completing an Ironman. But I will soon.
We're now about to hit the 10 day mark. The cart is inching up the steep embankment towards the massive first drop.
Clink Clink Clink Clank Clank Clank ...
11 days and counting.