Embracing the Unknown

I remember when I first started swimming at Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks pool.  Almost a year-and-a-half ago it seems.  Back when a half-mile swim felt challenging (and satisfying), and all I did was swim back-and-forth without any direction, instruction, or a clue as to how to improve. That's what I thought about today as I blasted through a taper workout of 2,700 yards featuring two 500s and a 1,000 yards broken out by sprint 50s.

I also thought about how today marked my final VNSO swim until Ironman.

The next time I jump into that heated pool and feel the cold concrete sting my toes, I will be an Ironman.  Everything that I've worked for since 2008 will have come to fruition.

What a long, strange, trip it's been.

That also got me thinking.  This journey has been a rite of passage.  I'll be going from a world I knew nothing about -- a Herculean fantasy -- to having full experience and knowledge of it very soon.  It's not unlike other rites of passage over the course of our lives.  Getting our driver's license.  SAT's.  The first day of high school and college.  Losing our virginity.  I don't know about you, but I rushed through all those rites.  All I could ever think about was reaching those milestones, not the journey along the way.  Nor could I appreciate the nervous energy, apprehension and shear terror (at least with the sex part) prior to those gargantuan moments until long after.  When I was safe, comfortable and secure enough to look back at them.

But strangely enough, when I recall those life milestones, I'm surprised to find that I miss the giddyness, stress and anxiety of the unknown prior to"The Big Moment" as much as the moments themselves. As a result, I find myself slowing down more these past few days.  I'm not in a hurry to get to Sunday the way I thought I would be.  I'm truly living in the "Now." I generally don't hang out in that space for very long.  It's the way I'm wired. But since this past weekend -- since my surprise send-off party -- I'm savoring the nerves, the excitement and the feelings of wonder.

I also know, based on all those other "firsts," that this "pre" period just might be the best part.  Maybe the unknown is better than the real.  Maybe the build-up is better than the actual moment.  Either way, I'll know on Sunday.   And then on Monday, it will all be over.  I'll be driving home.  And the countdown to Coeur d'Alene will begin.  How strange indeed.  The countdown clock will reset.  The journey will begin anew, but I'll know what to expect.  It may not be the same as the fabulous wonder of not knowing.

So why not enjoy every moment and sensation of these last few pre-Ironman days? I'll never be quite the same person after the race, and I know that.

Like this morning's swim, this is the end of my "first time" Ironman journey.

And for the first time in my life, I'm going to stop, smile, savor, and embrace the unknown.

Five days and counting.