(Quick Note: Of all the things to forget, I left my trusty MacBook at home! That means I can't rapidly upload photos from the experience. But I will update posts post-race to include images. Bummer!) Even if someone took my picture as I entered the Tempe Town Beach complex for the Ford Ironman expo today, it wouldn't have been able to contain my smile.
I felt giddy, like I was a part of something truly spectacular. Something much bigger than me.
That feeling, I expected.
What I didn't expect was how relaxed and natural it felt to pick up my race packet, buy my IMAZ cycling kit and get my body marked for Sunday's race.
I haven't been here before, but in some ways I have. Obviously, this isn't my first triathlon. In fact, I think this will be my 20th endurance race overall. And while it is my first full-distance Ironman, my training -- physical and mental -- is paying off more than I expected.
Perhaps the only way I can explain it is this: I belong here. I earned this. I worked for this. And as Stephanie reminds me daily -- sometimes even hourly -- I've done everything I can do to be ready for this moment. There's no reason to be freaked or stressed out. I've been well prepared.
So all that's left to do is enjoy it. Believe me, I am. The energy level here is infectious and it's only Thursday. Steph and I met a few athletes and all were chipper and grinning broadly. It's like we're celebrating the victory of being here no matter what happens. I even met someone in the Ironman Store, Chuck from Idaho, who recognized me from the blog. (I'm not gonna lie, that pretty much made my year!)
I wasn't sure what to expect out of myself when I planned for this trip many months ago. Based on my keyed-up approaches to the Breath of Life triathlon and Vineman 70.3, I anticipated similar feelings of anxiety, tension and pent-up competitive fire.
None of those feelings exist within me right now. Trust me, nobody is more shocked than me.
(Well, OK, I am still feeling slightly competitive!)
It's moments like these where I wonder whether the Ironman strengthened me greater physically or mentally. While I may look different physically than a year ago -- leaner, a little more cut -- I'm a very different person on the inside. More confident. Calmer. More self-assured.
Once again, the journey of the Ironman has surprised me. It is clearly not what I expected. And I couldn't be happier as a result.
Three days and counting.