According to Bobby McGee, visualizations are most effective and empowering if they are in the past tense. The idea is that you feel more confident if you've already experienced the event. By visualizing in the past tense, you create your own past experience to draw from, despite having never raced that particular event.
I opened my eyes at about 5am. I didn't sleep very well at all, despite having earplugs in. Nervous anticipation and frequent nocturnal bathroom trips saw to that. I was feeling rested and ready to go nonetheless. I'd made sure to lighten my workload and get plenty of sleep for the past 4 or 5 days.
I lay for a moment and listened to the sounds of Tent City waking up around me. Slamming porta-potty doors. The high-pitched whine of tent zippers. The muffled roar of a Coleman stove, heating up water for coffee and other pre-race victuals. I crawled out of my toasty warm cocoon and pulled on my tri-suit, wobbling on my air mattress. One more full body sunblock application, to add to the layer I'd put on to soak in the night before. On with a fleece, a beanie, and some flip flops. I unzipped my tent fly and crawled out, heading for the picnic table to make breakfast.
I had my trusty little camp coffee pot so I could perk myself a cup of coffee with a Gatorade chaser. Cooked up a quick batch of my favorite pre-race meal: cornmeal mush with cinnamon and brown sugar. A little bit of yogurt as well. Percolated coffee tastes so good...dark and ground-y and delicious.
The sky gradually lightened to reveal a misty cloud cover over the golden central California hills. I knew it wouldn't be too long before the sun began to peep through and the day slowly heat up.
I took one last look at my bike. Adjusted the race number on my top tube, tightened the wiry twist ties securing it in place. Pumped both tires up to 120 PSI. Grabbed my transition bag, carefully packed the night before.
Coach Barney called us all together for a quick picture before we all headed down to the transition area together. The team gathered in a precious empty space, the dew on the grass cool on our feet. The stomach was full of fluttering butterflies. I could taste the vague metallic-fruity aftertaste of Gatorade in my mouth. Hurry up and take the picture already!
The Olympic athletes, not due to race until the next morning, started to stir. A few of them bid us good luck as we headed down to the transition area. A few brave souls confident in balancing a heavy transition bag on a twitchy racing bike took the short route and rode down Lynch hill. I stuck with a more conservative approach and took the roundabout footpath down to the lake, through soft, loose dirt and cracked asphalt.
Fog hung low over the distant reaches of Lake San Antonio. The vendors were setting up their booths at the expo. Hundreds of athletes thronged the transition area. The air was permeated by the hiss of floor pumps and the sharp smell of permanent marker where athletes were lining up to get body marked. The line for the porta-potties was hundreds of yards long and the smell of Coppertone Sport was overwhelming.
I found my transition area quickly, having noted its location the day before. After racking my bike, I opened my bag. Spread a towel on the ground. In the back, running shoes, race belt with bib number, fuel belt, running hat. In the front, bike shoes, socks, gloves, talcum powder, chamois butter, sunblock. I opened a packet of Fig Newtons halfway and placed in gently in one bike shoe. I perched my helmet on my bike handlebars. Sunglasses poked through the vents. I stood back and took a look, satisfied.
I slung my wetsuit over my shoulder, grabbed my goggles, cap, earplugs, and body glide, plus a spare water bottle and extra gel. I went to stand in line to get body marked. I found a volunteer near the front, where all the pros had their gear racked and ready to go. I love to look at fancy tri-bikes, and this was heaven. Cervelos, Gurus, Kuotas, Cannondales, Kestrels...my eyes popped at the array of carbon glory before them. I counted the gels duct-taped to the top tubes. Pros ride so fast that they hardly need to bring anything with them!
Finally, my turn. I exposed my arms and legs for marking. The volunteer was nice, but in a hurry. She had a lot of athletes to mark. The marker poked rudely into my bicep. The smell of it was nauseating, but exciting. Bib number written down each arm, the outside of each thigh, on the back of each hand. Age written on the back of my left calf.
I found a few teammates and headed over to the swim start to watch the pros go off at 8am.