I am wide awake at 2 am. I will be racing, or something vaguely like it, in exactly twelve hours.
I went to bed at 10:30. Sweetie promptly fell asleep. I lay awake, tossing and turning. I may have cat-napped here and there, fleetingly. By 1:00 I was awake. By a quarter to 2 it was ridiculous so I got up.
I am wired. Nervous? You bet. Worried about mechanicals; nervous about bumping into/being bumped by other racers; scared of clawing my way nearly to the top of a spectacularly muddy runup, only to lose my footing and slide all the way back down again; worried about the time frame I set up for myself (i.e., not getting there till noon which means no time for more than a walk-through of a few sections of the course, which means basically riding this thing blind), and most of all worried about the potential for DNF'g. Mostly I am scared to death that my body will crap out and I will not be able to push myself to hang in there for what will likely be the toughest 45 minutes I've ever spent on a bicycle.
Why am I choosing to do this?
Bottom line: I am doing this stupid, insanely hard thing in order to quiet the six-inch-high wannabe jock inside me, the one who never got to participate in team sports in school, the one who had to drop everything and run like mad to the nearest bathroom with little or no warning a dozen times a day, the 90-pound weakling I grew up seeing myself as, who suffered in silent humiliation for years before science could explain that my fatigue was not some psychosomatic character flaw but physical and real. Learning that gave me space and time to understand the mental toughness I've developed over the years, the ability to adapt and to deal with things as they arise and to know which bullshit is small stuff and which bullshit is really worth worrying about.
Now that I've figured out how to live with the body I've got, I need to feel my real limits, not the ones I imagine for myself, but the real ones that my body will send me when the bonk hits home and I truly cannot run another step or ride another hundred feet in the mud, the real limits that will sound alarms when the adrenaline has worn off and I feel the chainring gash in my leg that tells me enough already, the feel of my heart beating in my throat and the sight of little halos forming around distant objects when I've really had enough of this craziness. I have to know where that limit is, and I want to be pleasantly surprised, happily shocked, if I somehow discover that my imperfect, sway-backed, middle-age-bellied, creaky, Crohn's-ridden body can outlast the clock on this one.
No matter how hard it gets later today, if I can last 45 minutes I will have won, even if I finish Dead Effing Last. If I can last 45 minutes today I will finally, truly be an athlete, I will be a thing I have wanted to be my whole goddamned life, and whatever happens on the way to that will not matter in the least when I get there.