It's less than two weeks until the big event. I say "event" and not "race" because my upcoming half Ironman is far from a race for me. It's an "event" and more than that, it is an "experience". I've only done one other Ironman event and that was Ironman Austria back in 2002. That, too, was not a "race", it was an "experience". I like the word "experience" far more than race for a couple of reasons. First, the pace at which I make forward progress does not make me competitive for any medal other than that of Finisher (I am a mid-packer). Second, the "experience" is the celebration of months of hard work, the icing on the cake that bakes for the 18 weeks, and the immersion amongst other people who are passionate about reaching their fitness potential irrespective of finishing time.
I have just entered the tapering phase. For those of you not familiar with this phase, it is nothing more than a reduced training phase that gives athletes a chance to rest, recover, and mentally prepare for the challenge ahead. For those of us who played football, it is the light pads practice the day before a game. For those of us going through school, it is the period between the last study session and the exam. For those of us in the Navy, it is the pre-deployment leave period. Whether we know it or not, we all have experienced the tapering phase for one thing or another. I like to think of it as the time where we reflect on the work we have put toward a specific objective. If we feel good about our level of preparation, the tapering phase is a rewarding period, second only to enjoying the actual event. If we aren't happy with our level of preparation, then the tapering phase can be extremely stressful and cramming is not the answer.
While I enjoy the tapering phase this time around knowing I am ready, I also acknowledge that my work family is entering a tapering phase. We have been working hard for the last 22 months doing great things for our Navy and Nation. We've sprinted at times and we've rested at times, all the while making forward progress. With three months left at the helm, I now see an opportunity for us to take some time to admire the progress we continue to make, to acknowledge the significant level of effort, and to throttle down a notch or two. A new Commanding Officer will soon arrive to lead this very team, and the gun will go off once again. The initial sprint will undoubtedly be swift and the team will be prepared to move forward under his leadership on the same course we continue to navigate. In order to prepare the team for success under new leadership, it is paramount that they are rested, focused, and grounded in the strategic approach they helped to define. I had originally planned to have us "sprint to the finish" (as defined by the change of command ceremony) and though we will finish strong, sprinting at this point would be unfair to all.
We will instead taper. We will rest, recover, and mentally prepare for the next chapter in the NIOC Pensacola story. We will enjoy the experience that is the transfer of command.
As for me and my upcoming Half-Ironman, I am ready. I've enjoyed most of the training (some of the long bike rides were a mental struggle). My fitness level has increased, I've lost 12 pounds, and I've learned some things about my 41 year old body. Regardless of what happens on 20 May 2012, and like most things in life, it has been all about the journey. Just like a tour of duty, it's not what someone else chooses to pin on our chest, it's (in the words of Coach Wooden) the "self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." I have prepared my best for the event and I have done the same as a member of the NIOC Pensacola Team. We will not completely coast, but we will enjoy the taper...