Southeastern North Carolina in the fall is just lovely for a runner. After the oppressive heat of the summer, it feels like a joy to be able to run in temperatures in the 60’s or 70’s. It makes me yearn for a tri that I can train through the fall. It’s also time when people start getting serious about their training. With 26 days left, my friends and I talk of long runs, bricks, nutrition, currents, and race day conditions. We go to bed early on the weekends in order to meet up at 7 am for our long runs or bricks (bike followed by run). We get “on the wagon” and focus on eating healthy, eating clean. We see the irony that getting up during the week to go to work is considered sleeping in. I love these people though. They are new friends to me but they are the reason why I get up while it’s still dark. They challenge me, they push me, they laugh with me, they have become my family.

On yesterday’s ride we were dealing with quite the head wind. We pulled/drafted off each other, replicating geese, pulling for five miles then dropping back to rest. It was cold and my ambition was not present. My toes were cold, my nose was running, my core was cold. We stopped to use a gas station restroom and I complained about not being in the moment to which both Julie and Paula began lamenting with me. Standing outside under a very warm kitchen grill vent that smelled of butter and biscuits, we joked about how much the morning sucked and how crazy we were to not be in bed or eating breakfast. Julie said something to the effect of she wasn’t feeling it either, but she was going to push on and those were the words I needed to hear. It changed my outlook and made me realize how fortunate I was. I could be in a hospital tending a sick family member. I could have bad knees. I could want to go shopping instead. Instead, I chose to wake up and ride, and I might as well enjoy it.

This is Paula. She'll keep riding until her garmin says to stop.

This is Paula. She’ll keep riding until her Garmin says to stop.

With fall comes changes in daylight. We are now unable to swim Friday mornings, which saddens me. I love waking up early and meeting my friends in the dawn. To watch the sunrise over the channel is beautiful. Now, I watch it set, and race to get out of the water before it gets dark, the sky a ball of red, surfers in boats coming back from the barrier island beach. Last week I saw a tourist boat on a sunset cruise and wondered what they thought of the string of pink and green swim caps slicing the water. Where they envious? Curious? Did they think us insane?

The race booklet for Beach2Battleship arrived in my mailbox Saturday. It’s getting real, it’s getting closer, but honestly, I’m feeling stronger than last year. I’m not panicking like I was last year, worried about finishing in time. I’m putting in my time, I’m preparing my body and mind. I am thinking “I am strong, I am strong, I am strong”.