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in the wee hours of the morning

She's lucky she's so damn cute.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning to chase the kitten (who is not really a kitten anymore but still behaves like one so she will always be the kitten in this household) out of my closet (where she enjoys pulling all the clothes off their hangers and turning everything into a giant cat nest) while shaking a jar of pennies and yelling "No!" and "Make better choices!" (I bet if my mom chased me through high school with a jar of pennies that my life would've turned out totally differently and instead of sitting here in a ridiculous robe surrounded by cats, I'd be married to a gazillionnaire and have a diamond-encrusted TT bike -- that would still be extremely lightweight and aerodynamic because I'd be able to pay scientists for that shit -- and a personal chef to create truffle-infused gels and bars for me and Ryan Gosling to personally strip me out of my wetsuit at every single race. Clearly my mom totally failed with my upbringing.)

And when I was done behaving like a complete and total crazy cat lady, I got back in bed and started thinking about Ironman. And how Louisville is less than two weeks away. And how there are so many chores to get done before I leave for Kentucky -- nutrition to re-stock (damn you, non-existent personal chef), a bike to pack, a cat sitter to book (because someone needs to shake the pennies while I am gone), a final chiropractor adjustment to schedule, a pre-race dinner venue to find, etc.

And then I started thinking about this year vs. last year and how everything is so different. The second Ironman definitely doesn't carry the same weight as the first (so if you're reading this and you're about to do your first, enjoy every single moment of it -- that may seem like bizarre advice since the ultimate goal is to finish as quickly as possible, but your first only happens once, and it truly is a special thing that changes the way you understand yourself and your potential).

Louisville almost feels like a job -- granted, a really awesome job -- that I know how to do. Training -- and all the things that accompany it, like no late nights and no drinking and eating a massive and slightly embarrassing amount of chicken breasts -- is normal, a part of my life and who I am. And I'm not waking up in panic and wondering, Holy shit, can I even do this?

That's not to say I haven't had stress dreams. I recently dreamt someone broke into my house and stole Minivan and Muppet and all of the ice cream. And then there was the dream that the Ohio River was completely polluted with cars floating in it -- I am told this is actually a valid fear -- and then my ex -- who is from southern Ohio so this is also totally valid paranoia -- showed up and basically the entire race was toxic. But overall, I feel much calmer than last year, much more mentally prepared.

Physically, I can tell I've grown as an athlete. Using numbers and zones alone, I know I'm in a good place. (Ride Around the Sound -- which I actually did on the correct date this year, thank you very much -- was hilly as eff. And I am not a climber. But I did it. And I was fine. And I recovered quickly. And this was all just a week after doing a 70.3.)

One of the few flat sections on this ride.

I've also made it a priority to do everything I can to stay healthy and avoid getting sick -- trying to sleep as much as possible, not go out late, avoid stress, take my vitamins, etc. Yes, I've gotten incredibly boring to be around (unless you are a cat), but I feel good.

And then there's life. Man, I look back at last year and what a shit show that was. So much pain, so much loss. But life is an endurance sport in and of itself -- you go through the rough patches, you dig deep, you find strength you didn't realize you had, you ask for help when you need it and eventually, one day, you come out on the other side. And you're incredibly grateful for everything you learned and everyone who was there through it all.

So onward to Louisville. And of course, bourbon at the finish line.

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