If it weren't for the sandy beaches and shopping, the palm trees and her parents, these next few days might be unbearable for Alessandra Battig.
Taper week is upon Battig and the hundreds who will compete in Saturday's Ironman World Champion-ships in Kona, Hawaii.
"This is the Holy Grail of triathlon," Battig said of the 140.6-mile challenge (2.4 swim, 112 bike, 26.2 run) amid hot and humid conditions. "I spent last year trying to get here, and I'm going now. My main objective is to go, have fun and not freak out."
Ah, yes, the freak out, a classic symptom of the taper.
For athletes that thrive on structure and high-intensity workouts such as runners and swimmers everything slows down, everything changes in the days leading up to the event.
This is the taper.
It's good for the body, experts say, but oh-so bad for Battig's mood.
"I'm terrifying during taper week," said the 23-year-old Modesto High grad who left for the islands on Sunday. "I tend to have a bad case of cabin fever, because I'm not working out as much.
"I just want to have a good week with the family and show my thanks for how supportive they've been for me through this."
An all-around athlete at Modesto High, Battig's rise in the triathlon has been somewhat meteoric.
The triathlon piqued her curiosity at age 15, when she volunteered for a race near Sacramento. She got her feet wet one year later with a sprint (750-meter swim, 12-mile bike, 3.1-mile run), and then made a full-fledged commitment to endurance sports while attending UC Davis.
She has run the California International Marathon three times, and has an impressive list of distinctions in the triathlon:
Battig has finished first in her age group in three races: the 2010 TBF Half-Ironman (5:32:23), the 2011 Vineman Ironman (11:02:57) and the 2012 Coeur d'Alene Ironman (11:19:19). Battig qualified for Kona with her age-group victory in Coeur d'Alene.
She was also second at this year's Avia Wildflower Long Course and third at the ITU Long Distance.
"This race is different for me," Battig said of Kona. "There's really nothing at stake. The previous races, especially the qualifier, I had to win my age group. That's a lot of pressure.
"This one, there will be pro athletes and spectators. I want to soak it in and have fun; not let the nerves get to me and make it a scary experience."
Her No. 1 fan, mother Magdalena, believes it will be hard for Battig to simply soak in the experience.
Her daughter is an achiever in every aspect of her life, she says. Battig was voted "Most Athletic" by her classmates at Modesto High after playing volleyball, soccer, basketball, cross country and track. She is the best in a family full of snow skiers, graduated from UC Davis with a degree in exercise science, and will pursue a career in physical therapy after grad school.
Battig, sponsored by Cliff Bar and Davis Wheelworks, plays to win. All. The. Time.
"I believe she herself doesn't realize how good she is. To be quite honest, I don't know, either," Magdalena said. "But to be in a world championship, to get to this point, that's an accomplishment."
Battig insists it's been a team effort to get her to this point, so it should come as no surprise that mom, dad and daughter will make a family vacation of the Ironman.
Magdalena and Tony have bank-rolled much of Battig's triathlon career, helping their youngest child with equipment and travel costs as she's juggled school, an internship, training and a part-time job.
They hope to cheer Battig at each transition point on Saturday, as well as the start and finish.
"Triathlon is extremely expensive, and they've paid for the trips and the races," said Battig, who still lives and works in Davis. "At the same time, I make an effort to help out when I'm home and I don't make stupid decisions.
"I respect them. They're supportive, mentally and emotionally."
That comes in handy when Battig is at her most "terrifying" during taper week.
"She's exaggerating," Magdalena said with a chuckle. "She's not that bad. She just needs her space. She doesn't like to be constantly reminded or have to answer questions. I usually just give her her space and let her do her thing.
"We'll still spend a lot of time together. We'll definitely have some beach time together, too."
James Burns is the Regional Sports Content Editor of The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star. He can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2324.