It’s been a few days and I’ve been retelling the story by cracking jokes, because it’s a lot less awkward to laugh than it is to spill warm tears. But that doesn’t mean I’m not upset, not embarrassed, not disappointed in myself. I’m scared that the memory of my panic in the water will affect me in the future, will surface again the next time I face the open water. It’s my first real black mark.
I know I’ve got to pull myself together, got to tuck away my lessons learned, got to get back out there. And I will at some point. I’m just not done sulking yet.
My life of fitness wouldn’t be complete without Purple. “Purple” is the backpack which I use to lug all of my “new life” necessities around. Why we continue to give items random, unoriginal names is beyond me. Why they stick is even further beyond my comprehension.
Purple’s original purpose was never fitness. I bought it a few years ago for an event that I needed to carry around a lot of stuff. It was one of those “run into TJ Maxx at the last minute and pick up whatever’s cheapest” kind of situations. Once the event was over I squished it in the back of my closet and figured it would be good to keep around for another situation like that. Cue the “If only I knew”.
As I’ve told many times by now, I picked up running in the summer. I had one pair of shoes. I wore the same pants and tank tops that I work for my personal training sessions or bootcamp. And that was it. I remember when it finally started getting too cold for capris and I bought my first pair of running tights. I bought some zip ups and even a fancy ear warmer. Suddenly I had options depending on the weather. When I started adding in a run after bootcamp I realized I would need to bring a wardrobe change… and out came that dusty backpack. I figured “It will work for now”.
As I slowly began to dabble in new fitness adventures I found myself acquiring more and more gear. Bathing suit, swim caps (got to have more than one handy!), goggles, helmet, deodorant. Training for a triathlon suddenly required so much “stuff” – and all the time. When I went on a camping trip this summer I knew I was going to have a few workouts to get done. Panicked that I would forget something I needed I simply zipped Purple up and took it all with me.
Aside from all this multi sport training my runs started getting longer and more complicated. In the summer months I gave in and got myself one of those “runner hats”. I found myself stashing Purple with bandaids for blisters. Kenyan Beans for long runs. Body Glide, sunblock, Nuun tablets, hair elastics.. you name it, and I keep it in there. When the weather got colder I added several different sets of gloves, hats and ear warmers. And when I decided to throw yoga into my repertoire? In went my new grippy socks. Not to mention the assortment of race bibs, pamphlets and handfuls of safety pins shoved in there constantly.
Purple isn’t great for organization. For as often as I find myself neatly re-organizing things, a week later its chaos again. There have been far too many times where the entire contents of my backpack have almost tumbled into the pool because I didn’t zip it up all the way. Often I find myself looking online at new bags. I’ve added the same swanky triathlon bag to an online shopping cart at least 4 times now. But then I close my browser. Something inside of me just isn’t ready to move on yet.
Call me a sappy sentimental (Because we all know I am) but I feel like Purple and I have gone through so much together that it’s hard to just throw her away. She sits stuffed in a corner every Saturday morning during bootcamp. She’s thrown on the floor of the pool locker room day after day. She sat under the bike rack while I finished my first triathlon. She waited patiently in the car while I ran my first 13.1. When I bought her, I had no idea I had no idea what I’d end up needing her for. And when I started this journey, I had no idea where I would end up going either.
For all the fancy triathlon and gym bags out there- Purple is original, she’s organic. She’s trying to pass for something she wasn’t necessarily built for – just like me. So for the time being I’ll stick to my simple purple backpack. The one that smells like running socks no matter how many times I wash it. The one that has become a black hole to my cell phone one too many times. The one who’s faking it till she makes it. She’s evolving. We both are. We owe it to each other. 🙂
I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe what finishing your second triathlon is like and although I am not a parent, to me it seems like what it must feel like having a second child. (My apologies if I’m completely off, I only babysit and have a bunch of nieces and nephews). Regardless; the second time around for either of these things you think you’re a little more prepared. The fear of the unknown is less daunting. You find there’s less preparation to do and for the most part, you have the gear and supplies necessary. So what happens when all that logic goes right out the window?
It probably doesn’t help that the triathlon landed in the middle of a long weekend spent at a beautiful lake house in New Hampshire. When the most important part of your day is a boat ride across the lake for ice cream, swimming, biking and running kind of get pushed to the back of the brain (Ice cream will always take precedent for this Bad Ass).
In fact, I pretty much had forgotten I was doing a triathlon until packet pickup the afternoon before. After grabbing our bibs & timing chips (and some awesome matching neon running hats!) we did a drive through of the bike course and HOLY HILLS. I had been warned that it was a hilly ride, and I had made it through Iron Girl …but this looked terrifying. I told myself “Been there. Done this. You’ll be fine”. And before the fear could take over, I turned my attention back to having fun.
The nerves didn’t really kick in until about 4:30 am when I found myself lying in the dark with my eyes wide open, trying to will myself back to sleep before the alarm went off. We packed up our gear and headed to the lake and I reminded myself over and over again “You’ve already done this, you know what to expect.” Unfortunately telling myself that did nothing for the English Muffin with peanut butter that was sitting on my lap, getting colder and colder.
We set up our transition area, I had my hair braided (now an official routine), and we made our way down the rocky path to the water for the start. And then the bomb dropped- they announced that the waves would be in increments of 25. Which would have been fine except for the fact that my trusty sidekick was #50… and I was #51. You’ve never felt a longer minute than the one I spent standing waist deep in water with complete strangers. Once I was in it took no more than 6 strokes before I was coughing up lake water. It was choppier than it had been my first time around, and the addition of men (obviously Iron Girl was just ladies) made it even worse. In a moment of panic I almost started to look for a rescue kayak, but was able to get it together and keep swimming. It wasn’t my best performance but I finally made it out of the water and booked it up to transition.
Unfortunately my less than stellar swim had used up a lot of energy (My swim instructor would be so disappointed in me!), so I was already tired heading out on the bike. And the hills were just as relentless as they had looked from the car. I felt like I could never catch my breath- even on a downhill I knew that meant there was another climb ahead. It was the little things that got me through that terrible bike ride: seeing my buddy patiently waiting for me on the side of the road, our cheering squad with big smiles and words of encouragement… even the bikers who yelled “Nice Work- you got this!” as they passed me. When I finally saw the dismount sign ahead I breathed a sign of relief, even though I had no idea where I would now find the energy to run.
And as I expected, it was incredibly hard for me to find that willpower. I was tired, so very tired, more tired than I had been at the END of Iron Girl (how is that even possible?). The run was just 2.7 miles, but in that moment it felt like a full marathon. I was exhausted and just ready for the whole thing to be over. It took some encouragement, a few jokes, and even a few guilty looks thrown my way when I wanted to quit- but I pushed myself across the finish line and became a triathlete for the second time this summer.
While my finish didn’t leave me feeling as speechless and emotional as Iron Girl did, I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t want anything to take away from how special that day was for me. It doesn’t mean however, that I am any less proud this time around. Before this year I barely ran, let alone swam or rode a bike. In just a short amount of time I learned how to do all three together, and then did it not once- but twice in one summer. As incredible as road races are- triathlons are just a whole other world. No matter how I felt during each individual event, there’s something in knowing that you just completed three sports back to back that makes you feel so incredibly bad ass. That’s why as much as I claimed during Mile 6 of the bike that this would be my last triathlon- after a shower and some food I was ready to start planning for next summer. We triathletes are a strange breed, aren’t we? 🙂
With the End of Summer Classic on Friday and my second triathlon Labor Day weekend, my summer of training is officially coming to an end. What a summer it’s been. I remember looking at the calendar pages for the first time and instantly regretting everything I had signed up for. So much writing, so few blank days, so ambitious for me to take on. Dutifully I chipped away at it day by day. Standing in front of the fridge every night I’d proudly cross that day off. I’m know it’s lame to admit, but it gave me such a sense of completion. After coming home from Falmouth I woke up the next morning and headed to the calendar to see what was on the schedule for the day and there it was… nothing. Blank days for weeks. No scheduled bike rides, no swims, no interval runs, no bricks. I nearly had a panic attack… what do I do NOW?
I have mixed feelings when it comes to these blank days. I think my last few posts are a tell tale sign that I am tired, and am on the verge of a burn out- and I know that that means it’s time to slow down on the training. I mean in one summer I more than doubled my mileage, spent 6 days a week training, ran 5 races, became a triathlete, and coached a run group for the first time. If there was ever a time I deserved to “take it easy”, I’d like to think it’s after completing all that. On the flip side I know that I’m not very good when it comes to taking it easy and I’m already feeling antsy without something to train for. I like goals, I like plans. I don’t do “take it easy” very well.
For as much time as I spent bitching and complaining about how much I had to do this summer, the truth is that I couldn’t be more grateful for every second of it. I took the body that I worked so hard for last summer, and I made it do some pretty amazing things. I started my mornings with sunrise bike rides, and ended with dusky nights at the track. I went to sleep with the smell of chlorine still on my skin, and woke up with damp hair from late night showers. I got a LOT of bug bites. I didn’t go anywhere without my purple backpack, which is now full of every day necessities.
I learned more this summer than I ever thought I would. Last summer I learned portions, I learned control, I learned how to combine eating and exercising to make the pounds disappear. This summer was lessons in performance, athleticism, endurance. I learned what happens when you don’t fuel properly before a race, and what happens when your training falls perfectly into place. I learned the importance of hydration. I learned that beach days are even more sacred when they come after a hard week of training. I learned that it’s okay that after losing over 60 pounds I still can’t run in shorts. I learned how to not drown in the middle of a lake. I learned how to use my arms when attempting hills. I learned that arms are more crucial to running than one would think. I learned why gears are so crucial when it comes to riding a bike up a hill. I learned a lot about hills this summer.
I learned that sometimes the sweetest gestures of friendship can be found in mile countdowns or ecstatic bear hugs at a finish line. How a bag full of bananas and bandaids can make you cry from overwhelming love. That support systems are critical to success. That trust is just as critical. That tough love helps shape you just as much as comfort does. That sometimes having someone run patiently alongside you can provide more motivation than words ever could. That having someone tell you “You can do this” is great, but being able to say those words to someone else feels even better.
I learned that while I’ve come so far this summer I still have a long way to go, I still have so much to learn. I learned that I want to continue to work on being stronger, faster, and better at what I now love to do. I learned that scary isn’t always bad, and that facing challenges head on can sometimes lead us to discover our greatest passions in life. Before this summer I never really had the mindset that anything is possible if you want it bad enough. But now I get it- and I know that I’m a lot stronger than I used to think I was. I know that when the next challenge comes along, I’ll be ready for it. Who knew you could learn so much in just one summer.
Do you remember what it was like going to an amusement park as a kid (Or maybe recently if you’re a wimpy adult such as I am)? There was always that one roller coaster, or ride that flipped you upside down and sideways that was the sole reason people went there. Looking at it gave you an instant pit in your stomach, but something about the lines of people and sound of screaming made you curious. You waited in a line that snaked around the amusement thinking “Should I? Shouldn’t I?“. As you made your way to the gates you could see people exiting, laughing and cheering as they made their way back to the concourse. “So if no one’s dead and everyone looks happy… this must be worth, right?”
Finally it was your turn. You’d nervously push your way through the turnstile, and climb into a cart next to a comforting friend or parent. An employee would check to make sure you were safely fastened in and then… you were off. During that slow climb up the first hill you were pretty sure you were going to vomit from nerves but then- it was the time of your life. You’d scream and laugh your way through the ride – only to jump off and immediately hop back in line.
That is really the best way that I can describe what finishing your first triathlon is like. Do you get where I’m going with this?
I hopped right back in line 🙂
Before my number tattoo had a chance to fade (Let’s be honest I tried to preserve that bad boy as long as possible) I was feverishly typing in my credit card information for another triathlon. And before I could stop myself from hitting submit- I had another countdown started. I know you’re all saying to yourself “Gee for the girl who bitched and moaned and complained and cried…” So before we go any further let me just say this:
For everyone who said “You won’t drown”… you were right and I was wrong.
For everyone who said “You’ll do it… and then want to do it faster”... you were right and I was wrong.
For everyone who said You’re going to love it”... you were right and I was wrong.
For everyone who said “You’ll do one and be hooked“… you were right and I was wrong.
The race isn’t until the end of the summer, so I have about a month to get myself ready before I “tri” (sorry- triathlete joke) again. And while this means I’m heading back to the pool and back out on my bike– training for it won’t be anything like training for Iron Girl. Oh and the most EXCITING news is that the swim portion is just a quarter mile (Iron Girl was a half mile) which means half the swimming… I’m loving the sound of this already!
It’s amazing how different it feels training for a second triathlon versus your first. Gone are those intense fears (I mean, minus the whole drowning thing- there’s always a possibility) of attempting something foreign and new. This time around I have an idea of what to expect, what to pack, how to set up, what the lake will be like. I’m excited to do it all over again – but better and faster.
I’m digging this ride- and totally content hanging out here for a while 🙂
For a girl who usually can’t stop babbling, and who loves to write, I find myself sitting here staring at the computer screen with no idea on where to begin. This is the blog post that I have been dreaming of writing and suddenly I’m speechless. Part of me feels like this week’s post would be better if I left out any words at all- and just filled it with images like this:
There’s not much that I would go back and change except for how nervous I was in the days, hours and minutes leading up to the start. We’re talking convincing myself out of throwing up in the hotel bathroom at 4am Sunday morning. Crying because I couldn’t carry a plastic bin of water bottles AND walk my bike at the same time. I was a full bottle of whine and tears. I can’t remember ever being as terrified about something as much as I was about this. The night before I tossed and turned in bed. As I listened to the sounds of everyone around me sleeping, I tried to give myself a refresher on open water swimming, I went over and over again how to use my gears on the hills, how to dress myself in transition. After a few restless hours I was woken up and laid in bed hoping that if I kept my eyes closed, I wouldn’t have to get up and actually do this.
I set up my transition area with shaky hands, forced half a granola bar down my throat, and checked my watch every 2 minutes. “I’m not ready, I’m not ready” I told myself over and over again.
After our gear was all set up there was nothing left to do but head down to the water and wait for the start. With each wave that was called our group diminished, and we sent them off with hugs & good lucks. Finally it was our turn. As we headed into the chute I clutched my trainer’s hand and tried to calm my breathing. No turning back now.
And as the announcer counted down and our wave began to take off, the most amazing thing happened: all of that crazy, nervous chatter in my brain melted away and my body started to do exactly what it had been trained to do. I took careful strokes, trying to avoid getting smacked in the face by the people around me. Before I knew it I had already rounded the first buoy. I remember thinking “I DON’T EVEN NEED TO REST YET!” I continued on the longest leg of the swim with a pattern of several good strokes combined with a few doggie paddles to catch my breath. As much as I had planned on staying at the back of the pack I began getting annoyed at the people who were flipping and flopping in front of me so I decided to just take the risk and head right into the middle.
Faster than I ever expected I rounded the last buoy and suddenly began to see the bottom of the lake. My heart skipped a beat. “Keep going girl, keep going!” I chanted to myself in my head. And just like that… I was done with the swim! I rather ungracefully hopped out of the water and made my way up to transition.
After throwing on bike shorts, shoes and helmets we ran our bikes to the start line and began the second part of the race. I was still breathless with excitement that the swim was over and had to remind myself to be cautious and save my legs for the dreaded hills. I was so grateful that I had ridden the course the week before so I knew exactly where they were. As I watched girls get off their bikes and walked them up, I proudly used my gears and in true The Little Engine That Could fashion, victoriously made it over. The downhill was a long breezy road and I giggled with excitement as I cruised down. My two biggest fears of this race were officially over. I WAS REALLY DOING THIS!
Before I knew it, we were pulling back into the beach and the race volunteers were telling me to dismount. I saw everyone else running alongside their bike back into the transition area but there was no way I could do both at the same time and not trip over myself. (Note for future triathletes: in your brick workouts practice running WITH your bike, not just after you put it down). After re-racking my bike and chugging some water we headed out for the last leg… the run. This was where I was supposed to shine- for running is what we do best, and after all… it was ONLY a 5K. So would you believe that this ended up being the HARDEST part for me? Between the rising temperature, the fact that I had just swam AND biked, and that I had barely eaten anything in the morning, I definitely struggled. Thank goodness my two buddies kept me laughing and smiling. With every forward motion I reminded myself that I was one step closer to being a triathlete. My pace may have been pretty close to a shuffle, but I never once stopped running.
As we turned onto the road for the beach I could hear the music, the voice of the announcer, and the cheering. Ahead I saw the purple and pink banners. THIS WAS IT! Linking hands with the two who had gotten me there, we bounced across the finish line and at 9:20am, an hour and 55 minutes after I got in the water… I became a triathlete. I heard the announcer call my name and I swear, I’ve never felt as limitless as I did in that moment.
We had just barely crossed the finish line before my trainer and I pretty much wrapped ourselves in each other. From my first days at the studio- overweight, self conscious, and begging for help, she has been there. For every pound lost, every tear shed, every new goal accomplished she is by my side with words of advice, of praise, but often without having to even say anything at all. Always pushing me, encouraging me, teaching me. For months she had trained and coached me for this- this was our moment. I told her day after day that I couldn’t do this, and she knew all along I could. These pictures make my heart so happy for they show in ways I can’t describe just how lucky I am.
Finishing my first triathlon has changed me the same way that running changed me, the way losing weight has changed me. In shedding those layers you discover parts of you that are bigger than your body ever was. You learn how to be brave. You learn how to take on new things, even if they are hard at first and suck. You learn to trust your body, trust your training, trust those who love you the most. You learn that you don’t have to start out with the body of a triathlete, you just have to have the heart of one. You learn that as hard as it is to sometimes get there- the view from the top is freaking amazing.
I am so incredibly grateful for everyone who has been a part of this journey: for my biggest supporter & fiancee, my family and friends who have pretty much vicariously lived through my training. For my workout buddies who are always cheering me on, and those who read my blog and have supported a girl they’ve never even met. For everyone who gave me tips, tricks and words of encouragement. Thank you for making me an Iron Girl. 🙂
Well… this is it. I am literally down to the last few days and hours before T-Day. All that’s standing between me and the “triathlete” title is a easy 2 mile run, a boot camp, packing, and a sleepless night in a hotel. “Trust in your training” is what my schedule says for Saturday… easier said than done. There’s so much I have to trust in. Trust in my swimming, trust in my lungs, trust in my legs and my bike and my running shoes. Trust that I won’t panic in the water… trust that I’ll actually GET into the water. So much to trust.
Last Saturday I woke up at dawn and headed out to central Massachusetts for an open water swim clinic. The further out I drove the more the temperature dropped and the more raindrops fell on my windshield. There has barely been a day under 85 degrees the majority of the summer, so obviously the weather was going to bottom out at 61 and rainy the day I have to face my fears of the lake. Thanks a lot, karma. I pulled into a lot full of SUVs with race decals and fancy bike racks and suddenly my little “mountain turned hybrid” bike and I felt very out of place… and very nervous. What was I doing here again?
As introductions happened I was happy to learn that several of the women there were participating in Iron Girl, and there were even a few other newbies. We learned some different start techniques, panic tips and then.. it was swim time. The first practice lap was TERRIBLE. I wasn’t ready for the lake to be so dark and I had a hard time navigating where I was going. It seemed like everyone else was so far ahead of me and I started to worry that I was incredibly slow. This resulted in some panicked strokes and having to stop every few feet. I remember one of the instructors asking me if I was okay as I panted and tried to tread water, barely able to squeak out a “I’m just really nervous”. He assured me that I wasn’t slow, and that I had lots of support overseeing me. The next few practice runs were a little smoother. I was pleasantly surprised at how un-dirty (clean?) the lake was, and I only got grossed out when I could finally see the bottom again (Which was also exciting because that meant I was done!). I stayed to the side and the back of the group which lessened the amount of limbs in my way, and I tried to focus on consistent strokes… no matter how slow they were. I kept telling myself “smart swimming! smart swimming!” … guess I did learn something in that swim class so many months ago.
As the clinic wrapped up one of the women I met mentioned that she lived right by the race site and offered for me to follow her back to her house so we could ride the bike route together. An hour later I had gotten a good feel for the course, had some landmarks to look for (like an Alpaca farm?), checked out the lake, and left with the phone number of a new friend. See all of the things you miss out on when you’re too busy watching TV on the couch?
I headed home with my shoulders feeling a little lighter and dare I say… a few butterflies in my stomach? Finally, after 9 months of planning & stressing, 7 months of swimming and 2 months of true training… I started to actually get a little excited. This is really happening, I am really going to do this… I (fingers & toes crossed) am going to be a triathlete, kids!
There’s still a pretty big cloud of anxiousness over me this week- I’ve been lying wide awake at 5am every single morning, I’ve had to force myself to eat real meals, and I have this on and off again pit in my stomach. When I’m too nervous to sleep- I’ve be trying to outweigh the nerves with a positive triathlon thought. I think about how the weather forecast is looking spectacular (knock on wood), how badass my sharpie number tattoo is going to look, the unconditional love and support I’ve had in training, what crossing the finish line is going to feel like.
And stemming from those thoughts, a flutter of excitement kicks every now and then. This is the day I have been waiting for for so long. The day I have trained for, cried about, read books and articles about. It’s the one thing my poor family and friends have had to listen to me talk about day after day. To not enjoy it would be a waste of what has pretty much consumed my life for the majority of the year. I’m trying to remind myself that at the end of the day it doesn’t matter where I place, or how fast I am (Just please don’t let me be last!)- this is about me- this is my race. Crossing that finish line is going to mean so much more to me than just a time on a clock.
If you’re an early bird and find yourself awake at 7:25AM on Sunday… do me a favor and think of me? I’ll be out in the middle of nowhere, in my orange swim cap, trying to hold it together, jump in the water… and do what I’ve been trained to do. 🙂
The last few weeks have been pretty crazy. Aside from my now routine training schedule and coaching the running group I went on a bit of a bender with 3 races over the course of 8 days. There were some pretty hot and sticky conditions and laundry day had to be coordinated around my running clothes (Oh and I also learned a valuable lesson of what happens when you DON’T fuel properly for a race and will NOT be trying that again) but overall it was a pretty fun and crazy experience. Not too shabby for the girl who at this time last year was struggling through two boot camps a week and barely running a full mile at one time.
After the 4th of July race I glanced at my calendar to see what was next and realized… it’s T-Day. Deep breaths, deeeeeep breaths. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have any other races until then, because I seriously need to get myself together and find my way out of my own head. It’s a well known fact that I’ve been nervous about the triathlon ever since I signed up (actually before if that’s even possible?) but with now less than 2 weeks to go I feel incredibly… panicked. Suddenly I feel so unprepared. Suddenly I want more time. I want more laps to swim and brick workouts. I want to go backwards and redo some of my workouts in case they weren’t good enough the first time around. I want more days on my training calendar to cross off. Is this normal? Do people who have spent months and months training for marathons and Iron Man’s suddenly feel like they haven’t done enough? Someone please tell me I’m not as crazy as I feel.
I’ve followed my training schedule religiously. I’ve read the books and articles, I’ve tucked all the tips I’ve gotten from people into my brain. I’ve done the bricks and learned how to use my gears for hills. I’m signed up for an open water swim clinic this weekend. If this Triathlon was a class in school I’d be the nerdy overachiever that sits in front and takes pages of notes. And then sits alone at the lunch table. Nose deep in her triathlon book.
11 more days, I have 11 more days. I’ve spent months and months physically preparing myself- and now I’ve got 11 days to get it together mentally. Come on, Kathleen.
I’m considering it a gift from the triathlon gods (Somehow I blame the Greek god for me being signed up for this ridiculous event) that the pool is closed for a week. At first I freaked out – a bump in my nice neat little training calendar? Crap! Then I realized that maybe I should take it as a sign that I need to take a step back, breathe- and focus on some positives for a while. So I’m doing just that.
Aside from my constant freak outs/nightmares about the swimming portion, my training has been going pretty well. It’s crazy to me that just a few months ago I was afraid to wobble down my street on the bike, and suddenly I’m busting out 8 mile bike rides before I’ve even had breakfast. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading books and articles, and watching triathlon YouTube videos (Note to self: do NOT Google “Triathlons gone bad”. You will just give yourself an ulcer) so that I have some kind of idea of what to expect on race day. There have been a whole lot of “Who am I again?” moments for sure lately because I certainly don’t recognize my life anymore.
In other exciting news I began “coaching” a beginners running group through my training studio. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud of myself I am. A year ago to the date I was just bringing home my first pair of running shoes. Fast forward 366 days- and suddenly I’m teaching a group of people how to run…How did THAT happen? I am no expert, but I feel 100% confident in being able to say “Yes this sucks and it takes a lot of work, but if you want it bad enough and you push through it- the feeling is incredible.”
A few weeks ago I participated in the Ruckus Run, which is one of those muddy obstacle races. It just so happened to take place at the same location where the Diva Dash was (My first “5k”, if you can call it that because it was also an obstacle course race). It was a pretty surreal feeling to be back there roughly a year later, running the same trails (30ish pounds lighter makes a HECK of a difference) and discovering just how much more I was capable of. I was scaling cargo nets and hoisting myself over barricades like it’s part of my daily routine. If I had done this same race last year I probably would have sat in the mud and cried.
I see changes in myself every single day that make me stop and realize that even on the days where I seem stuck and not where I need to be- things are still happening. When I knew the pool was going to be closed for the week, I spent a wild Friday night getting in a little more practice. (You haven’t seen calm water until you’ve been to a community pool on a Friday night!). In preparation for a rather hilly 5 mile race this weekend I took it upon myself to spend a night torturing myself on the hills. The difference between who I was last summer and who I am now is that it’s not something I feel like I HAVE to do- but what I WANT to do. I want to try hard. I want to get better. I want to get faster. I want to be stronger. I’m no where close to the person that I want to become but when I stop and take a look back, I have certainly come a long, long way.
As of today, there are exactly thirty two days until T-Day. One month and two days. (You’d think I have a countdown going or something?). This event that has been consuming brain space since November is suddenly becoming very, very real.
With the triathlon getting closer and closer- I have been a little training machine. I bike, I swim, I run- sometimes all in the same day. My legs are getting pretty used to brick workouts, I’ve gotten over my fear of cars while riding my bike (I still can’t take my eyes off the road but baby steps here), and even my swimming has gotten stronger. The first night that I swam 28 laps without stopping I finished and immediately hugged my friend shrieking. Maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel after all.
And then- I had a bad swim workout. Terrible in fact. The pool was at max capacity, and therefore the water was choppier than a whale watch during a hurricane. I couldn’t go more than a lap without swallowing a mouthful of pool, my nose was burning, and I had to keep picking up my head and therefore disrupting my groove.
For anyone just looking to get in a few laps for exercise you could blow it off and move on with your life. Except that on July 21st I will not be in a clear, calm lane of a pool. I will be in the middle of a lake that I cannot even pronounce, with god knows how many other women all trying to get to the same place I am. There’s going to be feet in my face, water up my nose (And it won’t even be chlorinated-EW), and no ends of the pool to latch onto for support. So not only was it a bad night at the pool- but a reality that I have to face pretty damn soon.
I held back my tears until I got in the car. The “What the HELL made you think you can do this?” feeling immediately came flooding back, and the “What-Ifs” started up. What if I panic in the middle of the lake? What if I get tired and can’t keep going? What if I can’t adjust to swimming in open water after being in the pool for so many months? I don’t know if it was what had happened in the pool, or the reality that the day is approaching so quickly, but the more I started questioning everything, the more and more I started to panic.
After talking things out with the two people who calm me down most, I took a hot shower and pretty much fell asleep instantly. I didn’t wake up until my alarm went off the next morning, and groggily threw on my workout clothes and headed out on the bike. The last thing I really wanted to do was anything triathlon related.
Since I can’t use my headphones on the bike it’s a good time to think. And it seems that whenever I’m running, biking, or swimming these days, all I do is think about the upcoming day -so it was only natural that was where my brain went. As scary as this all is, I’ve got to spend the next month training myself mentally as much as I have been physically. If my brain can’t get over the fear- how is my body ever going to be able to handle the physical challenge of it all?
Scary isn’t always a bad thing, for scary means that you are pushing yourself to try something new. Scary means you are stepping outside your comfort zone. Scary means that you are challenging yourself in ways you never thought possible. Scary means that you are learning. Scary means that you are growing as a person. Scary means that you are doing something to be proud of. And if I want those things as badly as I do, I’ve got to find a way to overcome the scary.