You know the old saying “if you fall off the horse, you’ve gotta get right back on”. Well, falling off that horse can be freakin’ scary! I mean, hello, you just fell 5 feet off of a LIVE animal, most likely head first! If you are a perfectly sane individual, you’re going to think twice about getting back onto that horse’s back. And if you’re really sane, you’re going to get the hell out of there and go get yourself a nice, safe ice cream cone.
Luckily, I’m completely insane. I went back for more. (And no, not ice cream)
Now I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy my first tri training experience, but it wasn’t a walk in the park. Physically? I felt great the next day. Mentally? All I could think about was being defeated by the depths. Your mind can definitely make you want to “not get right back on”, but if it’s something that you really want, then you’ve just got to get over it, and do it.
All week long I was trying to mentally and physically prepare myself for the next tri training with the group. I knew they would be preparing for the Top Gun Sprint Tri the following weekend, so they would definitely be in a serious mode.
The week after my first tri training I was focused on my two weaknesses: biking and swimming. I got in about 15 miles on my bike, and about 600 practice yards in the pool. I really tried to work on my stroke, my posture on the bike, and my breathing for both sports. It’s funny, but when I’m jogging, my breathing takes on such a rhythmic pattern that I don’t get winded, and I feel really great when I jog. As a swimmer and biker, my breathing is completely out of wack. I’m trying breathe the way I would on the pavement, but it’s totally wrong, and definitely something I need to work on. I hit the bookstore on the Saturday after my first tri training and read a few great articles on perfecting your swim experience. SO great that I found it necessary to drop some cash and buy two of the most expensive magazines. Ever. I was feeling a lot more educated on the subject, and couldn’t wait to put it to the test on Sunday morning.
During the week, my parents added to my tri quest by purchasing some proper apparel for me. (When your birthday is in June, you pretty much celebrate it all summer long). The package wasn’t delivered in time for Sunday, but I should be able to take it on my trip to the Keys this weekend and put it to the test out in the pool! I’d like to take a moment to thank one of the sponsors of my first triathlon: Rick and Judy. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.
I arrived right on time Sunday morning at Ft. Desoto. Same gear, same lunch, same drinks, same bike… different mindset. I woke up feeling like I could tackle the deep water. I had mentally prepared myself all week long for it, and this would be the true test. Unfortunately, Lindsey had already checked out the shore with another member and informed us that buoys were set up for another group doing a practice for next week’s Top Gun. I would be able to get a first hand look at what I would be faced with during an actual tri. A moment of brief panic slipped into my gut. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to face the reality just yet. After all, it was only my second training.
As we walked around the lagoon on our way to the beach, I caught a glimpse of the orange bulbous buoys bobbing over the waves. There were four of them set up, about 50 yards or so offshore. Originally I thought that all tris had participants swimming directly out towards the horizon and back to the shore. Another misconception that was cleared for me that morning. You see there are some tris that have you do a distance swim parallel to the shore (score!). I was definitely feeling better about things, as they didn’t look too far off shore, and the distance from the first buoy the fourth was less than the distance that I had completed the week before. I knew I was capable of that, so I thought this would be an easy, first accomplishment of the morning.
I got in the water. Magical swim cap and super goggles in tow. Followed the group out to the first buoy. Put my head in the water and started swimming. I literally got about 10 feet when panic started to set in. The water was deep. I definitely was not able to see the bottom, and I kept seeing these dark splotches all around me. Realistically, I knew exactly what I was seeing. The water bubbles inside my goggles were creating these dark patches which of course made my brain appear to be seeing sharks, whales, manta rays, alligators and more swimming underneath me.
Like I said… insane.
The rest of course is history. Hyperventilation set in. I flopped on my back and high tailed it back to where I could reach. I was terribly mad at myself. I could feel the tears welling up inside my not-so-super goggles. I felt defeated. Why couldn’t I get over this. A woman of 31 years was letting her imagination and fear get the best of her. I looked down at the rest of the group, and even two of the new members who claimed they weren’t the best swimmers were out there, in the deep water, doing their thing. I was really proud of them, and so so angry at myself. I kept thinking about last week, and being in the deep water for that last leg back to the start, but I couldn’t put myself back in that mindset, especially since I was alone in the water.
After about five minutes, I got my breathing under control, went a little further out to my tippy toes and started swimming towards the group. I was parallel to the buoys, so I knew I was getting my distance in. Lindsey came to meet me half way and I explained to her what had happened. I was grateful for her kind words and motivation, but I knew that it would take more than outside support to get me over this stupid fear. It was ingrained in my brain, and I had to find a way to evict it on my own.
Once my breathing was controlled and my mind was clear, I took the same route back to the first buoy. I thought about being in the pool. I closed my eyes if I saw something questionable, and I concentrated on each and every stroke and kick. My swim back was strong. I just wish it had been on the other side of the buoys. Deb, the group organizer, gave me tons of great feedback on my form and continued to encourage me to do this. It’s definitely nice to have people motivating you to do something you never thought you would ever be able to do.
When we got out of the water, and prepared to bike, I knew I was going to be biking alone today because Lindsey didn’t have her mountain bike this week. She found a place in Riverview that will rent you one of their bikes for a week to take it for a test spin (great idea, huh!?). If you decide to purchase one of the bikes you rent, they’ll put the rent fee towards the final cost of the bike. She had been looking to upgrade to a hybrid bike, so that’s what she had rented. The other three members had road bikes, and because of that, I would be the caboose in our bike train that morning. The good news?
A. I had a new bike seat courtesy of my mom (which I installed at the last minute Saturday night).
B. I knew all of the landmarks to help gauge my progress.
C. I did the mileage before. I knew I was capable.
D. There are no landsharks.
I hopped on my bike, set my stop watch and hit the pavement. I lost sight of the group pretty quickly, but I kept on peddling.
46 minutes later, I was back at the parking lot feeling better than the week before. My legs weren’t jellyfish this week (ok, maybe octopus?) and I felt like I could put out more foot distance this time around.
The 5k practice was excruciatingly hot. Again we only did about a mile and a half, but at least I didn’t feel like I had the weakest quads on the block. All that biking during the week had definitely helped, and if I had really wanted to, I think I could have gone further on foot.
In the end, I feel like my second tri training experience was a success, despite the watery meltdown. With a little time, more practice and motivated people all around, I WILL conquer this fear and complete my first triathlon in no time. I’m feeling stronger than I ever have felt. I’m feeling like an athlete. I never got to be one in high school or college. I never had the skills to make the softball team, or the courage to try out the following year. I have always been the token “fat girl” who was “a nice friend”, but deep down inside, I have always wanted to be an athlete.
It may have taken me 15 years to get here, but I’m doing it now, and that’s what counts.