Extra Life Triathlon Fitness

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Running Scared

A year ago, when I waved the forefinger of my one good arm in the air and proclaimed confidently to the heavens that "I would complete an Ironman", a year was a long way off. So far off in fact, that I needn't let March 30, 2014 worry me at all. It was a lifetime away, and certainly enough time to be adequately prepared to survive a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26 mile run. My daughter would be in Kindergarten by then, my son with a healthy vocabulary. Here we are a month away, with my daughter in Kindergarten, my son already talking back to Mom & Dad. About a month away from the race, and I'll admit that I'm terrified. It turns out that regardless of how well prepared I may be, I'm are still venturing into unknown territory. And most fear is rooted in the unknown.

Within the last year, I have fully healed from an injured shoulder, cleaned up unhealthy habits and unhealthy thinking. I have surpassed my goals with training and racing, and believe I am well capable of completing the Ironman in 17 hours. In fact, I have been close to the front of the pack in most of the races I have run. While I'm not the tip of the spear, so to speak, I am closer to being the string that ties the pointy end of the spear to the stick that carries it. I could not be more prepared than I am right now. But the feeling of fear still grinds at the pit of my stomach.

So what exactly am I afraid of? Well, to make it easy, here's a fun little top ten list of things which may make a triathlete fearful before their first Ironman, some far fetched, others... fetched?

  • As odd as it sounds, there's the fear of being afraid. There is a lot of standing around and waiting before the gun goes off. That leaves a lot of time to be in my own head, which never ends well. For example, getting to the start line and succumbing to my fear in the form of a storm of gravity pulling all my blood from my head, at which point I collapse in an embarrassing heap, ending my race before it begins. Here comes the stretcher, making its way through the throngs of swimmers, now delayed in their start because some poor schmuck couldn't harden up. All eyes on me, as I'm carried off the beach in the opposite direction of where the race is to begin. 
  • The fear of getting sick right before the race. Thus far this year I've been lucky, but I don't want to tempt fate as chances are if I do get sick, it will happen just as I'm getting ready to race.
  • The fear of being halfway through the swim and then having to go to the bathroom. I mean, "grab a newspaper and some matches" go to the bathroom. Although, this may help me swim faster, or clear away any congestion from other swimmers.
  • The fear of other people around me having similar "bathroom issues".
  • The fear of panicking mid-swim. It's a long way out, and it will take a lot of effort just getting through the beach start, or as I call it the "Braveheart Start".

  • The fear of being skewered Crocodile Hunter style by a giant stingray. Heck, defiled by any sea creature, big or small, would be unpleasant 
  • The fear of getting one mile into the bike and realizing "crap, this is really hard." Well, duh.
  • The fear of blowing out multiple tires, dropping a chain, breaking a pedal, hitting an armadillo and exploding... any number of mechanical problems which would not be able to be fixed. 
  • The fear of having a diva-esque meltdown at around mile 20 of the run. At this point it is possible that some racers are so worn out that they may lie down prostrate in the middle of the road sobbing uncontrollably, chastising poor volunteers for running out of Snickers bars. 
  • Of course, the dreaded "DNF". Could be for any number of reasons, catastrophic to simple. But the result is the same: Failure to accomplish a much sought after goal.
I will say that I do have some of these fears to varying extents, and even some others not listed, rational and irrational. But look at all of these fears. What do they have in common? They are all things that are out of my control. Funny how fear grips at us when we don't have the ability to pull the strings. It is an interesting sport, triathlon, which people subject themselves to, where there are so many variables which can affect a result which is out of the athlete's control. It requires a lot of humility, of which I have done my best to try to learn and practice over the past couple years.

When I look at it that way, and when I diminish my fears by writing them down, seeing how silly they actually are, and recognizing that they are out of my control, it makes it easier to face them head on. That's not to say that I won't still be completely terrified a month from now, standing with 1499 other people covered in neoprene, waiting for a horn to sound which will begin an intense day of suffering, head games, loss of bodily functions, and diva-esque behavior. But it does mean that I can do my best to be prepared, stop worrying about what I can't control, and take the race as I now try to take my life; moment by moment, challenge by challenge... and hope to God that I just finish on my feet, with a smile on my face.

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