|Photo credit: Nicole Kanouse|
"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
A few weeks ago I changed my profile pic on Facebook to my favorite one of me racing. It’s the same picture of me that is always on this website, but I only use it on Facebook during tri season. I posted it pretty late this year, as I have had a lot of challenges this season. In fact, have posted it several times over the years, so it’s nothing new, but this year when I posted it, it got a couple dozen “likes” as if it were brand new. It was like an instant cheering section and that response flipped the switch in my head and put me on track to race. I could literally feel my focus switch in a matter of hours. A training plan emerged from the ether and working out moved a lot higher on my list of daily priorities. This single act got my head in the game.
I have worked with a lot of triathletes over the years and every one of them has concerns, doubts, and worries about doing her first triathlon. The primary concern is usually the swim, with finishing being a close second. Lake swimming is a particularly difficult challenge for some, an experience like no other. The utter blackness, inability to touch the bottom or sides, the extra people, and the creepiness of weeds and critters contrasts sharply with the antiseptic experience of pool swimming. Some take to lake swimming like literal fish, but most find it to be a startling and scary experience the first time. I know even the strongest, most experienced swimmers have moments of concern, especially when conditions are rough or the race is aggressive. Some find it grows easier over time. Others never really feel comfortable in the lake, but either way, facing these fears and concerns is a real part of the challenge of triathlons.
I could list the dozens of worries and concerns I have had over the years and a hundred more that team mates have struggled with, many of which never occurred to me until someone mentioned it. The reality is, you can create as much fear and concern as you want and make yourself literally sick or panicked if you are unable to get things under control. It’s a real head game, and I offer a few suggestions for facing and overcoming your fears.
1. Figure out what you are actually worried about. Make a list if need be. Get a clear view of what’s really bothering you.
2. Figure out if your fear is something you can do something about. Here are some examples.
· I am worried that the water will be dark and cold. You CAN’T do anything about that.
· I am worried that I am not strong enough to finish the swim. You CAN create a training plan that gives you more confidence about this. (Longer, more often, more lake swims)
3. If your fear is something you can work on, do it. Train differently, improve your equipment, ask for advice. Doing something feels a lot better than doing nothing.
4. If your fear is something you can’t control, talk to someone. The best way to stop yourself from climbing Crazy Mountain is talking it out. It’s good therapy.
5. Accept that the day itself is not completely in your control. Things can happen. There’s a lot of people, equipment, and moving parts involved in triathlons. You can do everything in your power to prepare, but then you have to let race day be what it is. Just as some training days are awesome and others are frustrating, racing works the same way. The best you can do is learn from your experiences, good or bad.
6. Decide that no matter what happens, you will race again. There is nothing more worrisome than putting all your eggs in one basket. Decide before you start that no matter what, this isn’t your final race. Take the pressure off by committing to a future race, even if it’s a long way off.
7. Remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun. It is, you know. Win or lose, the only person you are really racing is yourself, so if you have a disappointing day, only you will really know it. Decide to enjoy the day, even if it’s not a great one. Every day you are racing is a gift that so many cannot do. Be grateful for this awesome opportunity.
"Courage is not absence of fear; it is a control of fear, mastery of fear."
Perhaps we should do a race like this!