Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Facing my Fears (aka Writing my List)

Being as I have a whopping three whole triathlons under my belt, I am far from being comfortable with the event, especially the swim portion of it.

My first triathlon consisted of a 200y swim across the American River that was probably closer to 150y.  Clear water, a straight shot across the river, and a relatively short distance made this the easiest swim to date.

My second triathlon was at a race called "Ice Breaker". As the name suggests, it was cold. The water was also murky and choppy and the swim was 800y. On top of that, I had not been doing any kind of open water swimming. My last open water swim was my first race. I entered the water and about 100 yards into it, I began to panic. The race did not go as planned.  Afterwards, my initial thought was, I need to get back in the water. Not that I particularly wanted to do another swim, but I needed to face my demons...and soon!

The third race was the Angels Camp triathlon. Prior to this race, I went and did a practice swim with +James and Mojo. The practice swim put me at ease. I took my time during the practice to try and get comfortable in the water. On race day, I still got jelly legs when my adrenaline kicked in, but it was so much better than Ice Breaker and this swim was 1000y (I'm noting the distances mainly for myself so I can see the progress I have made LOL).

Now I've got my 4th triathlon coming up. It is an Olympic distance race, which means a 1500m swim. The race is still 4 days away, but I'm starting to get that sick, nervous feeling already. I have done a couple of open water swims with the tri group, so I'm hoping that I will see improvement in my ability to remain calm and relaxed.

A Non-Triathlon Read (sort of)

Since I've finished reading my last "triathlon" book, I picked up a book I started reading several months ago called "The Fear Project". Its an interesting book, but sometimes not a very entertaining read which is why it lost out to "Triathlon for Every Woman" and "Sex, Lies, and Triathlon" (to name a few).

Anyway, I started reading "The Fear Project" again and in it the author discussed his fear of surfing the Mavericks. He met with a sports psychology consultant (who happens to be a triathlete).

In the book, she tells him to list all of his fears about the Mavericks. If there were fears that he had no control over, he had to scratch them off the list. No sense in worrying about something you cannot do nothing about. Regarding the fears that he did have control over, she instructed him to script out an action plan for each one.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

"It feels a bit weird to make a list like this, Paige assured me, but she'd seen too many times how necessary it could be. She had one client, a first-time triathlete, call her the night before the big race and say: "I just can't stop thinking that I'm going to get a flat tire on the bike." 
Paige started with the obvious. "Well, do you know how to change a flat tire? Have you ever practiced?" 
"No," the client admitted, "but..." 
"That's why you make a list in advance," Paige said.

Hmmm...I'm thinking the whole list thing may be a good idea.

My List of Tri Fears


  • I won't be able to swim the 1500m. (I've done this distance in the pool.  I've done progressively longer races. There is no reason I cannot do this distance, especially in a wetsuit. I made my 12 year old swim this distance in a pool. Continue working on technique at practice and remaining calm.  Work on long strokes and efficient swimming).
  • I'll get too nervous and won't be able to breathe and then I'll start swimming breaststroke. (Work on remaining calm in the water. Count my strokes, distract myself from my anxiety. Besides, swimming breaststroke is not the end of the world).
  • There will be weeds in the water. (No control over that one, just don't stop swimming if I get in them).
  • Too many people in the water. (No control over that one)
  • Flat tire on the bike. This only scares me because it will slow me down. (I've practiced many times how to change a flat).
  • I'll get overheated. (Work on staying hydrated. Bring a mini ice-chest to the race with cold drinks)
  • I'll want to quit and start walking. (If this feeling starts, trying thinking of all the reasons to keep running. Only walk in the event of an injury or SEVERE cramp).
  • I won't do as well as I want to. I feel a lot of pressure because people think I'm going to do well. (Remember that this is a learning experience. Just going to do my best)

More on Anxiety

As I was eating lunch at the kitchen counter and contemplating my list of triathlon fears, I looked down at the latest issue of Runner's World. On the cover were the words "Anxious? Here's how to calm down."  Must be divine intervention. The suggestions were pretty basic and seemed to focus more on training than racing. However, the article did mention that "negative thoughts and associated stress can sap your energy". I've got to remember this on race day. I need all the energy I have for swimming, biking and running.

A separate note on the same page discussed pre-race jitters and suggested going to watch a race first and see how it unfolds. Perfect! I'll be at the race site the day before to cheer on Jordan as well as the Old Guy Relay.