Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Facing my fears and getting back out there

Fear.  What an extremely powerful emotion. It can be mentally crippling and can overcome you, if you allow it. It’s so very easy to suggest that a person “get over it and do it anyway”, but that is much easier said than done.  Some people deny that fear is real. I can attest that it is. It’s REALLY real. I have allowed fear to totally sidetrack me and consume me. I have allowed fear to prevent me from doing the things that I absolutely love to do. While I did need to take time to recover after my bicycle crash and I had some family issues that were demanding of my time, I have allowed fear to keep me on the sidelines for far too long. But, not anymore! I felt the fear, I fought it and I won.

Columbia Triathlon (0.93 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run): I must have cried 5 times before I got in the water. I’m not 100% certain why. I was just extremely emotional about getting back out there to do a triathlon again. I knew that I could handle the distances.  I never doubted my ability. I believe it was the thought of getting on the bike that had me in tears. I was afraid to get on the bike, as I had only purchased it a week prior and I wasn’t that familiar with it. It’s super light weight compared to my last bike and I wasn’t comfortable in the aero bars. I wasn’t comfortable with how light it was going down hills. I wasn’t comfortable with the electronic shifters. Most notably, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of riding it in the rain, as the roads would be slippery, making it more likely for a fall again. I was a COMPLETE rack of nerves.  I was afraid I was going to fall. As soon as I started the swim, I swam to the wall and told the cop that I didn’t want to do the race today. He told me to get my mind in the game and to get to swimming. Maybe I just needed some tough love? As I swam, I felt the raindrops and worked myself up into a complete frenzy. I prayed that Lisa had a bad swim (sorry Lisa!) and that her bronchitis was too bad for her to continue the race. I had decided that if this were the case, I would end my race and not go out on the bike.  I started the swim a while before Lisa did, so I knew I would have to wait. I noticed numbers on top of the buoys and assumed there would be 15 of them. After the 10th one, it was time to exit the swim, however I was mentally prepared to swim further. I must have been in the transition area for 20 minutes crying and texting my cycling coach, Tania and boyfriend about how I couldn’t go out on the bike. They all encouraged me to just go and reminded me that it was just a practice day. When Lisa came into transition, she saw me waiting for her by her bike. The look on her face was of pure disgust from her swim. She looked at me and asked what the hell I was doing standing by her bike. I burst into tears. She said, “Oh no! Get your shit together, grab your bike and let’s go! We’ll do this together”. Tough love again. No one would let me give in to the fear. I got it together and headed out to ride. I hung behind Lisa for a long time, as I was afraid to go down hills, afraid let go of the handle bars to get water or to take in nutrition, afraid that I would mess my gears up going up hills, afraid of the slick roads. I was just completely overcome with fear. I tried to strike up a conversation with Lisa. She just ignored me or grunted at me. Finally, I got the courage to just GO.  I made it up all the hills and just took my time practicing on my new bike. Before long, I made it to the finish line and was able to smile back at Leslie’s cheering face. I think I mean mugged her as I was heading out. The run was uneventful. I knew that I had to make some changes in order to make it to the finish line before the race cutoff. I finished the race with Lisa by my side with her amazing family support and Kevin at the finish line. I did it! Tri Becca: 1 Fear: 0

Washington’s Crossing (1.2 mile swim across the Potomac River):  I thought it would be a good idea to practice jumping off a boat before the Escape the Cape Triathlon. Plus, I thought it would be completely BADASS to swim 1.3 miles across the Potomac River from Virginia to Maryland. Tania and Von were both racing, so I signed up. Now, I did not stop to think about how nervous I am to jump into the water at the weekday swims or at other triathlons. Yeah, that never crossed my mind. As we were lining up to get on the boat, I got really quiet. Tania kept asking if I was okay. I wasn’t tearful, but I had the nervous pee thing going on. Oh BOY! When it was time to jump, Tania and Von jumped in with no issue and I just stood there. I screamed to Dennis (who was running the event) if I could sit down then jump in. He screamed back, “REBECCA, JUMP OR JUST STAY ON THE BOAT!!. I screamed FUGGGGGGG!..... and jumped in. My goggles immediately fogged up. Thank goodness, Tania was there. I started to panic saying “my goggle are foggy, my goggles are foggy, I CANT SEE! I CAN’T SEE!!” She let me hold on to her while I cleared and adjusted my goggles.  She’s such a good friend! I started to swim when the horn blew and kept reminding myself that my heat rate would soon slow down, that my body was just trying to acclimate. Before long, I got into a groove until something changed. It seemed like I was swimming sideways and not getting any closer to the ferris wheel at the National Harbor that we were swimming back to. The current had changed, as a tide came through. It was pushing us under the bridge to the left when we were supposed to go straight. Tarus was working safety and in a kayak. I asked if I was swimming in the right direction and he affirmed. That ferris wheel looked like I was swimming while standing still. It was NOT getting any closer! At one point, I took a breaststroke to look where I was going and my feet touched the muddy bottom of the yucky Potomac River! I SCREAMED! Tarus asked if I was okay and then laughed when I told him that I got Potomac mud between my toes. At last the ferris wheel and buoys finally came into closer view and it was time to exit. Whew! I swam more than the 1.2 miles and it took me FOREVER, but I did it. I must have looked a mess, as Von kept asking if I was okay. Tania took me home, as I needed to eat and take a rest before my run. That night my throat started to hurt, Tania couldn’t stop sneezing and Von had a scratchy throat. That Potomac River water gave us the coodies, but we are CERTIFIED BADASSES for swimming from state to state across a river! At least in my mind, we are! Even though I freaked out in the beginning, I still did it and to me, that's winning. Tri Becca: 1 Fear: 0

Escape the Cape Triathlon (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 5 mile run) Cape May, NJ: When I saw the advertisement for this race, I just HAD to sign up! I wanted to be on that boat! Lisa signed up for it too, so I was IN.  When she shared with me that it was a 15-foot drop when we jumped off the boat, I almost messed my pants. Uh OH! I vowed to practice diving at the pool. Yeah, that never happened. Whenever I went to the pool, I could never work up the nerve to dive in. I am such a punk! It started to STORM on race morning. Lightening, thunder, you name it. I prayed that the swim would get canceled. My prayers were not answered. Before long, we were being herded onto the boat and were stuck there until it was time to jump off. I felt nervous, but kept telling myself that it was just excitement that I felt. The energy was on TEN, the music was loud and the race director was pumping up the crowd. The Olympic triathletes all donned their yellow caps and before you knew it, it was time to jump in and swim the 1 mile back to shore. Lisa and I decided to jump together. When it was our turn, Lisa jumped and I looked at the guy standing there. He directed me to move to the side to speak with the Sports Psychologists. They shared with me that it was just adrenaline that had my heart racing, that it only took 4 seconds to hit the water,  to not look down and just step out, instructed me to take some belly breaths, etc. I just couldn’t do it. I turned away from the water and the lady told me to not give up. I looked at her and said, “oh NO, I am NOT a QUITTER!”. She played on that and affirmed. I said that over and over, “I AM NOT A QUITTER! I AM NOT A QUITTER!...”. I asked if I could sit down and jump in. They gave me permission to do so, I then asked them to push me in and I was off… The swim was my fastest swim yet, due to the current. The bike ride was uneventful minus the newbies that were riding on the left, guys speeding by on the right, many fellow triathletes on the side of the road with flats and a couple of falls after  people took the curves too fast. I tried getting into the aero bars a few times, but I couldn’t get over the fear of swerving and crashing or hitting a pot hole (I realized that I didn’t have any CO2 cartridges to fix a flat). I felt strong on the bike but was likely not fast enough yet. The run was HOT and running on sand sucks. Since I was one of the last Olympic triathletes to jump off the boat, I was one of the last few athletes on the course. Nevertheless, I crossed the finish line and earned my medal and T-shirt. Lesson learned: Jumping off boats is NOT my thing! Although I was overcome with fear, I still got off the boat and swam back to shore. So to me, that’s a WIN. Tri Becca: 1 Fear: 0

Fear. It’s a powerful emotion, but  one that you can fight off and win. I feel like I can call myself a triathlete again. My fitness level, speed and endurance are not where I’d like them to be, but I am determined to remain consistent, give every workout my very best and make sure that my nutrition plan is OnPoint.

Ironman Louisville training starts on Sunday. The next 16 weeks will be interesting. At least I don’t have to battle with fear any longer.