Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall down seven times...

...get up eight. 
~ Japanese Proverb

No, I haven't literally fallen down.  However, there have been some humbling moments along the way in my recent training.  As a result, I am pulling out all the inspirational sayings I can find and working on having lots of positive thoughts.

One of my favorites...
The Hubs and I drove the bike course of my upcoming 70.3.  Sure, the Hubs had commented a few times on the "rolling hills", but didn't make it sound too terrible.  Driving the course provided me with a lot of "Holy Crap!" moments.  Yes, there are HILLS on the course.  As in ONE AFTER THE OTHER HILLS.  Needless to say, I became less afraid of the swim and scared shitless more concerned about the bike.  Up until that drive, I had only been training in the safety of a nice, flat neighborhood near my house.

In order to get some time on hills, I participated in a supported  bike ride sponsored by my tri group and another local tri group.  Since it was a "recovery week" on the schedule, my training friend and I opted for the 30-mile route.  (There were 50 and 70-mile options as well.)  Since I hadn't been on a hilly route in well, a couple of years, this was probably a wise decision.  The route was on country roads and was very hilly.  On the way out, I felt pretty good.  The wind was minimal and the downhills were fun.  Climbing uphill was challenging, but I survived. On the way back, it sucked was not as fun.  Coming back, the route was a net uphill and we had a headwind.  The downhills were slower, resulting in not as much momentum when heading back uphill.  Getting uphill was frustrating at times.

They don't call it Chappell HILL for nothing!

I learned all about using my small ring (something I've never had to use before) and I learned quickly that yes, you can run out of gears!  I headed downhill at almost 30 mph at times and uphill at a humiliating 7 mph (toward the end of the route). The route ended up being a little over 39 and left me wondering how in the hell I was going to add an additional 17 miles to that on race day.  Because of this experience, I will probably be riding less in the flat neighborhood near my house and riding more on a somewhat more challenging course until race day.  I did feel better after talking to a few other riders...they confirmed that yes, it had been a challenging ride.  Whew, and I thought I was just being a wuss!

I have been growing more confident in my swim abilities.  I'm still slow and have a lot of room for improvement, but considering where I came from when I started this triathlon craziness, I've come a long way!  I have been swimming longer distances than ever before, swimming more days per week and even had a very calm open water swim at my last tri.  Awesome, right?

Maybe not.  My tri group was going to be participating in the Snapping Tortuga swim race.  Even though I had reservations and anxiety about signing up for a swim race, I decided to go for it.  I needed open water swim practice.  The distances to choose from were 500m, 2.5k and 5k.  Since there was also going to be a swim clinic right after the race and an opportunity to swim more, I only signed up for the 500m. 


A cool front blew through the night before, so it was quite windy, causing very choppy conditions on race day.  I rode to the race with a friend I made through my tri group.  When we arrived, the athletes swimming the 2.5k and 5k distances were already swimming.  Not long after we arrived, a woman was being brought back to shore on a boat.  I heard her comment on the horrible conditions.  Still, plenty of people were swimming the distance and thought, "how bad could it really be?"  I felt my heart rate go up just looking out at the white caps in the water.  On a happier note, I did run into some friends while waiting for my race to start.  Chatting with everyone helped keep my mind off the choppy water for awhile.

Don't let the pretty water and blue skies fool you...

Finally, after some uncertainty about where to check in and finally getting signed in, it was time for  us to start.  There were only about 15 of us swimming the 500 meter race.  I felt fairly calm when we started, but after only a few minutes, I got my first slap of water in the face. And in my nose. And in my mouth.  The result?  A lot of coughing and a lot of freak out.  A man in a kayak made his way over and I held on for a minute.  I tried to start swimming again, but the damage had been done - my heart rate was out of control and mentally, I just could not remain calm.  I clung to the kayak again.  Finally, I started forward - swimming, side stroking, back stroking, whatever.  A single thought came into my head - "I can't!" 

After feeling like I was getting nowhere, I made my way back towards the shore.  This part should have been much easier, because I was now going with the current and chop.  But I just could not pull it together!  The man in the kayak stayed close the entire time, telling me that I was doing fine and that I only had only x number of meters to go.  He even reassured me that I was not alone, there were a few others out there...even a couple behind me.  I saw a woman ahead of me with a kayak staying close.  Ugh, I think I was doing pretty much everything BUT swimming.  When I finally made it to shore (and I cut the course short), I felt pretty terrible.  Embarrassed.  Humiliated.  Frustrated.  I turned around to see another woman holding onto a kayak that was bringing her to shore.  They say that misery loves company and I'll be honest in saying that I felt better knowing that I wasn't the only one who had major issues in the water.

The swim clinic had started, so I listened to the information and then donned my wetsuit.  I really wanted to cry or better yet, leave! But I managed to suck it up...and I had a friend riding with me, so I couldn't exacly bail.  :-)  I kept thinking, "Why in the hell is this so freaking hard for me?".  But nonetheless, I was going to try this again dammit!  The course for the clinic was only 300 meters...surely, I could handle that. 

Right off, I knew the wetsuit was not going to work for me.  I've hated it from day one and suspected that it was a size too small.  I ended up getting out of the water and taking the wetsuit off. 

I swam 300. 

It wasn't pretty and I stopped a couple of times on the way out to compose myself.  I'm sure my coaches were wondering what the hell I was doing and how I was going to survive race day!  Luckily, coming in was easier, since we were going with the current.  Whew, not great but better. 

After a short rest, I did it again.  On this one, the chop bothered me more on the way out, but coming back in was better.  I had decided not to try another loop, but then changed my mind.  (Big thanks to my tri-friend who was there with me. She was very encouraging and was having an awesome swim.) I did one more loop - still not great, but a million times better than the other ones.  At least the day had ended on a more positive note.  I still left feeling a bit defeated, but also happy that I had not given up.  I know that I am more than capable of covering the half-ironman swim distance.  It's just a matter of getting my brain to believe it!  Stupid brain.

As you can see, the past couple of weeks have been interesting. I keep telling myself to learn from these experiences, that they are making me stronger both mentally and physically.  I will definitely be working on visualizing race day for all three components and working on more positive self-talk over the next few weeks!  The words "I can't" will be removed from my vocabulary from here on out.  They have to be.

Have you had any "I can't" moments in your race training?  What did you do to overcome them?

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