Afraid? Hurt? Tired? Finish anyway.
I’m tired.  The sore is starting to set in.  It’s been a few hours since my first triathlon and the adrenaline high is long gone.

My smile isn’t.

While I’ve been training hard over the last few months to get my fitness level back, and confidently signed up for the triathlon as a symbolic gesture that I’ve returned to 100%, my anxiety level went through the roof as the event approached.

I couldn’t figure out what to do with my hair.  I didn’t know what to wear.  I started getting cranky (a sure sign I’m stressing out) because the idea of an open water swim scared me to death.

Last weekend, my husband saw past the freak out and talked me off the ledge.  He put everything aside to do a mock triathlon with me.  It was cold, windy and raining…absolutely miserable.  At the finish, I knew what to expect.  I tested out my hair, wetsuit, transitions, and clothing options.  I was ready to go.

Or so I thought.

Then yesterday, I picked up our race packets and drove the routes.  The bike had only one hill, nothing like I’ve done previously (we live in a hilly area).  The run was basically flat.  I was feeling good.  Then I went out to the dock and saw the buoys in the lake.  That’s when panic set in.

It looked huge.  So much longer than our test tri last weekend.  I wasn’t sure I could make it without exhausting myself for the bike and run.

I wanted to back out.  Sometimes being a parent sometimes sucks.  Everything is a teachable moment.  What would it tell my son if I quit?

So this morning, I did my hair.  I got proteined and caffeinated.  We drove out to the course and had plenty of time to settle in (and panic).

It wasn’t the best hour and 40 minutes of my life, but it was pretty good.  When you’re alone in your own head for that long, it’s a great opportunity to pay attention to what it tells you.  Here are my learnings for the day:

Our perspective regarding our performance over time can be skewed, so have a measurement system.

The swim felt like it took forever, but it was only 24 minutes.  The bike felt like I flew, but I was only going 16 mph.      I thought I was crawling on the run, but it exceeded my target.

When we struggle, it may feel like we’re doing poorly.  When we feel good, it may feel like we’re doing great.  In reality, without some way to baseline and measure our performance over time, we have NO idea how we’re doing.

Deliver.  Measure.  Improve.  Repeat.

Celebrate incremental wins to stay motivated over long efforts.

At the start of the swim, all I could see was the entire course and it felt overwhelming.  In the water, I could no longer see it, so I focused on getting to the next buoy.  I tracked landmarks on the bike, remembering the route from the night before.  On the run, each mile was marked, telling me exactly how far I had left to go.

During training, I watched Creed on the bike trainer or the treadmill for motivation.  Rocky tells Donnie “One step, one punch, one round at a time” rather than focusing on the entire match.  It held with me throughout the race.

Along the route, I’d tell myself one buoy, one turn, one mile, or one transition.  Any one of them was achievable.  I had to keep going to the next one, rather than thinking about all that was ahead of me.

Triathlon Run

The feeling of achieving our goals stays with us longer than what we overcome to get there.

I think I was in denial until I hit the water.  It was cold, but I was in it and it was too late to back out.  The only thing I could do was finish.

At that point, it didn’t matter that I was tired.  That I was scared.  The hours I had put in.  The tweaked knee or busted hip.  It all faded.  All that mattered was finishing and the feeling of accomplishment that came with it.

Fear is temporary.  We can sleep later.  Pain fades.  No one can take away something we’ve earned through it all.

Triathlon Finish

***

At this point, I’m not sure when or whether I’ll do another triathlon.  I’m signing up for other running and biking events for the time being to stay on track with my health and fitness goals.

Even if I never do another one, I’ll always be able to say I did this one.  That I overcame my fear of the swim and got it done.  I’m not going to jump out of an airplane anytime soon or anything, but it reminds me that great things can lie on the other side of the things we fear.

Have you ever tackled a fear head-on?  What did you learn about yourself?  I’d love if you would share your experience in the comments or social media.