So, I’ve always wanted to do a triathlon. It’s one of those things that has gotten stuck in my head for the past couple of years, and I haven’t been able to get it out. I have, in fact, started training for one before, but life got in the way. So this year, it was on my resolution list. Do a freakin’ triathlon already! You know you want to, just do the training and do it!
So in the spring I started training. I set up a training plan, and it was going well.My goal was to do my first triathlon before my birthday (June) And then…life. Or, more specifically, work. I got hired to write and direct a documentary, and spent the next month flying all over the country, and to Europe to shoot, and then the next while on 16 hour edit days in order to make my deadline. Suffice it to say the triathlon got put on hold. I delivered on the the film and then had to make my peace with the fact that I hadn’t completed what I said I was going to do. The circumstances allowed to me let myself off the hook, and I set up a new training plan, and selected the triathlon I was going to complete now. I chose one up in San Luis Obispo on 9/29. Awesome. Not only will I complete the triathlon, but I will be able to check that off my list in the third quarter of the year, where it was placed before. Cool. Let’s do this!
see, everyone agrees. Let’s get it going.
And so, I started training again. Swim, bike, run. Day by day, I was checking off the mileage I needed to get done in order to make it through. Partway through the training, I did my first brick (bike then run…so named because of how your legs feel when you start the run) I won’t lie. It sucked. It felt like I was going to actually fall down for the first mile of the run. I swam in my gym’s horrible pool. I started driving to a further away gym to swim in a pool that wasn’t gross. I had my bike stolen, and had to replace it and get used to a new bike. I went back to running 5k’s and 10k’s to improve my running times. I mentally prepared for each transition. I was as ready as I was going to get. My only goal was to finish – I wasn’t looking for any kind of time.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was nervous. The transitions aren’t something you can really know about until you do them. I was going to be surrounded with people who knew exactly what they were doing, etc. I drove up to SLO with a friend and got my race packet. I looked at the course. Swim was 2 laps around buoys in the lake – didn’t look bad. Bike was around the lake and into town. One pretty big hill, but overall not bad. The run looked pretty rough, but that’s my strongest suit, and since I wasn’t looking for any kind of time goal – it seemed ok. Went to bed early, got up and got to the course. Nervous? Hell, yes. But I had done the training. I was relying on that to get me through.
Still nervous though! I’ve never done this before!
The gun went off, and my wave made their way into the water. We were splashing down the dock and diving in to the water in a frenzy of arms and legs. It wasn’t that big of a start wave, I was about in the middle of the pack. When I got to the point where it was deep enough to swim, I pushed off and dove in. I took a couple of strokes, and felt my chest start to tighten. Oh my god? What was going on? I took a couple more strokes, and the chest tightening was just getting worse. By this time I could recognize what was going on. I was having a panic attack. I haven’t had one in a couple of years, but the feeling is unmistakeable. Fuck.
This fucking dog wouldn’t have had a panic attack swimming. Why was I having one?
Ok. I needed to figure out what was going on. I switched to breast stroke, and tried to calm myself down. I knew I was able to do the distance. I grew up swimming – in the ocean and in pools. I was on the swim team in high school. Get…it…together. I calmed myself down, put my head back in the water to switch over to crawl – and the panic set back in. Fuck again! Wait. Why does it start when I put my head in the water? I dipped my head back in to try to figure it out. Ahhh…I think I got it. The lake was about at 0% visibility. I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face. It was like putting my face into mud. This panic attack wasn’t going away. By this time I was more than 1/2 way through the first lap, so I slowly finished the lap, and took myself out of the race.
I sat on the side, weeping, head in hands. My friend who was with my tried to comfort me, but I was inconsolable. I had failed. I had done everything I could to prepare…and I had failed. Now for anyone who knows me, you know I don’t take failure well. I cried the entire way back to the hotel. I got in the shower and leaned my head against the door, tears mixing with the water that was streaming down my face. Failure. I couldn’t do it. I had tried and failed. I let myself weep until I had no more tears. And when I was empty of tears, another familiar feeling started to creep over me. It was that feeling I can get on the inside that makes me say:
I pulled out my computer. I found a triathlon that was going on the next weekend. I looked at my friend. “Are there any lakes in Los Angeles you know of?” He did. Great. Fuck that. I had one week to get past this.
So this past week I drove hours each way to lakes. I forced myself in, and day by day was able to calm down more and more. I would walk out, take a deep breath, and dive in. I would swim as far as I could before my chest started tightening, then turn back to dock immediately. Each day it kicked in a little later.
So this morning, I headed to the triathlon (take 2!)
Dawn over the transition area
As I lined up at the start, I had no idea if I was going to be able to make it through the swim. It wasn’t until I was headed back in, and it was a shorter distance to get to the end of the swim than I had already gone did I let myself think I was going to be able to do it. I did have a moment right in the middle where the panic started, but I was able to calm down within about 15 breast stroke pulls with my head above water, and was able to go back to crawl.
So did I finish? Fuck, yeah I did. It wasn’t the one I had planned on. It wasn’t the week I had planned. But I finished. And honestly, I’m pretty damn proud of myself for not letting the first one destroy me.
and this is the face of someone who can now call herself a triathlete!
disclaimer: doing triathlons may be addictive. I have just signed up for my next one.