So I actually completed a longer-than-sprint distance triathlon yesterday. And yet I’m feeling pretty low. Why?
Yesterday was the big practice event before the actual tri in November. It was a real litmus test for how we will do in a few weeks. And on many levels I feel like I probably failed. 😦
Part of is has to do with my perhaps inflated expectations of wanting to complete an Olympic triathlon. If I had begun and continued with the goal of a sprint, I’d be riding high right now.
So.. first we got our transition areas set up in the parking lot of Paradise Cove Beach Park in Tiburon. I got it all arranged fairly neatly. Then we wriggled into our wetsuits and head down to the water. We took a look at the course, which was a triangle shape – first heading straight out to a buoy, then back to another buoy near shore and then a parallel line to the first buoy and repeat. It totalled about 900 meters or half a mile.
We got into the water and it didn’t feel horribly cold to me. I think they said it was around 65 degrees. We bobbed around for several minutes and then it was time to go.
I’m not quite sure what to say about the swim except it was a ridiculous combination of strong, easy swimming and absolute struggle where I could not catch my breath. It went back and forth like that. It was in many ways an echo of my Livermore lake swim, except the bad parts weren’t quite as bad and of course I swam a much longer distance successfully. However, I had to hang on to the kayak or the buoy several times to get my breath.
The angelic Annika, my mentor, swam by my side and called out encouraging things to me the entire time. I am not quite sure what I would have done without her. After one triangular loop she asked me what I wanted to do. I stood in chest-high water for quite a bit, collecting myself before I decided to go for the 2nd one. I just had to.
The second loop was somewhat better, or maybe not. I also needed several breathing breaks. I swam on my back for a while. I came in 2nd to last.
Then it was time to transition to the bike course. I was feeling pretty shaky and jellified at that point but I did manage to get my wetsuit off and my bike shoes and socks on. I took off and immediately there was a big hill up from the parking lot to the street. I managed to get up it in first gear.
I feel pretty proud of the way I managed to navigate a hilly, twisty, trafficky course on the bicycle. It was some of the best cycling I’ve done. But after the 8.5 mile loop I felt like I just could not bring myself to do a 2nd loop. I wanted to get off the bike, onto the run and DONE. There is one big steep, LONG hill near the end that nearly had me puking. I yelled obscenities all the way up the hill but I made it. I knew that it was worse than any hill for the real triathlon, and I didn’t think I could do it twice.
So after one loop I switched out my bike shoes for my running shoes and took off. I walked up the hill with the intention of running once I got to the flat road. This wasn’t going to be. My feet and calves felt like cement and were cramping up like crazy. I could barely hobble. So I did a combination of mostly walking with some small spurts of slow running when I felt able to.
My husband and mom had generously offered to volunteer at the 2-mile water stop so I was hoping to get myself into good running shape by the time I saw them. I finally made it around the corner and saw my husband’s sweet face and the cups of water lined up on the back of the car. Then I saw my wonderful Lily. She was kicking butt! She felt awesome and wanted to run with me. I had to wave her on. I slowly jogged back to the park and was FINALLY feeling halfway decent as I got to the parking lot. My feet and calves had relaxed but I was having some GI distress and not 100%. I joined the group who had finished, got my awesome paper medal and felt some degree of pride.
One one hand: DAMN I completed a triathlon! Even with the missing 2nd bike loop, the distance I did yesterday was longer than a sprint. So I had to feel good about that.
On the other hand, it filled me with worry (and not relief) about the upcoming Nov 6th tri.
My husband had seen my swim from the shore. He pretty much felt like (and told me so) that he did not think there was a snowball’s chance in hell I could complete the full mile. I just struggled way too much. Part of me wanted to punch him for saying so, but part of me knew, with a very sinking heart, that he was right.
After everyone finished we gathered for a really nice BBQ hosted by our coaches. I went up to Coach Haakon, dragging Mr. McBody with me, and asked him what he thought I should do. He said that he felt like physically and athletically I could do it, but I might not make the time cutoff. (but would I get a medal for finishing? YES!) But he also said he thought I was “on the bubble” between Sprint and Olympic and I could just have an awesome time doing the Olympic. Mr. McBody and he had a long discussion of my Breathing Issues during OW swimming.
I went back over to sit on a bench overlooking the incredibly gorgeous bay. I started crying and I just couldn’t stop. I just kept sobbing, “I’m so-so-so-so disappointed in myself.” I wanted to be with my team on Nov 6th so badly. I want to be able to battle through it and complete. But I don’t know. I just felt so sad and let down and disappointed.
So there it is. Yesterday afternoon I was all on fire about going out to swim in open water like EVERY day, and getting a special coach and just really trying to overcome this. Today I just feel tired and kind of resigned. And I’m not quite sure what to do.
I’m also sad that I wasn’t able to fully enjoy this incredible milestone: my FIRST triathlon! A huge accomplishment. I looked at all the congratulatory comments on my Facebook page and felt like, “Man, if you only KNEW.” Part of me snatched the victory away from myself because I felt like the struggly swim cast a menacing shadow across all of it. I couldn’t be as happy as I wanted to be.
October 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm
Can you switch to the sprint distance? Making the choice now to switch will allow you to focus on the last few weeks of training. Doing a sprint tri is STILL an accomplishment and finishing that distance strong could set you up for wanting to do an Oly tri down the road.
October 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm
In no way do I see this as a FAIL….you have dedicated so much of your time into this and look how far you have come!!! I am going to celebrate all that you have done to have gotten this far! You are an amazing woman Susan & I AM PROUD OF YOU! XOXO
October 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm
Susan, what you have done is SOOO HUGE! I hope that you can appreciate THAT more than the disappointment of maybe not accomplishing an Olympian feat (they don’t call it Olympic for nothing!)
October 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm
Oh, sweetheart! I really am in awe of you. What scares me about considering doing a Tri… is the running. Wow. I understand your fear. You went for it!!
I just forwarded your post to a girlfriend of mine (and mom of two) who has started to do Tris — and she has written about how tough the swimming part is for her. You might relate? http://lifesclassroom.blogspot.com/2009/05/pushing-through-panic.html
October 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm
You know what, you’re disappointed because you expected more out of yourself and your body. But dammit girl, you did a TRIATHLON!!! There aren’t too many who can say that!!
Honestly, I still struggle with the swim. What I’ve learned is that even with the struggle, I’m training my mind to stay calm and stick with it. With practice and the more tri’s I do, I know I’ll get better. Just keep on keepin’ on.
And yes, give thanks to your body, spirit and mind for accomplishing something that many people give up on or don’t even try. Take care, rest and tackle it again!
Cheering you on from here.
October 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm
I hear ya, because I’d probably be feeling similarly, but I still stand by what I wrote on FB: you rock! You are overcoming so many huge things on your triathlon journey: fear of biking, fear of swimming. Triathlons are hard even when you don’t have fear factors to overcome. (And everyone does!)
And look: YOU have DONE the thing you thought you could not do!
October 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm
There are many times when I have felt what you’re feeling: it didn’t go as I’d hoped/planned/envisioned so I’m not allowed to feel good about what I did accomplish. You’ve overcome a lot of fears and uncertainties, broken new ground when it comes to goals and fitness, and really challenged yourself. And you didn’t go about it haphazardly. You had a coach and a plan. I have immense respect for you and triathletes of all levels. My vote is that you work on the breathing in open water (and I have to give you MAJOR props for that because I’m terrified of deep water) and go and do the tri you’ve set your sights on. You busted your behind to get this far. See it through. Would it be worse to stay home and wonder if you could have done it? Or at least miss out on a good time? I applaud you! 🙂
October 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm
Girl, I have spent so much time taking away my own glory and finding my faults. DO NOT. Yesterday was a victory. You completed something great! I’m so proud of you!!!
Here’s my tale, if it helps at all. Two weeks before my first olympic distance triathlon, I went out to swim the course and I considered it a big fat fail. I hated every second of that swim. It was disgusting and scary and I thought I was doomed. I only swam the short version, I didn’t even complete the full practice swim.
The week before the race, I spent the entire week putting my mind into a happy place and finding my “zen”. I played songs over and over again that inspired me. I constantly listened to my IPod. I wrote. A lot. I wasn’t sure if I could.
But race day came and I did. You will too. Just put one arm in front of the other, for a while, until you’re done. Sing songs in your head, find your rhythm and have faith in the training that got you to this day.
You can AND YOU WILL. I promise. (By the way — “when soul meets body” by Death Cab for Cutie was the song I sang during my swim.
“I want to live where soul meets body
And let the sun wrap its arms around me
And bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing
And feel, feel what its like to be new.”
Big huge hugs and high fives. You triathlete you.
October 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm
I think you’re losing sight of the fact that what’s you’ve done is AMAZING and HUGE and AWESOME. You’re the only person who’s disappointed in anything you’ve done and you need to let go of the perfectionist bit there. Focus on what you’ve achieved – the swimming, the cycling, the running. You are amazing Susan.
You inspire me every day!
October 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm
You know Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, the San Francisco Giants- they all have something in common with you. Each of them at one point has had a bad day – bad in the sense of not feeling like they’re at the top of their game. And so I would encourage you to get back in the water and own your next swim, ride and run. You are competing with yourself- no one else and it’s in the head where the real fight is fought right (I think of this even with weight loss). So here’s one other thing you, Tiger, Roger and the Misfits share too- they didn’t let one day’s accomplishments determine tomorrow’s. I believe in you dear Foodie.
October 16, 2011 at 9:26 pm
I completely understand the beating yourself up thing, but really try not to! You completed your first triathlon!! That’s HUGE!
As for the Olympic. You can do it. Really, you can. The best advice I ever got? When you’re swimming, only think about the swim. When you’re biking, put the swim behind you, and only think about the bike; when you’re running, it’s only about the run (or walk) or whatever you have to do to get across the finish line.
In my Olympic, I panicked the day before and almost flat out refused to race (I thought I would drown). We dealt with 20-25 mph winds on the bike (I prayed for a flat at one point!) and on the run? I completely bonked from the heat. My legs cramped up and I did a combination walk/run. An 81-year-old man beat me.
Larry… he got me through miles 3-4 though. I was able to do all the distances in training, but come race day, it was tough. My Olympic took me 4 hours and 38 seconds.
The most important thing you need to remember is that you are out there doing this when other people wouldn’t even consider it. You’ve done an amazing thing raising money for LLS and you are doing amazing things for your fitness and you NEED to be proud of what you are accomplishing, even if it isn’t at the level you’d hoped.
I haven’t had one triathlon (sprint or Olympic) where I’ve been completely happy with my performance. I always let me head get in the way. But when I cross the finish line, I’m still thrilled that I crossed it. And then I try very hard to focus on the parts of the race that went well.
It might be slower than you want, but you are ready to cross that finish line.
And if it makes you more comfortable this first time out? Do the sprint. There is always another shot at the Olympic. But personally? I think you’ve got the Olympic in the bag!!!
I’ve loved reading your training reports. You’ve completely captured how tough triathlon actually is for those of us who were not endurance athletes when we started this crazy thing.
October 17, 2011 at 2:21 am
Oh Susan! I think you’re a rockstar. You are such an inspiration to me! You did a freaken triathlon! HELLOOOO!! I think that’s a big freaken deal. Please don’t be disappointed in yourself. I think you’re awesome. No matter if you decide to stick with the Olympic or switch to Sprint (if you’re still able to), all I know is that you’ll do the Tri to the best of your ability and that in itself, is very inspiring to me!
October 17, 2011 at 6:32 am
late to this but am finally home.
READ REREAD READ COMMENTS REREAD COMMENTS and really still only have this to say:
YOU ROCK SUSAN
You are brave and inspiring and tenacious and amazing.
no no no disappointment, Sister.
You set out to do this—-and you DID!!
October 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm
Susan, whichever length of TriAthlon you do, you’re a champ. I’d listen to your bod. (and maybe mr. McBody too). Very proud of you!
October 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm
Susan Susan Susan…part of me wants to join the chorus and say, “stop beating yourself up…revel in what you accomplished, don’t focus on what you didn’t or couldn’t do.” And then the other part of me says, “you know what? just feel what you feel and move on…relax into the uncertainty of it and the right answer will come to you.” And I want to leave you with a new way of thinking about it (or maybe you’ve already heard about it): happiness fuels success, not the other way around. Check out this video (yeah, it’s about business, but it can be applied universally): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBRy3QrRGFI
October 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm
SUSAN!!!! You did AMAZING! I was so proud of you out there in the water, you didn’t give up and you “did the damn thing.”
Stop focusing on what you didn’t do and focus on what you did do! You made a huge step in your triathlon journey. Whether you choose the sprint or the Olympic, your team will be behind you the entire way!
October 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm
aww what you wrote doesnt sound like a disspointment, it sounds like a huge achievement, a big YAY!! I say WTG susan and whatever you decide for the big one, i hope you have fun doing it!
October 19, 2011 at 2:00 am
thank you so much for the amazing comments you left me. Many of them left me sobbing with emotion. Thank you. Just thank you. I’ve spent the last couple days licking my wounds while traveling to look at some colleges with Juniorette. Tomorrow I’m ready to get back on it. I love you all.