I Did It…Faced My Fear & Completed My First Triathlon!

After months of preparation and anticipation I finally completed my first ever sprint triathlon. As I write this blog a day has passed. Yet, I’m still too overwhelmed to express my feelings.  It’s hard to put my emotions into words. Nevertheless, I’m going to try.

coming out of pool

There is so much to be said about setting a goal and accomplishing it. There is even more to be said about facing your fears. I am so fond of telling people to just do it afraid. I’ve always believed in that approach, but I now realize that it is so incredibly hard to do. I’ve faced my fears before, but none like this!

Prior to getting in the pool yesterday I thought I was going to be okay. I wasn’t prepared to swim in six feet of water, and I was terrified of doing so. I’ve been practicing in very shallow water. As long as my feet can touch the ground I’m good. Once they leave the ground for an extended period of time I freak out! It wasn’t until two weeks ago that I even tried to swim in more than six feet of water. The reason I thought I’d be okay on race day was because the pool started at four feet and increased to six feet as you swim the length. My rationale was I wouldn’t be in the deep for very long. I assumed I’d be able to swim through it, and maybe even use it to my advantage.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Since I hadn’t mastered my ability to breathe, I couldn’t hold my breath long enough to make it from five feet to  six feet of water without stopping. When I realized that, panic ensued. I have never been so scared in my life. My body was trembling and my eyes watered up with tears. The lifeguard literally had to jump in the water to help me. In that moment I knew my race was over. I thought, “This is it. He is definitely going to escort you out the pool.”

I didn’t expect him and the EMTs to give me a choice. When they asked me what I wanted to do, I immediately responded that I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to finish. From that point it became their mission to help me do that by any means necessary. The lifeguard even volunteered to stay in the pool with me for the duration of my swim. He vowed to stay by my side to assure me that I would not drown. He was prepared to save me. That comforted me.

As I swam the remaining laps, I became a bit more calm with every stroke. Eventually, I was at the last lap. I did it! I conquered the swimming portion. The sense of accomplishment I felt at that moment fueled me to the end.

The bike ride felt like a breeze compared to the swim. I was able to be fully present several times during the bike ride. I remember this awesome breeze on my face as I rode down hill. It was INCREDIBLE! I felt so free. I was so aware and present in that moment.

ridingintotransition

The last mile of the bike ride was the hardest because of the slight incline, but I was determined not to stop. I felt so empowered. I pushed through with every fiber of my being. I knew the run was next and it would be the final leg.

Even though the run was only two miles, it wasn’t flat. It was mostly inclines. It felt like the longest two miles of my life. I could not have completed that course without stopping if I had only been out for a run that day. It was hard.

runningout

Honestly, the difficulty of it did not matter to me. I just reminded myself that this was a freaking triathlon and it wasn’t meant to be easy. I was doing something that a lot of people can’t do. So, the fact that I was finishing last was the least of my concerns. My only objective was to finish. That was always my goal. I wasn’t trying to place. I just wanted to do my best. So far, I had done that.

Here’s the irony. All I wanted to do was finish. I didn’t want or expect any hoopla. But that’s exactly what I got. When I tell you the roars of cheers and applause I received when I crossed that finish line, you would have sworn I finished first! I literally heard them screaming for me before I even turned the last corner. I’ve never seen or experienced anything like that in my life. I was slightly embarrassed as I crossed the finish line. Not because I was last, but because of all the attention they were giving me. It was so humbling to me. I felt like a million bucks. Everyone from my friends, to the EMTs, the police and the firefighters personally congratulated me and gave me a hug.

crossingfinish

This experience has truly taught me that it’s not about how you start your race or even how you run it, all that matters is that you finish.

Now that I’ve shared my journey with you, I’d love to hear an experience you’ve had with facing your fears and how it felt when you did it. Please leave a comment on my blog.

Am I In It To Win It? Not So Much…

At the beginning of this year I thought about the major goals I wanted to accomplish this year. I considered some fun desires I have and want to accomplish. But I primarily took inventory of the things I was avoiding because of fear. I wanted to look fear in the face and pursue those things.

finishstrong

What immediately came to mind was my long standing desire to participate in a triathlon. I’ve wanted to do this for years. It scared me for several reasons. Obviously, it’s physically challenging – you have to do three grueling sports back to back. You also need to be in fairly good shape to do it, and the biggest fear of all – my inability to swim. You can’t participate in a triathlon if you can’t swim.

So, I immediately researched upcoming triathlons in GA and I joined the Atlanta Triathlon Club. I wanted to be around people who know about this sport and who could teach me the basics. The next thing I wanted to do was identify a race that wasn’t too far into the year. I needed something that required me to start training right away. I found several beginner races in the summer.

Within two months of joining ATC, I began swimming lessons. This experience has been a real journey. I’ve had good days and bad days. There have been moments I showed up at the pool and it was an epic fail–practically left in tears because I felt so defeated. Other times it all seemed to come together without effort and I felt triumphant.

As the weeks have winded down the challenges are ever increasing. As I write this blog, I’m a week and a half away from my sprint triathlon. Honestly, it’s feeling like it’s not going to happen. Every day I ask myself “what have you gotten yourself into?” Though I have certain aspects of the swimming down, I still can’t breathe, which prevents me from being able to swim a full lap without stopping numerous times. For me, this is where the rubber meets the road because I’m past the point of no return. No matter how much I want to quit and wait for a later triathlon, I know that’s not an option.  It’s extremely important for me to walk the walk that I talk. I’m always encouraging others to face their fears and do it afraid. How can I not do this for myself. This process has forced me to face my fears daily. I was initially only worried about the swim, but since I’ve bought my bike a new fear has surfaced. I was afraid to get on it. I initially couldn’t even mount the bike; I couldn’t get my feet in the pedals. When I finally did I was afraid of falling, especially as I rode down hill. These new anxieties threw me into a panic. That voice in my head keeps trying to convince me that I can’t do this.

Just as I want to give into the negativity God sends an earth angel – one I recognize as a friend. My friends are always at the ready to remind me of how far I’ve come. They remind me that three short months ago I was afraid to even get in the water. Now I’m in the pool by myself almost every day.

Despite the fact that my mind keeps telling me I can’t do it, my actions are demonstrating that I can. I AM doing it. I may not do it like I envisioned it, but I’m doing it.

I’m going to keep pushing forward. I’ve made up in my mind that I will do this no matter what. My preference is to finish with dignity. I don’t want to have to keep stopping multiple times to finish my 6 laps. I also don’t want to walk my bike up any hills I might encounter. Because of that, I am going to continue to train and practice every day until race day. I’m determined to do this by any means necessary. All I want to do is finish. I’m not in this to win it, I’m in it to finish!

Now, I have a question for you. Have you confronted any fears this year? If so, please share those with me here on my blog.

My BIGGEST Fear – Why I Had to “Do it Afraid”

Earlier this year when I decided to participate in a triathlon I had two primary objectives: to overcome my fear and to stretch beyond my comfort zone. I’ve always secretly wanted to participate in a triathlon. My inability to swim and my fear of swimming in anything besides a pool really paralyzed me. So far, the main thing propelling me forward has been my desire to experience a feeling of accomplishment. Not just any feeling of accomplishment, but the one you get when you know you did something that you NEVER thought you could do. I know from past experience that when I do something I never thought I could do, it gives me the confidence to try even more things.

My First Swim Practice

Since I made this declaration in January I’ve taken a series of small steps to help me reach my goal of completing my first sprint triathlon in June. First, I joined the Atlanta Triathlon Club. Next I started following the training calendar with the planned workouts. The last big step is what inspired this blog. I showed up for my first swim practice.

This was the HARDEST thing for me to do! I procrastinated for three weeks before I mustered up the courage to show up for practice. Aside from putting on a bathing suit, which I haven’t done in years, I was mortified to walk in to that swim center as a grown woman who can’t swim. I knew I’d likely be the only one. I feared I would automatically stand out. When I walked in I was terrified and intimidated. I was 15 minutes late and everybody was already in the pool swimming laps. The coach asked me to get in the “beginner’s” lane. Well, it was not what I’d imagined because all the “beginners” were coming towards me at full speed – just like the “experienced” swimmers in the other lanes. I was literally gripping the side of the wall trying to get out of the way. It was then the coach realized I was serious when I said I couldn’t swim. For my safety, and to avoid disrupting the practice, he knew I needed to get on the other side of the pool. Forget swimming laps, my assignment was to just get acclimated to the water.

When I was in that water watching the other swimmers practice, two things happened. First, I kept telling myself, that I could do it. That I would do it. So, I just started putting my face under water, kicking off the wall, and practicing floating. I gradually became more comfortable.

The second thing that happened was I began to visualize myself swimming laps with the team. The more I saw them pass me, the more convinced I became that I will soon join them. That was the most empowering thing. My entire attitude shifted. Just by showing up I knew that I’d taken the first step to realizing my dream. Showing up was half the battle; the hardest part of the battle. So, I guess my take away is – the most important thing we can do when facing our fears is to just show up and do it afraid. After all that’s what courage is, doing the thing that you’re afraid of in spite of fear.

By the way, what sealed this experience was the swimming coach volunteered to give me a quick swim lesson after practice. He reassured me that I would get there. He reminded me that at some point everybody in that pool was in the same position I found myself in at that moment. He dispelled my greatest fear of being judged. Nobody there judged me. They cheered me on and encouraged me to stick with it.

Even now, I’m not practicing with the team yet, but I’m getting there. I have a friend who is a former swim instructor who has committed to work with me. My goal is to be swimming on my own by April when the club starts the open water swim practice. That gives me about three weeks. I will do this!  The video of me swimming laps is coming…stay tuned!

Question: Can you recall a time you faced a major fear and overcame it?