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.

I admit it — I’m a FRAUD! Living a Double Life!

In last week’s blog I shared why I believe running is a metaphor for life.  You get out of it exactly what you put into it. If you get out and do it, you can get better at it and you improve your performance. If you do nothing, nothing changes.
double life
For all the years I’ve been running I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it. I don’t particularly enjoy getting out there to do it, but I always know I’m going to feel much better when it’s over. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment. It has only been fairly recent that I’ve begun to really enjoy it. It’s one of the few activities I use to clear my head and to stay in the moment. I get that same feeling from hiking and yoga. Each of those force me to stay present.
Now, I’m gaining something even better. It wasn’t until I finished my long run two weeks ago that I began to notice the contradiction of my behavior on the road versus my behavior in life. It has me feeling like a fraud living a double life, and it’s time to come clean!

1. In life, I often compare myself to others. I look at what others have accomplished and question why I haven’t done the same or better. And if I’m being honest, I’ve occasionally allowed the successes of others make me feel bad about what I haven’t done.

When I run I don’t compare myself to others. I never get caught up in the hype at the starting line. I set my own pace because I know what I have to do to run my best race. When people push ahead at break neck pace I graciously move to the side and let them pass. What I always tell myself is, those same people pushing pass me right now, I will be lapping them in a couple of miles. More often than not, that’s exactly what happens by the time I’m halfway through the race.

2. In life, I often allow myself to get thrown when I’m having a bad day or a series of bad days. I expect things to go well and when it doesn’t it can throw me off course or send me into a downward spiral of self criticism. I tend to think I’m always suppose to be on my game and when I’m not I beat myself up.
However, in running, I accept that every run will be different. I never expect that just because my previous run was good the one I’m currently running will be the same or better. In fact, after coming off a good run I tend to expect the next one to be bad. When it isn’t I’m pleasantly surprised. But when it does go bad, I don’t let it bother me. I just tell myself I’m doing the best I can on that given day and tomorrow will be better if I hang in there.
3. In life, I’m extremely judgmental of myself. I’ve started to get better, but I still have a lot of room to grown in this area. In running, I show myself much more compassion.
4. In life, my ambition gets the best of me. I set a lot of goals to keep me motivated and inspired. That’s not a bad thing. The problem this presents for me is I don’t allow myself time to savor the accomplishments of my goals before I’m on to the next thing. I rarely take it in. Consequently, I don’t see all I’ve accomplished in my life. I rarely pay attention to it until someone else brings it to my attention. I just don’t see it. However, in running I’m the complete opposite. I take time to celebrate the small victories.  I will ride off the high from victories on the road, especially when I  meet my mileage and speed goals.
5. In life, I will feed into the negativity and the fear that comes from stretching beyond my comfort zone. When I’m in the midst of a challenge, I have a harder time encouraging myself for an extended period of time. I will do it for a minute, then get back to being discouraged.
In running, I encourage myself the entire way through until I finish. It’s easier to encourage myself when I’m in the midst of the run, when it’s hard. I will do everything possible to prevent myself from quitting. I will slow my pace, give myself encouraging self talk. I say, “you’ve got this.”… “you can do it”… “you’re more than half way through”…”you’re past the point of no return just stick it out for a little while longer.”
All of those things help me get back to the moment and focus on the task at hand – finishing my race.
Even as I’m writing this so many bells are going off in my head. I’m overcome with “Aha” moments. It’s clear to me now that If I can exhibit such an awesome and winning attitude when I’m facing challenges in running, I can do it in life. I’m the same person, I just have to tap into that part of me more often in EVERY area of my life.
These last two blog posts have definitely been a turning point for me. I hope they have allowed you to see yourself as I have seen myself. I also hope you will share your personal revelations with me. I’d love to hear from you!

Why Running is More than Exercise – A Metaphor for Life!

publix10kI have been a runner for more than 20 years. It began for me when I was 17 and started preparing to go to boot camp. I started running in my neighborhood because I knew it would be a part of basic training. And it was. We ran every day. Beyond boot camp I continued to run as a part of my exercise regimen to stay in shape. I’ve easily participated in more than a dozen races, including 5k’s, 10k’s and one half marathon. Even though it’s something I’ve always done, it’s not something I’ve always enjoyed. Nor is it something I’ve always considered myself to be really good at. I used to compare myself to other runners. Since I’m not what I consider a fast runner, I’ve never given myself credit for being halfway good at it.

In recent years, I’ve changed my perspective about running. What I like about it most is that it’s a metaphor for life. In running, as it is in life, you get out of it what you put into it. When people are trying to improve in running I always tell them, “if you want to get better at it, you have to do it more.” You don’t become a better runner by wishing it or by watching other people. You have to get out there and put one foot in front of the other. You have to start where you are. For some people, it means starting with a walk, then increasing to a walk/run, then ultimately all running. For others they just start running, as I did. I typically start out at a slow pace to warm up and then pick up my speed as I go along, ultimately finishing strong.
It’s so encouraging because as you do it, you will become stronger and you quickly begin to see physical and emotional changes. Your endurance builds up rather quickly over time. Eventually it gets easier to cover distance at a faster pace.
Here’s the other part about running. You have to accept that every day is not the same. Some days you will do more than you expect, and the next day you can barely cover half the distance of your best run. It can feel so discouraging if you let it. I find that I tend to give myself permission to have bad days in running. However, in other areas of my life I tend to beat myself up when I have a bad day, especially when I don’t accomplish the goals I set for myself.
This past weekend I experienced a great victory. I am in the process of  simultaneously training for a half marathon in April and a sprint triathlon in June. My training schedule includes long runs on the weekends. This past weekend I was scheduled to do an 8 mile run. I was extremely anxious about this milestone because I haven’t been covering long distances lately. I’m a seasonal runner. I don’t run much in the winter. On my run days, I’ve been doing an average of 3 miles. So, to jump to 8 miles was scary.
One of my best strengths as a runner is I can cover distance. I think it’s because I’ve learned to set my own pace – I don’t try to keep up with others. I don’t run fast, but I can run far when I’m rested and prepared. I also prefer to run my entire distance, I don’t like to stop and walk, unless I’m injured or in pain. Otherwise, I keep at it. When I went out to run on Saturday I kept telling myself, I probably wont’ run it all, but I’ll do the best I can. The most important thing for me was to cover the distance. Well, not only did I run the distance, it didn’t feel hard at all. I actually could’ve run another mile or 2 if I had to. I can’t describe how incredible it felt to accomplish that goal. I felt AMAZING!
As I’ve reflected on that run, I’ve started to see how I can take that same approach in the areas I’m struggling with in my professional life. Here’s my take away.
In ALL things:
1. Prepare as much as you can.
2. Be determined to do it afraid.
3. Do your best and accept that it’s enough.
4. Don’t give up! Run the race with endurance.
5. Know that when you do something you didn’t think you could do, it gives you confidence. It inspires you to continue to push beyond your comfort zone and tackle other goals you’ve set for yourself.
Next week, I will continue this topic. I will share more of the life lessons I’ve learned from running. These revelations really helped me. I hope it does the same for you.
Question: Are there any ordinary activities you do that you’ve gleaned any life or spiritual lessons?