Race Anxiety–Part of the Journey

Two weeks. I have two weeks until the Half Ironman. What the hell am I doing, and why am I doing it? Geez.

I thought it would be fun. I am being totally serious. I thought the training would keep me on my toes and in shape. Instead, I am a raving lunatic with absolutely no ego.  At this point, I want to throw in the towel and be done with the whole bit. Well, yes, this freak out is totally real. So many excuses: I have not trained enough; I am not fast enough; I am injured; I cannot do it.

Well, actually, I think I have trained just fine, including a double brick, which I doubled the time because I did not read the schedule right. I am not fast, and that is fine as long as I can finish the race in the cut off time. I am injured, but I am healing just fine and being cautious. I know I can complete the race, but it will not be easy at all.

Bottom line:  It’s my race, and something that I have wanted to do since I’ve started cycling. I’ve done the training, and now it’s the mental training that has me tied up in a ball. It’s the mental part that always gets me, and that is why I do it. If I don’t challenge myself with big goals, like writing books, getting my PhD, running marathons, then I crawl into a ball of depression. I have to have that clear goal, and the journey to the end is my own lesson in healing my flaws. That’s pretty twisted.

Right now, I’m experiencing the journey in waves of anxiety. That’s all right. I have to figure out how to relax, which is the hardest lesson of all for me to learn.

Did I mention I was tapering now? Tapering does indeed suck and bring out the craziness. Obviously.


Open Water Swims

Open Water Swims

I am not sure why I fear open water swims. I am not going to drown. I know how to swim, to tread water, and to float on my back. If I get tired, I can swim breaststroke and backstroke. So what is it? Why the major anxiety before and during an open water swim?

It’s the panic attacks. I’ve had two. The first one was during my first triathlon a long time ago, and it was my first time in open water. I was swimming in a pond. It was no big deal, but it was: no lines at the bottom of the lake, no clue how to spot, and people hitting me.  The second one was last year, and I swallowed water from a wave, and I started to choke. On both occasions, I calmed down,  but the panic attacks with the inability to take a breath while treading water in a large body of water were very scary for the 15 seconds they lasted.

It’s  the lack of control that leads to my anxiety.  I don’t know when the panic attacks will hit. I have to force myself to calm down at the beginning of each swim and be present the whole time. That’s a hard one–to be present. When I swim in a pool, I can think all I want because I’m in a rhythm and swimming from one end to the other. I think about the book I’m writing or my race plan or whatever pops into my mind.

For open water swims, my rhythm and thoughts go something like this:  “One, two, and one, two, and  sight. One, two, and OMG. Where is the freakin’ bouy? One, two, and Am I really that slow?  One, two, and What if I have another panic attack? One, two,  and OMG. The buoys are so far away. I can’t do it.”

It’s no wonder with all that anxiety that I don’t have a panic attack each time. Eventually, I calm down and find a rhythm,. When I do find a rhythm, then my thoughts are present and calm and filled with gratitude. Sounds pretty good?  It takes half of my swim to get to that place.

My goal this year is to enjoy open water swimming without the anxiety or crazy thoughts. I will have to take it in steps or buoy by buoy.

One, two, and one, two, and I got this swim.


Training for My First Half Ironman

I don’t know what got into me, but I decided to train for a Half Ironman. I’ve been training since November, and I have let the training consume my life. It has been crazy with good sides and bad sides. I’ve learned a great deal about my ego; well, I don’t think I have an ego at this point. For the next two weeks, I will be up and down with anxiety about the race, April 3rd. Whatever happens, I survived the training and have come out of, let’s say, the dark forest. I’m ready. Um, I think I’m ready.

Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve learned:

Nutrition: Eating lots of carbs for this race does not work for me. I started putting on weight, lots of weight, until I got a nutritionist to place me in keto. You know, ketosis, like Atkins. It works. You can workout and stay in keto, but you have to give your body time to convert.

Workout Plan: It’s time consuming. I cannot imagine training for a Full Ironman. Training for a Half left me drained and tired, and it’s all I thought about. Um, it’s all I am still thinking about.

Find a Coach: Make sure this coach is not your friend because you will hate him. Sorry, Coach Frank. Find a coach that will push you even when you think you can’t do it.

Find a Group: Working out in a group is motivating sometimes. If you know have to run because your group is meeting at a certain time, you show up and complain with everyone else for the first ten minutes, and then you start laughing. But sometimes, it works to train on your own because you will be on your own during your race. I’ve shown up to meet my group for a training run, and then I’ve run my own pace on my own. Sometimes, it just helps to meet a group to get you out the door.

Ego: I thought I was a pretty good cyclist until I bought a Tri bike and realized that it’s not a road bike, and there is no way to draft someone’s wheel safely. That’s all right. You cannot draft in a race. I also thought I was pretty good until I started climbing some bad hills and ended in tears many times. Good-bye, ego.  Swimming and running? Yep. Still working on those skills.

Trust the Training Plan: I didn’t follow my training plan for a run and strained a muscle. I was out for 2.5 weeks and am still nursing the injury. Trust the coach’s training plan and do not let other people push you into going faster or going off your plan. Trust the plan and yourself.

Breaks: It is all right to take a break. Listen to you body and take a break if you need it because if you don’t, your body will take a break for you with sickness or injury. I’ve experienced both.

Relieving the Anxiety: My anxiety reliever involved making brownies. Not anymore. No sugar. I bought some motivational tattoos because there is no way I am getting a real one, and I’m listening to my hypnosis downloads. I just have to get the anxiety down before the race. I guess writing this blog helps, too.

As I begin to taper and the race approaches, one thought keeps entering my mind: What the hell am I doing?