It’s time to talk triathlons again, as on Sunday I took part in my second sprint tri, and it was a test of mind over matter.
I wrote about being tri-curious a couple of months ago, ahead of my first triathlon. I was so, so nervous then – and definitely was on Sunday – but there’s a certain relief in knowing you can do something because you already have.
When I first began training for a triathlon at the start of the year, I knew it would be a challenge (which is exactly what I wanted) but I underestimated just how hard it would be mentally and emotionally. If you’ve read the post linked above, you’ll know that swimming proved to be my biggest hurdle, and as I approached the finish line back in April, I’m not ashamed to say things got a little teary.
Open water swimming had been a struggle for me since day one of training, from the cold temperatures to the unpredictable nature of the water, and what might be lurking beneath. I couldn’t have got through the swim part of that first triathlon without my dear friend staying by my side, offering shouts of encouragement and making sure I didn’t stray off course. I completed both the swim segment and the whole race in a time I honestly thought impossible as I struggled to get to sleep the night before – and was proud, ecstatic and exhausted in equal measure.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I found myself missing the rigidity of a training plan. I was still working out – I even got back in the swimming pool – but there was a niggling doubt at the back of my head. Was that my first and last tri? Was I going to let fear and difficulty stand in the way of a sport I thought I could fall for? I needed to clarify how I felt, so I signed up for a second triathlon.
Triathlon is a sport steeped in community, but this time I eschewed the social media updates, group training opportunities and “can I do this!?” heart-to-hearts with friends. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need any of those things to succeed in conquering my fear of open water, so I kept quiet. Even M, who had cheered me on from start to finish the first time, was banned until the finish line.
My stomach was churning as I arrived to set up alone, walk to the edge of the water alone, and wait to wade across the start line alone. Being in a shallow, slow flowing river proved to be much less anxiety-inducing than a large lake, but I still felt a little lost and overwhelmed, switching from front crawl to breaststroke, then backstroke. But… I did it! Then I had a great bike ride, a slow but steady run under a canopy of shade and before I knew it, my second tri was complete.
Did I have some sort of epiphany in the water? No. Do I want fear to hold be back from life’s achievements and goals, large or small? Hell, no. So here we are, two triathlons under my belt and I’m still all at sea as to whether or not I want triathlon to be a regular *thing* in my life…