It was the swim thing. Most of us have a strong event, or even two strong events and then a not so strong or even weak event – especially when we are new to the sport of triathlon. When you read through the logs of other triathletes, you will frequently see folks who have a strong event where you feel weaker. I am always amazed at people who swim two or three thousand yards at a two-minute pace per hundred yards. I mean, I am really amazed.
A week before my first triathlon, I went to the tri site to do some open water swimming. I had been there before and the water was really cold and I didn’t swim so good – but I did swim. With the wetsuit on, I knew at least I wouldn’t drown. A couple of other folks were there and had measured out the 550 yards we would have to swim. I did about 25 yards and it was cold and I couldn’t seem to breathe correctly, and I was going absolutely nowhere fast. The thought crept out of the dark and smashed into the center of my mind. “I can’t do this!” I shared this horrid thought with my wife. She was nervous for me, thought maybe I should consider being a duathlete. That night I woke up with the thought that I wasn’t ready to do the swim, that maybe I would bail for this first event. It was a full blown encounter with the boogeyman. (Dang I hate that – I’m supposed to be a grown up by now. Way grown up at this age!)
To bail or not to bail, that is the question.
Then something powerful came back to me. Years ago, I took up flying and got a pilot’s license because I had a fear of flying. Flying was great fun during the training part. My instructor was right beside me with encouragement and in a worst case scenario could easily grab the yoke and take over the flight. But sooner or later the instructor is going to get out of the plane after a warm up flight and you are going to go solo. I recall the feelings, the noises, the smells and just about everything else from the moment my instructor got out of the plane, said, “Good luck,” and left me alone. Three minutes later I was off the runway and in the air. “What the @&!! am I doing up here in the air in an airplane all by myself?” Climb, climb climb, turn, turn – just one pattern around this airport and my virgin flight would be history. But, “What’s that noise, I never heard that before?” “What’s going on with that gage, I don’t remember it shaking like that? Lots of spooky things are going on I never noticed when my instructor was right there beside me. Finally, it was time to turn to final approach. Final? “No lie – I’ve got to get this thing on the ground or it really is final!”
Then it happened. I could hear my instructor’s voice in my mind. She had drilled the four “Ts” into my brain. Throttle, Turn, Ten, Trim. Pull back on the throttle. Turn the plane toward final approach. Give ten degrees of flaps. Trim the altitude of the plane. Now just settle in and bring it home. It worked. Back on the ground. Halleluiah! “Arrived alive,” as they say. All that training and all that drilling paid off.
All of this translates directly into slaying the boogeyman that comes to mess up your first triathlon. My total immersion swim coach wrote in response to my “I’m scared of the swim,” email. “Who cares if you take all day on the swim? Just take it easy, have fun.” The four “Ts” came back to me with new words that fit the triathlon. Train. Trust. Think. Taper.
Train. Put in the time, swim the laps, ride the bike, do the runs and follow one of the BT programs. Training will pay off and then it is time to: Trust. You’ve done the work, and your body is ready. Your head may try to pull a fast one on you, but just trust the work you’ve done. The training programs are built on lots of triathlons that have been accomplished. A week before your event, it is time to Think. That boogeyman voice, “You can’t do it,” is coming from somewhere in the dust pile of negative things that may have happened in your experience in the past, or fears that will not actually stand up in the light of the truth. Think – “I’ve done the time, I’m ready to go, I’m about to have the time of my life.” Taper. You will be tempted to tell yourself, “I haven’t done enough swimming,” or, “I need more running time.” Don’t buy it. Your body will thank you for easing off and doing a bit of recovery. Then as the race approaches, it is time to
Does all this work? Absolutely. During the swim when I made it to the buoy I knew I would make it - halfway there. It went well. No speed records, but got out of the water with gas left over. The ride was great, it was a beautiful day, all joy. Then there was that incredible, beautiful, gate as I turned to final approach, over the top of the gate a great big sign read, “FINISH!”
Halleluiah! Once again I “Arrived Alive!” You will too my friend. Just remember, it’s: Train, Trust, Think, and Taper!
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