Monday, June 10, 2013

6 days until my first sprint triathlon: Dealing with anxiety.

Wow. My first sprint triathlon (Leamington) is coming up in 6 days.

I remember making the decision to do triathlons this year. I did it after having fun doing the beginner tri at the Loaring Triathlon last July.

At the time, I knew I had almost a whole year to get better  - so of course I'd be fine. Right? But it's amazing how a year puts a lot of distance between you and a goal. Doing a "real" triathlon in my head has always been a year out. And now it's just 6 days away. Strike the nervousness chord with a hammer, why don't you?

But when I decide to do something, I try and prepare myself to the best of my ability. And I've done a lot to get ready for this weekend. Like:
  • On the advice of my brother, I signed up for the LPC training camp back in March, where I learned a million things about triathlon from the coaches. Besides getting my first lessons in biking (up until then, all I'd done was 500 miles on my trainer), I also got advice on how to sight in open water - a skill I've been practicing ever since. Alas, not in open water - but not much I can do about that. Open water swim sessions don't start until July!
  • I went to the Toronto Triathlon Club training weekend in Collingwood and, despite the bike accident, got a lot of riding in - not to mention some swimming and some running off the bike.
  • I've gone on a couple of the TTC club rides on Saturday mornings out in Markham thanks to a girl in the club who is happy to carpool in exchange for coffee. These rides have been great for getting me a bit more comfortable on the roads, especially given my twitchiness following the bike incident. It's also been great to get some advice and encouragement from the coach who leads the ride.
  • In a similar vein, I did 2 50k rides this past weekend - one with the club and one with my dad/brother. No incidents on either ride - and a whole lot of stopping/un-clipping on the second ride - gave me a big confidence boost in advance of this weekend. Even my run off the bike on Saturday felt pretty good.
  • I've been running - and finally, finally am picking up steam again after straining my toe back in March. It's taking me a long time since getting back to running, but I finally feel like I'm back to where I was before the injury. My speed came back pretty quick, but I felt like my endurance was off a fair bit. But I went for my first half-marathon (HM) length run since early March a week ago Sunday and it was my fastest HM training run ever. Definitely another confidence booster.
But that doesn't mean I'm not still nervous. Which is why I'm writing this post. It is utterly normal to be nervous before a race - especially a first race, or a race at a new distance (I expect similar anxiety before my first Olympic Tri in July).

So how do you deal with nerves? Well, I'll give you my top three things:
  1. Set simple goals...especially for a first race. Mine are to a) Finish with a smile on my face; b) Finish without any incidents; and c) Not to come in last. Sure I'd like to do reasonably well (well being a relative term of course), but until I set a benchmark, I am not going to make any time goals. So this race is to see where my starting point is. From there I can worry about getting better!
  2. Remind yourself how well prepared you are. I've been training a good 7-10 hours a week. I know I can swim, bike and run double each distance. I've had a few good brick workouts and have sponged up all the advice on triathlons and transitions that I can from other people. I've done the best I can up until now.
  3. Be prepared to deal with anything that comes up. I know the weather could be terrible on race day. I know I could blow a tire (and that I'd probably spend an hour replacing it). I know there are a bunch of other things that could go wrong - and well, so what? If something goes wrong, it's not the end of the world (I hope not anyways...while zombies attacking during the bike might make me go faster, they might not be good for my long-term racing enjoyment).
  4. Remember to Be Awesome Today: This mantra got me through my first half-marathon - and my second. It's gotten me through riding in the torrential rain when I was terrified. I fully expect it will continue to bring a smile to my face every time I say the words. Because being awesome isn't about winning. It's about doing. It's about living life to the full. It's about proving that anything is possible. Remember that when you need the inspiration to keep going.
Okay, that's 4 things. But remembering to be awesome isn't really about dealing with's about remembering why you're out there. I decided to do triathlon because I realized I love training. I love racing. I love learning new things. I love proving what I'm capable of. And most of all, because I am having fun every step of the way.

And if having fun is the only measure of success - well, I am sure I'll come out a winner on Sunday!

 Wish me luck!

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