I've been reflecting recently on my recent Triathlon experience and it's made me think about all the various challenges I have taken part in, which has been the hardest? How important is it to have a clear "why?" and what's next?
I completed Cardiff Olympic Triathlon on Sunday 26th June.
1.5km Open Water Swim - 37km Bike - 9km Run
A year or so ago, I couldn't swim a length of front crawl in a 20m pool without feeling like I was going to die through lack of breath and I had never ridden on the road by myself or with cleats.
I wanted a challenge that I would have to train for, something that was really going to push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me mentally and physically, so I settled on a triathlon. In all honesty, I actually settled on a half ironman! but more on that in a bit.
So to build up to this moment I had started regularly swimming in the pool and just tried to front crawl, I would manage a length, then maybe two until I was consistently doing at least 1km happily. Eventually this moved into the open water and wow that is a whole new ball game! I went to a swimming lake in Bristol and found it so much harder than I expected. It wasn't the cold water that I found hard, it was the lack of visibility, the difficulty of sighting and the constant brain chatter of "you cant do this", "ergh there are reeds", "what happens if you need to stop", "you cant keep that up, you're going to get out of breath" etc. So this first attempt was absolutely horrendous! I definitely questioned my life choices, packed up and got outta there as quickly as possible.
I went back the following week though
The second time in the swimming lake was marginally better. I definitely questioned my life choices again though!
I soon started swimming in the sea and actually managed to calm the brain chatter somewhat and actually began to quite enjoy it. I booked a session with a swim coach and started to feel like I could do this after all.
Meanwhile, I was biking regularly, at first this was on a turbo trainer in my bedroom on my bike and then it progressed to the road. Yes I fell off at traffic lights because I couldn't unclip my feet quick enough. I panicked every time I would have to stop or slow down as I dreaded having to unclip and reclip in again. But with consistency, I discovered that I really enjoyed biking and my confidence with it grew and grew.
Running was ticking over, this was the discipline that I was least concerned about. This is the one that I have done the most of and I felt had the fewest dangers or lack of control elements to it - after all if you are tired, uncomfortable or hurting, you just walk!
So, putting all these together?
I was working towards a half ironman - 1900m swim, 90km bike, 21km run. As the time was getting closer and closer, the more intense the training was getting, the more worried I was getting that I didn't have the time to do what I needed to do. So I frantically booked a sprint triathlon to give me experience of an event.
Wednesday evening in a quarry somewhere near Gloucester. Beautiful setting, gorgeous evening, perfect for a first tri (excuse the pun) 750m swim, 18km bike, 5km run.
So off I went, the swim was bearable - I managed to complete it without a melt down, and got on with the rest, in fact, I really enjoyed the rest. I was so proud of myself but also really concerned that I had about 5 weeks to go until I would be doing the half ironman and this was way harder than I was expecting.
So I quickly booked another event - Cardiff Olympic Tri, 3 weeks before half ironman, the last opportunity I would have to do another event so an ideal one to push the distances up a bit. I thought if I could do this 1500m swim then I know I can do half ironman as it's only 400m more.
So off I went. The first few 100m were absolutely fine, and in fact, I felt comfortable, happy and confident. However, something happened amongst the reeds and kicks in the face that meant I just lost it altogether. The brain chatter started, I hated every single remaining second of the swim after that point. I was so very close to sticking my hand in the air, getting picked up by a rescue boat and just quitting, finding my husband (who was watching somewhere) and going for breakfast. I'd lost my 'Why' so the whole thing was serving no purpose other than to be an awful experience. Somehow though, through an array of strokes - front crawl, breast crawl, lying on my back and just kicking my legs - I made it to the end.
A thought that definitely helped me get to the end was "I would rather give birth again than do this again so I am going to cancel my half ironman place". So as soon as I finished, that's what I did.
This whole process has been such a journey and learning curve for me. I have overcome some massive personal steps; I can now confidently swim front crawl; I can now confidently ride long distances on the road alone. It has also taught me to listen to my gut, not my ego. I could have pushed through and still taken part in the half ironman competition in July because it was embarrassing to tell everyone that actually I'm not doing it anymore (and ouch! ego doesn't like that) but I wasn't doing it to prove anything to anyone else, I was doing it to challenge myself. I know, if push came to shove I could do the half ironman, but would I enjoy it? No. Would I enjoy the weeks of training that I still had ahead of me? No. So, what's the point?
I've done triathons and I am so chuffed with that. I've discovered new sports that I will defo be keeping up because it is fun and I'm going to enjoy lifting weights again (maybe another bikini comp is in the pipeline) and building up some strength again.
Have I finished my triathlon journey altogether? Never say never!