I try to ignore it, pretend it's not there. Sometimes I even almost succeed. But, most of the time, it's there in the back of my mind, popping out at odd times and interfering with my already taxed thought processes. It spurs me on to do things I wouldn't normally do, things that are painful and inconvenient. It's fear, nagging, tug in your gullet, deep down fear.
That triathlon which sounded like a cool idea last September when two dear friends started putting the pressure on me to join them in 2009, is looming large. It's now only twenty-three days away and counting down fast. It seemed like a good idea, but, it was then comfortably eleven months away. I didn't even feel nervous when I paid my 90 bucks to register in January, eight months is plenty of time. The fear started mounting in March and now it looms so large that I find my insides shaking with it at odd moments.
They call it a Sprint Triathlon. In layman's terms that means that it's the shortest, easiest series of the three parts of a triathlon (swimming, biking, and running) that you can string together and still call it a triathlon. So here's what it consists of: a 1/4 mile swim, then a 12 mile bike ride, followed by a 5K run.
None of the parts by themselves feel too daunting. I'm not that great of a swimmer, but I just happen to have enough buoyancy(okay, it's fat) on my body that sinking takes effort, so as long as I keep kicking and moving my arms, I'll get there eventually. I figure I can ignore the stinking lake water and make it through the swim fairly well.
Next, we bike which is more intimidating to me. Although I'm learning to love biking, I'm just not that experienced yet. My own bike is WAY too heavy, I'd never make it. A good friend, who happens to be just my height (I almost wrote "just my size", but I'm sure her pants are at least two sizes smaller than the ones that I can button myself into), and has been a triathlete, graciously offered to let me use her amazing bike.
Her bike is sleek and incredibly light weight, which makes the hills sooo much easier!! The drawbacks? Well, I hadn't even heard of clips (in the biking world, I mean), until talk about the triathlon began. For the uninitiated (read, me a year ago), clips are what serious bikers use in lieu of pedals so that they can not only push down when they pedal, but they can also pull up. You see, there are no pedals on this bike, just two little do-hickeys called clips. The other part of the clip is on the bottom of the special shoes that you wear. In order to ride this bike, you have to get one foot clipped in and then, in order to avoid falling over, you must be moving forward as you clip in your other foot. The clip, of course always flips upside-down, so you have to flip the clip and then clip your foot in, while riding, before you can successfully start down the road. When it's time to stop, you have to get at least one foot unclipped really fast or your gonna fall over with your feet firmly attached to the bike, praying all the time that no one is looking.
I'm getting better at getting myself in and out of the clips, but when the lady who taught my killer exercise class learned which triathlon I was doing, she said, "Oh, that's a really tough bike course for a first triathlon." Great, my stress levels are rising! I can do a 12 mile bike ride, in fact, a friend and I did one with our kids a couple of weeks ago. But between the the hills and a friend mentioning that rideing your breaks down the really steep hills could cause your tire to pop off, and hearing that what this course takes is an experienced biker, the fear mounts.
Last of all we run. 5K is very doable at this point in my life. However, to run it AFTER swimming a quarter mile and then biking for twelve? I just plain don't have it in me yet! I know I don't! (can you hear the panic?) So, every day, I'm running or biking or swimming or doing a combination of them to try and get ready for the big day. Every mile I run, every completed bike ride and every half-hour in the pool helps keep the fear a bit more at bay. But I can't eliminate the fear, it's real and getting bigger every day. It didn't help when a man in my ward (church congregation), told me that when his wife did a triathlon a few years ago, woman after woman ran into one of the many Johny-on-the-spots before the race started to toss her cookies!
I don't want to place or outshine anyone in the triathlon. My one and only goal is not to die! Okay, I admit, I do have one other small goal. I don't want to do anything really really embarrassing. I want to be able to converse about the race afterwards without hanging my head in shame. Is that too much to ask? I certainly hope not! In the mean time, if you need me, I'll be swimming and biking and running scared.