Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pre-Race Jitters on Steroids

Remember that panicky feeling you got as a student Sunday night when you realized that there was school the next day and you hadn't bothered to look at, let alone do the homework in your yellow peechee folder?  That was the feeling I had the night before my second triathlon.  After painstakingly following my training plan for weeks and weeks, I tossed it out the door the last few days so that I could enjoy my best friend's fortieth birthday.  We kicked it old school drinking, eating, partying, talking, laughing and hot tubbing until the wee hours of the morning like we did in our carefree twenties.  The only difference is that this time, we had children that woke up between 6 and 7 AM demanding food or band aids.  The little crumbsnatchers would continue to wear us down until they finally went to bed twelve hours later.  Yeah, yeah, I love my kids more than life itself, blah, blah, blah, but dang are they demanding self-centered little creatures.

I am usually a taper DIVA.  I trade in my cooking and cleaning for lounging on the couch as much as my husband and children will tolerate.  I go to sleep early, hydrate, eat carefully and exercise just enough to keep from losing my mind and getting stiff.  Sunday night while packing my race kit, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Perhaps trading gin and tonics, margaritas and coffee for water all weekend wasn't such a good plan.  I was dehydrated.  I was getting a scratchy throat.  Aunt Flo was still there.  Where are those Chia seeds?  My feet hurt like mo foes.  My kids were melting down all over the place.  My husband was exhausted.  My house was a wreck.  The weather wasn't looking good.  Suddenly this whole triathlon plan didn't seem like such a great idea.

It was too late to back out now.  Months ago, my friend Tanya and I decided on a wild hair to do a triathlon.  When we registered it seemed like a reckless undertaking.  Here we were, a pair of uber-busy mommas who didn't know diddly about swimming or riding road bikes, doing a TRIATHLON?!  I didn't feel like I was the triathlon-type.  I didn't even own a pair of mirrored sunglasses for Pete's sake!  The journey along the road to triathlon was very different for each of us.  One of us downloaded training plans, subscribed to a magazine, bought a book and proceeded to follow the plans and advice as if it were gospel.  The other regularly and enthusiastically ran her little heart out, found a wonderful swimmer guru friend to get advice and motivation from, did weight training at the gym and biked around town.  Over the months, we got more comfortable in the water and learned to actually enjoy swimming.  We got together for a few runs, rides and did a try tri for good measure.  We both knew that we could do it.  We might not be the fastest, most savvy athletes on the course, but we certainly had earned the right to be there. 

Now here it was, the night before Tanya's first triathlon and my second, and I wasn't sure I wanted to go through with it.  My mind was playing games on me.  I had a foreboding feeling I couldn't shake.  Shouldn't you trust your intuition?  Mine was saying that I wasn't up for this event.  Something bad was going to happen on the bike ride.  I was petrified.  Last triathlon, a competitor was hit by a car while pulling her bike into the parking lot for T2.  This sport wasn't for sissies.  This bike portion had nice hilly sections on an open course I'd have to share with cars.  Down hill, I'd reach speeds of over 30 MPH.  Roads would likely be wet and slippery.  My head just wasn't there.  My body wasn't feeling much better.  Thank the goddess that Tanya was in on this tri with me.  Otherwise, I'm pretty sure that I would have chickened out the night before and not bothered to show up at the start line.

I didn't sleep much that night.  As soon as I dozed off, I startled and woke up with a racing heart.  I never could remember what scared me awake.  Surely this had to be a sign that things would not go well for me the following day.  When morning came, I was so nervous that I alternated between feeling like I was going to burst into tears to feeling like I was going to throw up.  I was a miserable wreck.  I told my husband that I didn't think I could handle doing this anymore. Triathlons just freak me out.  There are so many elements that are out of my control.  With running, it all came down to me.  Had I put in the training time and was my mind able to cope with the demands?  Yep, no problem there, even for marathons.  Triathlon was another story.   It was one with many more variables that were out of my control.  Other people would be swimming IN my lane.  I would have to rely on a lap counter to accurately count my laps and tell me when I could exit the pool.  I had to have faith that someone wouldn't mess up my carefully laid out transition area or knock my bike off the rack.  I had to rely on the mechanical integrity of my bike.  I had to have faith that there wouldn't be reckless drivers, glass or obstacles on the road or if there were, that I'd be able to navigate through them.  Would spectators, fellow athletes or race course marshals compromise my safety?  I am a mom! I need to be there for my children.  They need me.  Suddenly triathlon felt about as safe as swimming in a shark tank.

My husband knew just what to say to me this morning as I was unraveling, mere hours before the race.  I will remember his short and sweet, but wise words forever.  "Leah. You do these because they are fun."  He brought me back down to a more grounded place.  I do these because they are fun? Oh, yeah! They are fun!  How had I forgotten?  It was time to shake these pre-race jitters and have some fun.  Let's put the bike on the van, load up the sleepy kiddos and my meticulously packed and repacked race bag and head to Corvallis and get this party started!

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