overcoming fear

Yup, I did it

“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.”
― Richie Norton

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Hey y’all!

I did something completely crazy this weekend. Yes, I signed up for the Full Distance at Cedar Point next September (140.6 miles of AWESOMENESS!!!!) No, that it not the crazy thing a did… although, okay that was sort of looney too. The actual insanity involved taking my mountain bike out on the trails for my SECOND. TIME. EVER.  ANNNNNDDD I went all by myself. (I told you: insane!)

The first time I took my mountain bike out was after the hubs bought it for me. We did a short ride, including a few trails. I was absolutely terrified for my life the entire time. I may have cried… a lot. It was ugly. All I could do was picture being horribly maimed as I careened out of control. (In reality, I was probably doing less than 5 mph.) After the experience of feeling utterly defeated and disappointed in myself, I only took it out on the roads… That is until I invested in the road bike. It’s been sitting in the garage ever since.

The thing is, I am still a HUGE chicken when it comes to cycling. I HATE riding alone, so I don’t go enough. My handling still stinks and I have zero (as in zilch, zippo) confidence on the bike. However, eventually after actually careening almost 40 mph while contending with irritable and negligent motorists, hitting the trails didn’t seem so dangerous. In fact, I decided I actually might be better off taking my chances with the trees. After all, at least they are stationery.

Plus, I found a 50 miler I want to do in January, and I figured combining a ride with a run would be a great way to kill two bird with one stone. I would ride my mountain for an hour on the trails and then run for an hour after. Not only would I have a chance to work on my handling skills and getting comfortable on the bike, but I also would start my run on fatigued legs foregoing the need for a high mileage run. Win-Win!

So I bundled myself up for the cozy sub freezing temps and headed to my favorite trails. I decided to warm up on some paved paths and then in a field. It took a little getting used to, but within a few minutes I was managing the gears without much thinking. Surprisingly, I was completely taken back by how much fun I was having. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, and I had most of the park to myself. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on!

Because I was feeling brave (something that almost never happens to me on a bike) I decided to try out the cyclocross cross that had been set up for a competition the following day. Other than a little difficulty with some tight turns and abrupt climbs, I felt fairly comfortable; so I set my sights on something more challenging. In the spirit of living dangerously, I started with some of the flatter trails and then decided to really test myself on my favorite running routes. I was completely shocked by how comfortable I felt even on the more technical terrain. I was by no means moving quickly, but I also was doing a pretty respectable job at keep my bike upright and navigating turns. I couldn’t believe what a difference all the time on my road bike had made in handling IMG_6141ability. I was even able to ride the steep downhills without any fear or hesitation!

Perhaps the most remarkable part was just how much FUN it was. I truly loved every second of it. I never would have imagined feeling so comfortable or at home on a bike. Furthermore, not in a million years would I have guessed that I would be more at ease on a mountain bike than a road bike… but then the trails have always been my sanctuary.

The whole experience was completely exhilarating. It was as if I suddenly became aware of a little reserve of toughness that had previously been untapped and a whole world of possibility was opened up by one short ride.

It was a terrific reminder for me of just how far I’ve come with the bike and in general. It’s been so long since I’ve had any big gains in my training that sometimes I forget I’m still making progress. Then all of a sudden there’s an “AHA!” moment, and I have a whole new perspective.

The whole experience was an important reminder about why it’s so important to keep doing the things that frighten me. It’s breaking through that fear that brings the greatest reward. The greatest joy in life isn’t doing what other people think you can’t, it’s doing things you think you can’t and never could. 

This weekend I surprised myself, and it made me feel better than I have in a long time. I felt growth, and it made me hungry for more. That is why I am committing myself to not be inhibited by fear, and instead chase it down. Who’s with me?

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Waterbury Duathlon Recap

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.

If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

-Dale Carnegie

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It’s the moment you have all been waiting for!  That’s right, it’s time for my Waterbury Duathlon Recap!  Spoiler Alert: I didn’t die or get maimed.  That means I am now officially someone who competes (and I use the term loosely) in more than one sport!  I am a duathlete!

To say I was nervous going into this event would be a gross understatement.  Absolutely TERRIFIED would be a more accurate Imagedescription.  Luckily, my uber supportive and encouraging hubs came along for backup.  I was a little surprised when he registered because he had signed up for the Five Boroughs Bike Tour the day after.  Have I mentioned recently how much I love him?

Anyway… he made sure our bikes were all prepped and ready to go the night before, so we were all set to go in the morning.  After finally settling on parking at the YMCA (after driving around in circles forever a few times) and taking a short walk to the start, we headed over to registration.  Can I just say that I have never raced in an event that required an ankle bracelet for a time chip.  There were also so many stickers and bib numbers!  It was just a little overwhelming… especially given that I didn’t even know how to rack my bike.  It made me very grateful to have the hubs there to show me how to set everything up.

I was also relieved to have my first race involving cycling with our YMCA family!  There were lots of familiar faces, which helped to put me slightly more at ease.  Everyone was so supportive and encouraging.  All I could think was if I could just get through the bike, I would be fine.  My motto for the day was “go slow, have fun,” and I repeated it over and over in my head.

The thing that frightened me most was that the bike course was in downtown Waterbury, and it wasn’t closed.  This meant not only did I have to contend with my general clumsiness on the bike, but do so while avoiding traffic.  Are you freaking kidding me?  As if I’m not challenged enough. lol  Had I only known what was coming!

I think you could have given me all the time in the world, and I still would not have felt ready at the start.  My bike was racked, my transition area set, but there is just no feeling prepared when you step outside your comfort zone.  As crazy as it sounds I think I was almost more afraid of the USAT official than the actual race.  Not that she wasn’t a nice person, but it was more than a little intimidating to go from just running to a race with rules and penalties.  I was so scared of accidentally drafting or doing something I could get disqualified for…  As if the race official was going to care about those of us in the middle or back of the pack.

The first leg of the race was a relatively flat 5K.  It went by fairly quickly despite the fact that my legs weren’t feeling great.  I tried to just relax and focus on my running form.  I reminded myself that just because I didn’t feel great at the start didn’t mean the whole race would be bad.  If ultra running has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t judge a race by the first three or even ten miles.  As long as you hang in there, chances are things will turn around… eventually.

I was actually surprised when I looked down at my watch at the end of the 5K and saw it had only been 22 minutes.  I made my way around the park into the transition area and caught a glimpse of the hubs on his way out.  I tried to take my time getting set up for the bike leg because it was my very first transition and I didn’t want to forget anything.

roadrashThankfully, I managed to mount my bike without too much difficulty; even though I did accidentally release the fastener on my shoe by hitting it on the pedal and had to fix it before I could get on.  Still, before I knew it, I was clipped in and on my way!  I was relieved to find they had officers at each intersection to direct the traffic.

I just was starting to relax and think it wouldn’t be so bad when the hills started…

It wasn’t that the uphills were particularly hard.  Sure some were steep and long, but it was anticipating all the downhill that had me spooked.  What goes up must come down, right?

I was probably the only person who dreaded those down hills more than the up.  As it turned out, it was with good reason!  When we did finally reach the top of all those hills, we were rewarded with an incredibly steep downhill.  Not just a downhill, but a downhill through traffic, with a sharp right turn at the bottom!  I kid you not, I thought it would be the end of me!  I couldn’t help but visualize myself wiping out on that turn.  It was not pretty!  All I could think was that I should have unclipped because I was going to eat it!  What’s worse is that it was still downhill after the turn!!!!  Even worse still, the course was a loop, so I had to do it all over again on the second lap!!!!

I sincerely thought of ditching my bike and quitting I was so shaken.  I almost cried.  In fact, I’m surprised my lip didn’t bleed from how hard I was biting it.  Despite my better self preserving instinct; however, I didn’t quit.  Instead I finished my first loop and headed out for the second.  I dreaded coming though the downhill again, but I was determined to get through it.  The second time through was even more awful because we had to navigate between a line a traffic and row of parked cars.  There was almost no margin for error.  I was SO glad I had practiced riding through all those lane dividers on the Cheshire bike path and managed to keep myself straight.  Thankfully, I made it all the way down and around the turn without crashing.  Once I got back to even ground, I knew I was in the home stretch.

I plowed through the rest of the course back to transition, and after being redirected to the appropriate exit (yes, I initially went the wrong way), I headed out for the final 5K run.  My legs felt heavy as I expected they would.  Again, I focused on form and tried to relax.  Despite the fact that I felt like I was barely moving, the miles were going by quickly so I knew I was moving at a good pace.  The sun and heat were killing me, but I had already survived the bike.  There was no way I was going to let a little warm weather take me out!  It kept telling myself “It’s only 5K, it’s only 5K “.  I chipped the miles off one by one, then before I knew it, I had the park in my sights!!!  One of my swim buddies was volunteering near the park directing runners, and I shouted his name because I was so happy to see him.  I think he was surprised to see me already so close to the finish because I had told him how terrified I was about this being my first event with a bike.  He told me I was “Rocking it!” and I continued on my way.

At that point there was only a short distance… including a ridiculous staircase (I mean really?  A staircase?  Sadists!) to the finish.  The hubs was there at the finish waiting for me.  I ran straight to him and I could see the time on the clock was 1:57!!!  I cannot even explain what it felt like to cross that line!  I had been so scared and worked so hard.  It is just indescribable what it meant to me to actually take the leap and do it.  Less than a year ago I bought my first real bike, and now I’m a duathlete.

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The hubs and I went to check the results and he was excited that he had one of the fastest times on the bike course.  (Woohoo! Go hubs!!!)  I was just happy to have finished.  I was ecstatic it was in under 2 hours, and in utter disbelief that I finished in the top 50.  As part of the race, we got bracelets that entitled us to a free beer and sandwich at one of the local pubs so we headed over to eat.  Instead of finishers medals, we were each awarded a pint glass.  I know, again with the pint glasses.  I’m going to have quite the collection!

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Actually, we left our glasses at the pub… Okay they took them, but we didn’t mind because they had the pub logo instead of the logo for the race anyway.

After we got home and cleaned up, we headed out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants followed by  ice cream at a local creamery.  Just in case you were wondering, I did not feel the least bit guilty about all the calories.  I especially didn’t feel guilty for the DELICIOUS  s’more martini I had with dinner to celebrate.

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Overall the hubs and I both had a great experience.  It was a very well organized event, and I was glad that my first tri event was on our home turf.  It definitely made it less intimidating and added some comfort level.  Plus, it was fun to see so many familiar faces out on the course.  I was really happy that the hubs was so pleased with his performance.  One of the guys from the bike shop we use had recommended he get into racing, and I think his performance might help encourage him.

When we finally got home from all our festivities, the hubs showed me how to clean the bikes and re-lube the chains.  I had told him that I want to get comfortable with the maintenance, so he has been introducing me to the basics.  His mom sent us a text while we were working to let us know she saw our race results and that we had done better than we originally thought.  Sure enough, I had placed second in my age group, 12th for the ladies, and 48th overall!  Not too bad for my first time.  The hubs had finished 26th overall and was well ahead of me with a time of 1:42.  For the record, though, I ran my second 5K faster than him. 😉

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It’s hard to imagine, even now, how much this journey to triathlete has changed my life.  It has forced me to face and conquer my fears on a regular basis.  I decided I wanted to someday finish an Ironman before I even knew how to swim or bike (properly).  Now, I am well on my way to achieving that dream.  I may not do a full Ironman in the next year, or even two, but now I have the foundation to get there.

In fact, the day after the duathlon I went to the pool and swam over 2 miles without even getting tired.  The last 1100m I swam continuously.  It’s a far cry from the girl who was terrified to even put her face in the water.  That’s how much stronger and more confident triathlon has made me.

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Moral of the story: Some of the most rewarding and worthwhile moments of your life will start with being scared to death.  Don’t be inhibited by fear.  Everything worthwhile in life is on the other side of it.