Tag Archives: open-water anxiety

From Triathlish to Triathlete

I think it’s been three weeks since I last wrote an update.

I know that you have all been checking back here every day in anticipation (well, mum – hopefully you have), so sorry for the intermission. Not really any one particular excuse, except for a calamity of general life hiccups and a general build up of fatigue that has sent me crawling to bed almost immediately after training/dinner every day.

So I will give a very brief summary of events:

1) One weekend of training was interrupted by a work conference down in Queenscliffe and Lorne. However, I was very happy to miss the long run and shed a bit of fatigue. It’s naughty, I know. But work comes first. (I put that there in case my boss is reading this.)

2) I finally found A GIRL to ride my bike with. Well, I can draft on her back wheel as she is a bit pro and heaps fast, but this is BIG NEWS for someone that has been sitting behind the same three men for the past 7 months and having to dodge their snot rockets. Because girls don’t tend to spit and snot as often, so I might keep a cleaner face from now on.

3) We had our first race since we began training this weekend. So Matt and Jarrod are now officially TRIATHLETES. (In case anyone forgot, I completed one sprint distance race back in February and thought I was going to drown, but I finished the race alive, and had completed a number of duathlons where the swim had been cancelled due to the poor weather, so was already somewhat classifiable as ‘triathlish’).

That’s right – we did a triathlon.

And as I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for the past two days: I DIDN’T DROWN.

Now let me get some real honest stuff off my chest here: when I did the sprint race back in February, like I said before, I panicked like crazy in the swim. I couldn’t breathe. I totally hyperventilated, and couldn’t bring it back under control. I was passed by wave after wave of starters. I was petrified. But then I rode my bike and I ran and I made it to the finish. Just.

But when we signed up for Ironman back in March, I weighed up my fear about having a repeat performance against the likelihood that spending hours and hours and hours in the pool would stand me in better stead next time. And that gave me the confidence to sign up for the race.

However, over the past few weeks, maybe even months, I have had the open-water-swim-pack-fear pressing on my mind each time I go for a swim. I was starting to think ‘what the hell am I doing this is ridiculous’ thoughts over and over and over. My confidence was low.

So when we had to enter a sprint race as part of our training last weekend, I was thinking of excuses in my head: “I’m not ready yet. The water will be too cold. We are at the races the day before. I’m English, I can’t swim” etc. In the end, I had to stop thinking about it and just turn up.

On the day, I put my wetsuit on (for the first time since trying it on in the shop – yes, this was our first time swimming in wetsuits. We are Novice Central), and standing on the beach, our friend Luke said to me “ok – no freak-outs today, alright?”. No freak-outs. There would be no freak-outs. I trundled into the water for a warm up, and to discover what swimming in a wetsuit felt like.

After the boys’ wave started, I lined up with all the other 30-35’s (my new age group, remember…).

“No freak outs” – if this was a movie (with me played by Jessica Biel, obviously) that’s my imagination echoing the advice from just before. The gun went and we all ran in to the water, reminiscent of a pack of seals when they get up on their feet/tails/legs (whatever). As everyone started getting their manic on, I tried to stay calm. After about 50 metres, I felt the familiar shortness of breath and tight chest.

“No freak outs”. I rolled onto my back, looked up at the perfect blue sky and reminded myself that I’m at the beach, the sun is shining – whatevs. No freak outs today Piper, no freak outs. And I rolled over and kept on swimming. I even over-took a few people (granted, they were probably freaking out, because my swimming is only just fast enough to overtake the stationary marker buoy).

“No freak-outs, alright?”

So basically, I feel like king of the world after surviving the swim. Even a mechanical set back on the bike didn’t stop me saying over and over in my head “I made it out alive. I made it out alive. I made it out alive”. On that note, I must have snapped the rear gear cable without realising when I put the bike in the car before the race. And lucky me had the bike set up in the highest gear and small chain ring to start from. I couldn’t change gears for the whole race, apart from big chain ring to small chain ring, or ‘slow-fixie’ to ‘fast-fixie’ as I thought of it at the time.

But whatever. I was alive. I didn’t drown. Who cares if you’ve gotta ride a fixie in a triathlon? I distinctly remember regretting riding so hard the day before where I had tried to beat my husband home down Beach Rd, as I had some serious fatigue (magnified by the fact that I had to push a ridiculous gear for most of the course) in the legs.

But the ride was over quickly and the run came and went. I think I had a stitch for most of it. I was running at the pace that I usually run after a four hour saturday ride when we head straight off the bike for a ‘quick’ 10km. So I should have been able to run 5km a tiny bit faster off of a 20km ride. On paper anyway. But everything is different on paper and I gave it my everything in the race so I am STOKED.

And more than that – I finished 20 minutes faster than when I did the same sprint distance in February (although I need to fact check those distances as I think the bike leg may have been shorter?). For anyone that’s interested (mum), you can see my splits if you click here. But the summary is that I finished 6th in my age group which is unbelievable. My goal was to finish last in the swim, but be alive, and then to make up as much time as possible on the bike and run and to finish in the middle of my age group (I was being optimistic at around 15th). I literally couldn’t be happier.

However, none of this is really an indication of anything for our big races; we were only racing for an hour. Things will be very different when we move on to the endurance events. And rest assured my biggest goal with those is to make it across the finish line, preferably with a smile on my face. But in saying that I am so proud of the three of us – Jarrod and Matt were amazing and hopefully enjoyed it as much as I did. And Luke’s advice at the start that stopped me from having a panic attack and drowning (“No freak-outs today Lucy”), and obviously brought him some marvellous karma, as he won his age group.

A great day all round.

This weekend Jarrod and I are racing in the team 70.3 half Ironman at Shepparton, with Jarrod riding, me running and Freddo Frog Dave from finance swimming. I will try not to leave it three weeks before the next update.

Goodnight folks.

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