I’m writing this on a Saturday. Not just any Saturday but the Saturday that falls exactly one week before September 8, 2018.
That’s the day I’ll be running my first triathlon. It’s the day I’ve been dreaming about for nearly a year. But lately, not necessarily in a good way.
A month ago, I wrote a post on how to train for a first triathlon. Near the end of that post, I recalled all the miles of training and hours of preparation I’ve put in for September 8th. Though I was nervous, I said I felt confident that I was ready and would finish the race. Not only that, I predicted I would finish strong.
That was then.
Now I’m not so sure.
As the days have passed since I wrote that post, which now seems blustering, more than slightly naive, and even sort of stupid, my confidence has slipped. Markedly.
I suspect it was always there, bubbling beneath the surface (and in case you hadn’t guessed and as long as I’m baring my soul, the it of which I speak is fear). I think the thing that caused it to lift its gruesome head and bare its terrible teeth was the book.
In that post about first triathlon training, I said, “knowing is better than thinking” and steered people to a book called “Triathlon Training For Every Woman”. The idea was that, after reading that book, you would actually know what you needed to do to train for a triathlon, not just think you knew.
That was very wise and good advice.
If only I had followed it.
Hello Marie, This Is Your Self Doubt Calling. We Need to Talk.
Let me be clear, I do have a copy of Triathlon Training for the Every Woman. I read parts of it, the inspirational bits, the funny and heartwarming stories of how Meredith Atwood, aka SwimBikeMom, went from couch potato to triathlete.
After writing that other post, I sat down and actually read, Triathlon Training for the Every Woman, the way I should have months ago, from cover to cover. I read the parts I’d only flipped past before, including training specifics and advice about getting a coach.
I don’t have a coach.
After spending a good chunk of change of my bike, helmet, running shoes, triathlon kit, and the rest, a coach just wasn’t in the budget.
My reading showed me that, had I hired coach, he would have scheduled me to swim, bike, and run longer distances than those I’ll have to cover on race day. Instead, I’ve slowly built up my mileage in each event until I can swim, bike, and run distances equal to those I’ll have to cover on race day.
Until I read the book, that seemed like plenty. I felt like I was prepared.
Was it? Am I?
The other thing I noticed about SwimBikeMom? Something I’d skimmed over before? She was twenty years younger than I am when she ran her first tri. Twenty years! And it was still hard for her, really, really hard.
Am I ready for this?
I thought so before. Now I’m not so sure.
The Hills are Alive (with the Sound of My Fear)
My husband and I spent the weekend at the beach. On the way, I asked him if we could take a detour to the town where the race will be held. I hoped that actually driving the courses I’ll be biking and running and seeing the lake I’ll be swimming in would put my anxiety to rest.
It did and it didn’t.
The unknown is always more fearsome than the unknown, isn’t it? But, the hills…The description on the race website said that, apart from one quarter mile incline, the bike course is flat.
It’s not. The hills are long and slow but there are hills. Not just on the bike course, on the running course as well.
Hills are my nemesis. I suck at hills.
What if I can’t handle them? What if I have to hop off my bike and walk to the top? How humiliating would that be?
Or what if I am able to tackle the hills on the bike course, peddling along in granny gear, but my legs are gone by the end of it? What if I have to walk part of the 5K? Or all of it? What if I come in last? Or not at all?
What if I fail?
So often, that’s what it boils down to, doesn’t it? The fear of failure?
Unless we’re amazingly lucky or amazingly unaware, we’ll face all manner of fear in a lifetime. But fear of failure is the one that seems to be set on simmer all the time.
If a Tree Fails in the Forest and No One is Around to See it, Did it Really Fail?
The threat of fear boiling over, especially while others are watching, can keep us from taking chances and trying to catch hold of dreams.
Fifteen years ago, I finished writing my first novel. I’d spent the previous four years of my life working on it, and three years before that gaining the skills needed to even begin writing it. Seven years of my life went into that book. Now it was finished.
Do you know what I did next?
I put it in a drawer for one solid year and did my best to forget about it.
That’s right. After all that work, I simply pretended that the previous seven years had never happened. Why? Because, after pouring so much of myself in that book, I was afraid that no one would want it. Because I was afraid of failing, and especially of letting people see me fail – my husband, children, and friends.
It’s possible to confine the pages of an unpublished manuscript in a drawer. It’s a lot harder to imprison a dream. You can try to ignore it but still, it seeps through the cracks, making its presence known.
Eventually, I couldn’t ignore it. I decided that never knowing what might have been would be worse than having my book rejected, than failing.
I polished up my manuscript and started sending it out.
Fifteen years and fifteen books later, I’m glad I did. But even now, I’m keenly aware of how easily it could have turned out differently. My book was rejected, many, many times. Eventually, somebody read it, understood it, and gave me a chance.
That part was luck. And it could have been with me or against me. The part that wasn’t luck was the work I put in.
Success is not Final, Failure is not Fatal
I’ve put in a lot of work, preparing for this race. But now I wish I’d put in more. I wish I’d read the book cover to cover months ago. I wish I’d hired a coach. It’s too late for that. I’m out of time. All I can do is show up next Saturday and do my best.
Maybe it will go really well. Maybe it will be a disaster. Maybe facing your fears is overrated. The only thing I know for sure is the same thing I figured out fifteen years ago.
Never knowing what might have been, would be worse than trying my best and coming in last. Not knowing would be worse than walking the hills while younger, fitter people snicker and pedal past. It would even be worse than not being able to finish.
I went online and started looking for quotes to help me shout down my doubt and get through this next week. I came upon this one from Winston Churchill:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
If I were mentally tougher, a better blogger, a finer person, this would be the moment where I’d tell you that finding that quote changed everything. I’d tell you that reading it changed my attitude and outlook. I’d tell you that I’ve embraced Churchill’s wisdom one hundred percent and can’t wait until September 8th!
But it didn’t. And since I’m even worse at lying that running up hills, all I can tell you is that September 8th is a week away.
When it comes, I’ll be on the starting line.