The Scribbler

29 June 2013

Olympic countdown begins

In just over a week’s time, I’ll be taking part in my first standard or Olympic distance triathlon. That’s a 1500m open water swim, 40k cycle followed by a 10k run. Yeah, say it quickly, it doesn’t sound too bad.

Sure, I know people out there do some amazing endurance events. I read enough blogs about ironman or ultra-running to put my efforts into a very small perspective. But still, it’s a big challenge for me.

It will take me longer than any other sporting challenge I’ve done so far. And that’s a fact. Not false modesty that I’ll disprove when I put in a great performance and finish faster than I thought possible. The distances are roughly double those that I’ve done in my sprint triathlons. Individually, none of the three elements phase me. But together they add up to a significant endurance challenge.

Training for it has gone pretty well I think. I always have ups and downs with different sessions and in my confidence levels. A couple of weeks ago in the sunshine after a great run out on my bike and an amazing swim session , I was bouncing and up for it, ready to be at the start line.

Now, I’m a little more measured, realistic. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve dropped a couple of sessions because I felt tired and needed a rest more than I needed the training. I’ve been out on a run and turned back after 10 minutes because it didn’t feel right and I wasn’t enjoying it.

At Thursday night’s open water swim, I took a while to settle into doing front crawl. I had some moments of slightly panicky breathing and had to make a tough conscious effort to keep going, keep trying to get it all together. The little monkey who whispers in my ear ‘you can’t do this, you’re no good, why do you even bother?’ made an appearance. But if I didn’t exactly drown him in the lake, I managed not to give in to his taunts.

I was boosted by some praise from the coach, and keeping his support canoe in my sights as I swam helped me calm my racing heartbeat, control the adrenaline and swim something like a decent session before a touch of cramp made me opt out of the last couple of swim sets.

It was a big difference from my last time in the lake, where I felt almost reckless with confidence and pushed myself into the melee of feet, arms and bubbles alongside the other swimmers. But every swim is different. Actually every training session is different. And there are always lessons to learn.

So, I’ve reminded myself that progress isn’t always linear. You can have a good session, then a bad one. Just as you shouldn’t let one not so good session defeat you, you shouldn’t take one good confidence boosting session for granted.

I was also reminded of something I often say to other people – ‘look how far you’ve come, not how far you think you have to go’. That’s pretty much what the coach said to me on twitter after the swim session and it’s great advice. I am a much more confident and improved OW swimmer now than I was last year.

I’ve also got a lot more bike mileage under my belt and the running’s just had to look after itself. I’m not quite at the best I was a couple a years ago, but I’m not so far away. And if I’d only focused on running this year, I’m sure I’d be closer still. But right now I know I can cover the distance I need to.

I like to have a goal for a race. It helps me focus and can direct my decisions when there’s a lot of thoughts rattling round in my head. But I don’t want to set a time goal for this tri. I have a rough idea in my head about how long it will take me, but I’m not setting myself any limits. My goal is to finish.

Actually my goal is to finish smiling. And really I’ll have no reason not to smile. I’ve trained for this. I’m as prepared as I can be. I will be racing in familiar and beautiful surroundings. And my best and loveliest tri buddy Lesley will be there.

I’m counting down the days. Please let it be sunny.

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