Fear Not, Dear Child…

Ok, so can we talk about training for a minute? This morning, as I was #swimbikerun training, sheer panic set in.  What the HECK did I exactly sign up to do?? IM 70.3 Maine? Yes…yes I did.  This past fall to be exact, when I was overcome by the emotion “go forth and set the world on fire!”

And now?? Well…I fear as though this little girl bit off slightly more than she can chew.

As I was drilling in the pool, the reality of swimming 1.2 miles infiltrated my pores, sinking my soaked soul right down to the bottom.  2100 yards in 45 minutes. Yes, I could do that in the pool.  A nice, safe, controlled environment.  I am also confident I could achieve close to that goal in a lake, since I have some lake swimming under my belt, I mean wetsuit. But the ocean? I am not so sure anymore. It is true I grew up near the ocean on Long Island.  And it is true my spirit is free and full of joy in the ocean.  But I have never actually swam competitively in the ocean. (and  wave jumping contests as a kid doesn’t exactly count)

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After swim, I headed upstairs to my nemesis.  Cycle class. While our upstate New York is ideal for my beloved winter hiking and seeking the mountain trails. It is not for cycling.  Instead, I was served a serious dose of buttkicking for an hour of indoor cycling. The bike is my weakest link.  Soooo 56 miles on a bike? Through hills??  I am not so sure about this one either.   The instructor was awesome, thank goodness! I did exactly what she said. I did not short change myself, no matter how badly fire spiked throughout my legs.

Now, I am fully aware that races are personal, personal victories for you and you alone.  I “preach” that ALL the time.  Be brave in your pursuit of what sets your soul on fire! No matter how big or small the step/victory is, it is still a victory!  Yup, that sounds like Jen, through and through.

However…I still found myself glancing at the other bikes near me, noticing how everyone had many more miles clocked in; they were faster, stronger, better cyclists.

Hang on, I’m not saying I am competing with random members of the YMCA (regardless of what some of you think…yes I can hear you, even now!) What I am saying is that I realized just how much work I have ahead of me.  My will deflated faster than a balloon that lost its knot.

I tried to channel that nervous, deflated energy and hopped on the dreadmill, I mean treadmill. Even though running was not in today’s plan,  I needed to clear my head. Turning up the volume on my earbuds, Gaga and I ran our hearts out while I had a “talkin’ to” with myself.

“I am afraid,” I admitted to my mind.

 “I know you are,” My mind replied.  “When you are not afraid?  We go through this every time, Jen.”  

Just then, my heart chimed in. “We’ve done it before. We can do it again. I’ll be with you the whole time.”

But it was Lady Gaga in my ears I heard last, “I’m on the edge of glory and I’m hanging on the moment of truth…”

My mind, my heart and yes, even Gaga were all correct:

Yes, the facts are that I am 5’1″and weigh 95 pounds.  I have some muscle, but my strength lies in stability challenges, not strength necessarily.  I can bench press the bar. No weights, just the bar. But I can rock a balance exercise all day and twice on Sunday.  The 10 pound kettlebell is my limit, while I watch other women use the heavier ones with ease.  Add on stamina and endurance training to the list as well.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.   Then Fear not, dear child…

So focusing on my core strength, building my base, and growing my racing endurance have been top priorities for me.  Moreover, there is that little Jenny who still lives inside me that I promised a long time ago I would never stop fighting for.

The other weight on my mind is that I train alone. As in, a tri club and a personal trainer are slightly out of my financial reach. And let’s be honest, being with groups of people I don’t know kind of freaks me out.  I would love a trainer for my bike at home if I had the means.  Finding time to train around my kids’ schedules and being a single mom is another strike against me. .  While I do find time to climb mountains (which I count as training too!), consistency with weekday training is what I so desperately require!  (Boy, as I type this, it sounds more like excuses than reasons.) Still, it could be enough to make someone want to throw in the towel, hang up their running sneakers and quit.  Isn’t that easier??

You know what my answer is to that rhetorical question…

Perspective.  Rewire your brain to focus on what you do have.

Yes!   Here is what I do have…and to me personally, it is better than anything money can buy.

I have 3 extraordinary children who are willing to hang with their momma while she swims, bikes and runs. The high-fives my son gives me every time I complete a swim set, while he sits at the end of the pool and watches, fills me up.  FILLS ME UP with so much encouragement and love.

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My teenage daughter, who should and could be hanging out with her friends, instead accompanies her mom every Monday night and cycles with me.   Or she works out on the elliptical behind my treadmill while I run.  Afterwards, she does her homework at the pool while I drill, drill, drill my swim workouts.

My youngest daughter cheers me on, because I inadvertently blurted out that if I made it through my first 70.3, we would get a puppy! Ha! (I laugh now but…)

On top of that, I also am blessed with some pretty incredible running friends.  I am notorious for getting out of the gate too fast during runs, which sent my heart rate into Zone 5. Yikes! So in turn, I have been focusing on running by heart rate.  Which as you know, forces a racer to slowwwwww down!  At first, this was mentally challenging for me. I had to let go of the notion that to be a strong runner, you needed speed.  For me, however, it was necessary to find a way to prevent burnout.  This holds true for my swim and bike…and hiking…and so on. #burnoutqueen

Out of the gate too fast = zero endurance = racing on fumes at the end

Which brings me back to my running friends.  Their support, pacing, and encouragement built my running base correctly.  We run in all kinds of weather…mostly snow and wind this winter, but the changing elements, no matter how brutal, only make you stronger. Now I can actually maintain a pace for longer periods of time without hitting my threshold too soon.  More controlled, “easy” runs lead to better overall performance.  My tempo runs or speed days are much more comfortable, and by comfortable I mean, I don’t feel like I’m going to die!  Seriously though, despite my initial chagrins with this concept, it is working, very well, might I add.

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Hopefully, once the weather breaks a bit, and I can ride my bike outside, I will able to put  my cycle grit to the test.  For now, it is still “you spin me right round, baby right round” class.  Feel the burn.

Fueling my body is in the works, as I learn more and more each day about how to properly feed my muscles.  It is a process, and there are days when I feel like I have no clue what I am doing.  But I am learning…

I talk about being brave with vulnerability.  To have a courageous, emotional heart. Heart..yes, that sounds like Jen too.  I race with all heart.  Sometimes relying too much on my heart to get me through.  But I refuse to let my size be a disadvantage anymore.  I will not let the lies that seep into my mind taunt that I am too weak, too small, too inexperienced to reach victory.

I am scared.  That is true.  I do not know if I have what it takes to finish this race come August.  But as Mandy Hale said:

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Photo courtesy of Visit Maine (p.s. that’s the swim start too)
Because how you do what you do means so much more than just what you do.  Therefore, scared or not, my heart is all in.  Just praying my mind catches up with my heart in time to pull this one off!  Be brave with your aspirations, as well as your soul.  Rise and be strong. Rise and don’t quit.  Because either you’re all in…or you’re not. And “not” isn’t an option. 

Fear not, dear child… 

Still writing my story,

J

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