Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pre-Race Thoughts

A lot of my thoughts these past few weeks have been on my upcoming triathlon. Some intentional, some not.

I've been intentionally doing some visualization exercises to help mentally prepare myself. I imagine myself starting the swim. Running up the hill to the first transition. Hopping gracefully onto my bike. Spinning up the hills. Gracefully dismounting my bike. Beginning the run. Finishing the run. SMILING as I cross the finish line (I always forget to do this in races!)

But there's another strain of thoughts that keeps creeping in unintentionally. Especially during workouts.

Last week in the pool I started worrying: "What if the swim takes me over 30 minutes instead of just over 20 minutes... What if I freak out and have to float on my back for a while... What if I get off course..."

Then on my crappy run yesterday morning I was again laden by negative thoughts, by fears of failure. "I haven't been doing as much speedwork as I meant to do... This cold I've been battling has sure slowed me down... I don't feel as well-trained or as ready as I'd like to feel... What if I get a side cramp during the race... What if I have to stop and walk... What if I don't finish the run in less than 30 minutes like I want to..."

All these what-ifs. All these self-doubts. Where do they come from? Why do they keep bubbling up during my workouts here lately? Usually I enjoy my workouts because they help free my mind of all the stress, the negative thoughts, the worries of everyday life.

But with a race on the horizon, some of my recent workouts haven't been so freeing.

From reading other triathlete's blogs, I'm not alone in having these thoughts. (see here and here... It's kind of comforting, actually, to see that folks who have been triathloning for several yaers and are tough enough to be attempting half and full Ironmans are having the same sorts of doubts about themselves.)

So the rational side of my brain has been having to work overtime, and I've had to conjure up that little cheerleader inside of me to say "Shut up, stupid, you can do this!" (Okay, so she's not the nicest cheerleader... but she gets the point across).

The rational side is counteracting the What-ifs with some of these affirmations:

- Remember that not two years ago, you couldn't run a full mile. And just 6 months ago you could barely swim a full lap. Now you'll be swimming 1/2 mile, biking 13, and running 3. And you know, at the very least, you can complete all of these activities. So be thankful that you have the strength and the courage to even sign up for such an event.

- Remember this great quote: "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." (John Bingham, running speaker and writer)

- The race is not a test. It's a celebration. A celebration of the training that's gotten you to where you are. A celebration of your dedication to be active. A celebration of the fact that your body is able to respond to the challenges you put before it.

- You've never done a triathlon before. Thus, you have nothing to compare this one to. Thus you can't let yourself down. You're guaranteed a PR. Whatever your time is, be happy about it. Worry about improving on it next year!

As race day approaches more, I'll continue trying to keep my thoughts positive. And I'll continue my visualizations to help me get as mentally prepared as possible. And as much as I feel like I should keep pushing hard to get in several more great workouts, I know rationally that I'll benefit more from a week of short, easy workouts, good nutrition, and lots of sleep. So I'll reluctantly taper. And I'll keep repeating to myself my overall goal for the race:

Survive the Swim, Bust out the Bike, Rock the Run

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