It’s A Powerful Fear.

I guess maybe I said I was scared of stuff too often in my life because lately – when I talk about how scared I am of my first triathlon on Saturday – people scoff at me. “Ah…you’ll do fine! No big deal! You’ll kill it like you always do and probably sign up for another one later that day!”

This frustrated me because I realize I’m like the boy who cried, “Wolf!” No one is taking me seriously. But y’all? I’m TERRIFIED.

I’m not sleeping well at all. I’m convinced it was my fear was what had me in bed with a migraine-level headache earlier this week. The the Terror Eating? Which is a whole new thing for me? IS UNSTOPPABLE. I keep going to eat just to calm that part of my nerves that wants to start hyperventilating.

Why am I scared? Well…this is where it does get silly. I’m scared of humiliation.

I know I’m not going to drown.

I know I’m not going to fail.

I’m not scared of the pool, but I just recreationally swim. So, my “technique” is basically a combination of doggie paddle and under-water/nose-holding swimming. But I can cross a pool with that technique 8 times no problem. I may stop and take a break periodically, but I’ll be fine.

I’m not scared of the bike ride. I know everyone will pass me as I had the longest bike at the duathlon I did a while back so it’s well-documented I’m the slowest on the bike. But I’ll finish. Maybe in the slowest time ever, but I’ll finish.

I’m simply terrified of people making fun of me. Or of people being irritated that someone of my skill level signed up to begin with. I’m terrified people will get mad that they have to pass me in a tight lane in a pool. I’m terrified they’ll laugh at my kickstand. (Did you know that cyclists, like real cyclists don’t have kickstands on their bikes? IT’S TRUE.) I’m terrified people will say, “God. Can you believe that’s Donnie’s wife? He came in first and second in his age group in his last two races and that is his wife?”

I’m scared I’ll be the only swimmer not doing a real stroke. I swear – if someone could promise me that there would be several of us like that? Flailing around with whatever technique gets us across the pool? That would probably make me feel better.

And yes, I signed up for a training class. But schedule conflicts kept me away from a lot of those classes and fear kept me away from others. So, yes. This is my own damn fault.

And yes, that makes me even MORE terrified. What if they all say, “If she had just shown up for a few classes, she wouldn’t be humiliating herself right now.”

And yes, I know most people are worried about themselves. BUT – while I’ve never heard anyone I know personally say such dreadful things about other racers – I’ve been to enough of these things that I have heard those things said. I’ve sat on the sidelines as a spectator for dozens of these things, and while maybe no one in our local community is that unsupportive, I’ve heard similar comments that I’m terrified of…uttered from racers several times in the past.

So…I’m replaying those times in my head, but now imagining those racers are talking about me and that is what has me TERRIFIED. I want to quit so bad I’ve found myself crying about it. If I break a leg Friday? I’ll be THRILLED. No lie. THRILLED. Maybe I’ll go rock climbing?

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The ONLY thing I’m excited about is I finally had an excuse to buy something from Zoot Sports which specializes in Tri gear. Of course, I had to buy a LARGE in the shorts and they’re still a little uncomfortably snug. And I’m 5’3 and relatively fit, I don’t have anything else that’s a Large in my closet. So, you know, so much for vanity sizing! But either way – I am excited about doing something in an outfit that says “ZOOT” all over it.

But other than that? TERROR. FEAR.

And to top it all off with awesome? My family can’t even be there. I signed up for this thing for my husband and he won’t even be there. But that’s okay, because he’s the one I’m worried about embarrassing the most. So, in reality? My chances are better of not running away and hiding if he’s not there.

So – please know I’m not crying, “Wolf!” I’m scared. Scared of stupid shit, but scared nonetheless. Terrified. I’m not sleeping, but I’m doing tons of crying and eating.

48 hours. Keep me in your thoughts. Just hope that none of the meanies I’ve ever heard making fun of other racers before are from Huntsville or even interested in participating in a triathlon targeting beginners. And pray that there are dozens of other Flailing-Style swimmers there to join me in the pool. And pray there are other people riding 25lbs bikes that are too small for them. And that I’m not the only one with a kickstand.

25 Comments

  • Heather@YSP

    I love you. Take a breathe. Deep down you know, I hope, that everyone who matters is going to be so goddamned proud of you that they won’t care about anything more than offering honest, heartfelt congratulations. Everyone else? Is a douchebag.

  • Sarah

    I did my third tri a few weeks ago, and had one of the biggest fights of my marriage the night before because I was so freaked out. For the EXACT same reasons. Also because I had 8 meetings that week, our anniversary and an out of town graduation. So my little tri was one more thing that was exhausting me/ a burden on our family. Also, I had to come home and rip up carpet & move furniture because my dad was coming to do floors in our house, and stay for a week. There was a lot of stress.
    On the way to the tri – yes it was an hour away-I listened to a “another mother runner” podcast where one of the moms/writers recaps her half ironman. It helped me not puke. Or made me feel like nervous tummy was normal.
    Also: talk to the people in the swim line around you. Tell them to pass if they want. The swim is scary in terms of social pressure, but that makes it better. Practice a “I’m swimming MY WAY. IT WORKS FOR ME” mantra for that time. I guarantee that the people around you will understand and probably say “oh no, I won’t pass, I never swim, blah blah blah” this was an all women tri I did. Some of them didn’t put their faces in the water. It was all good.
    Also, and I’m sure you know this: seasoned tri vets have a bucket. Like a Home Depot 5 gallon one. Decorate it with your kids – patterned duct tape. Use it to carry your gear to transition, and you sit on it when you change. You will look super prepped.
    And the run is LAST! You can look forward to it!
    Also, if they have post race massages, get one. ๐Ÿ™‚
    You

  • Shannon

    I ran that 10 miler last week and had the most irrational thoughts towards the end. I finished in the top 25% of all the participants (still didn’t make my time, but whatever) and still I kept thinking to myself that the spectators probably all thought I was slow or my form was bad. I wish I knew why we do those things to ourselves. We create real stress for ourselves, but none of it is based in reality. I bet there wasn’t one person who was thinking “#1934 sure is slow!” Relax and try to swim, bike, and run your own race! Remember…you are a completer! Good Luck!

  • LizScott

    So, two lines of thinking about this post:

    1. You know this deep down, but it WILL be ok once you start racing. Tell the people in your swim line to pass you and move over for them so you don’t have anxiety about what they’re thinking while you’re racing, and keep doing your thing. There are beginners in every race. You know this. And no one expects that just because your husband is a good triathlete that you’ll be killing it. Your sport is running, everyone knows that. When my brother did his first tri he was last one the swim, last on the bike, and then no shit passed 200 people on the run. He’s a great athlete and he hated being last at ANYTHING but he loved getting to the run and getting to do his thing. You will, too.

    2. Having said all THAT: triathlon IS a different sport than running, and it sounds like you haven’t had the time/inclination to train for it (I’m not judging- just commenting based on what you said above). So why the rush to do THIS race? You know better than anyone the feeling of bad assery and accomplishmebt associated with racing after putting in weeks of training; it seems like doing a tri would stress you out less if the race was the reward for training and made up elements you ha prepared yourself for, vs a chance to spend a morning swim/bike/running. I don’t want to discount the fun inherent in doing something “just because” but…you don’t sound like your having fun right now, you know? My husband was a triathlete before me and a lot of his wantin me to get involved in the sport was to involve me in the day to day training, not a one-off race.

    Ugh, this is a hard comment to leave because I DO think you’ll have fun and that your fears will dissipate once you’re out there doing it. But the other hand I just wonder why THIS race THIS weekend, if you don’t feel ready. It’s ok to not race, you know? It is.

    • zoot

      Yeah – in theory I would love to wait until I’ve trained better. But the thing is I can guarantee that any other race would inspire me to train better. I’ve thought about this a lot. I think what MIGHT have helped is having someone in the class who was a friend who was as clueless but would maybe have held me accountable. But, since I can’t guarantee I’ll ever have that, putting it off may not help.

      The other thing I keep thinking is when I ended up doing that marathon in 2007 that I ran/walked b/c I didn’t train – it was a GREAT thing to have behind me when I actually trained for my first marathon. Because I knew – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that I would do BETTER. ๐Ÿ™‚ So, I’m hoping that this race, even if I’m not exactly prepared, will be that for me. A great “first” to only improve from.

      But trust me, if Donnie said, “Why don’t you just skip this?” I would totally skip it. I think. I don’t know, maybe I just want to get the first one over it at this point. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • LizScott

        Hey, I get that. Go for it and knock it out; it can in no way be worse than your current fears – seriously.

        But be nice to yourself, too. There are only so many Sunday mornings, ya know? You don’t have to spend it doing something you don’t really like.

  • Tonya

    I can promise you there will be others without proper swim technique out there… I will be one of them! All of the “faster” people will go way ahead of you and usually from when you start it is only a race against yourself. You will be so proud of your accomplishment and so will everyone else that you won’t care how long it took you when you are done… you will just be proud you finished! You are in awesome shape for this race. This is a sprint triathlon that is great for beginners which is why I do it and there are a lot of beginners out there! I was scared to death last year myself as it was my first one but I got addicted after that and have done several more. My fitness is getting better from Tri-ing to be better at these darn triathlons lol No worries!!! Just have fun and enjoy it, its not going to be near as bad as your worst fears.

  • Chloe

    I think this quote is appropriate ๐Ÿ™‚

    รขโ‚ฌล“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.รขโ‚ฌย
    ? Georgia O’Keeffe

    You’re going to do great!

  • Monica

    I have no advice, as I am not a runner or swimmer. I just wanted to say good luck and I will be thinking about you and sending good thoughts your way!

  • Susan

    I just did my first triathlon after losing 47pounds and being inactive for over 15 years. I trained by myself and thought I had it together. I ended up doing the elementary back stroke for the swim (not the back stroke-the elementary back stroke-the one no one does except in swimming lessons to prove you can do it), taking 54 minutes for a 12 mile flat course bike ride, and coming in almost dead last on the run. Not the race I had planned at all. But you know what? I finished and that was my goal going into the race. Do I wish I could have done better? Of course! But do I feel like I deserved the medal any less that those who came before me? NO WAY!! Triathlons are hard! Everyone on the course was so encouraging. I only got “way to go” and “keep going, you’re almost there!” comments. I never once felt like I wasn’t welcome and this was (unbeknownst to me when I signed up) a very competitive race in my area. Just have fun with it and others will help you through.

  • Wayne

    Hey Zoot,

    I have done the Huntsville sprint before. And also the frantic frog. I am not in triathlon shape.

    Here are a couple stories from when I did it, to give you an idea of what my experience was like.

    I was in the biking section with a guy riding a pink girls bike, and a lady who managed to get a completely flat front tire.

    When I got to the pool I did not realize that you are getting into the shallow end of the pool, and I bashed both my knees into the bottom of the pool. Like, full body weight smashed. Definite pro move. And the pool was filled with people hanging on to the sides and backstroking, doggy paddling, etc… Trust me, you will have plenty of company in the pool not doing a proper stroke. I think I ended my swim doing this thing I do sometimes when I am convinced that I’m so tired I will drown instantly if I put my head into the water. Everyone will be cheering you on when you get out.

    In short there is nothing to worry about.

    • Lisa

      I’m related to this guy ^^^ ๐Ÿ˜‰ I watched the Huntsville sprint when he did it, and it is a FUN event to watch. I’ve considered doing it, just because it looks like so much fun. And it’s not that I consider running or biking fun, it’s the atmosphere there. The “hey, this is a community thing and we want everyone to come out and participate” kind of atmosphere.

      Everyone looks like they’re flailing in the pool. Some people get tired and walk the pool. Lots doggy paddle. I know a guy terrified of swimming that only did it because he could touch the bottom and (according to him) he clung to the edge the entire time (I didn’t even notice). My brother did it on a mountain bike, along with many others. I saw a guy on a unicycle. There were all different fitness levels and ages from six to, like, seventy-something. That year, one of the participants was a bigger guy. You could tell that he wasn’t an athlete, that this was a personal goal of his, just to get out there and FINISH. And he was KILLING IT. Maybe not in comparison to others, but that doesn’t really matter, he was killing it for himself and everyone could tell and people were staying to cheer him on. It’s not the kind of race where people get snarky about each other, it’s the kind of race where people get really effing excited for those that are stepping out of their comfort zone. (In my spectating experience).

      I believe if you do this, you will have a blast.

      • zoot

        Thanks, Lisa! My husband volunteered last year and reassured me that there are TONS of beginners. He didn’t see the swim though (and since he’s an elite he’s never around for the slower swims) because he was on the run course so he couldn’t ease my mind about the swimming techniques. THank you SO MUCH. I’m hoping it’s as supportive of a group as you say it is!

    • zoot

      Thanks, Wayne! Your stories make me feel MUCH better. Especially the pink bike one ๐Ÿ˜‰

      They’re doing the events in the other order now (I think they started that two years ago?) so the Swim is first, I’m hoping that doesn’t effect your story about the doggie paddle/backstroking people. I hope they’re still doing that even when they’re not tired ๐Ÿ™‚ That will make me feel MUCH better!

      • Wayne

        I wouldn’t worry about the reverse in order changing anything. I think when I did the frantic frog there were some people backstroking and stuff on that one too, and it’s a swim first race.

        That’s the one where I got passed during the run by a little girl who turned around and was telling me things like “Keep going, you can do it!” I suspect I looked like I was about to give up the ghost any moment.

        You should do the frantic frog too! It’s a longer bike ride, but at the end you get gumbo and free beer!

  • Cara

    What the hell? Who are these people who would even think such things, much less say them out loud? Apparently, they are a**hats. Screw them. Those are not people whose respect you want anyway. The rest of us who inhabit the sane world are impressed that you would even try it. And, I’m not just talking about people like me who can’t even think about it without terror laughing. I asked a friend who does triathlons, and she says ‘what the hell?!?’ too. So, maybe it’ll suck. Maybe something crazy will happen and you won’t even finish it. But, you’re Zoot, so I know you will get your tail out there and give it a try. And for that you have the respect of everyone whose opinion matters. Because, a**hats most definitely do not matter.

    • zoot

      You know me, in reality? It was probably a dozen comments out of THOUSANDS of positive comments I’ve heard over the years yet here I am, thinking about those 12 instead of the multitudes of supportive ones. You’re very right. I went running this morning and just kept telling myself, “THEY DON’T MATTER” and I’m hoping if I repeat that enough in the next 48 hours It will sink in ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kathleen

    I’ve done safety for open-water (lake) triathalons (they use kayakers here, don’t know about elsewhere). I’m out there in my whitewater kayak and I’m the one helping the people who maybe didn’t train hard enough (especially for a very windy swim – good idea to start in the pool!), but I still was just impressed by everyone, even the beginner flights, who had the guts to get out and do it.

    So there. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m damn impressed. Not discounting the fear and all else – that’s totally valid, too! But, well, even if your form isn’t the best or you’re slower than you’d like… you’re going faster than me!!!

  • Lindsey

    Kim,

    Our school just ran a local triathlon, and I volunteered to help out at the finish line. I can tell you that everyone there was just in awe of the people that signed up for the race. There were some people there that had no skills whatsoever, totally overweight, first-timers, etc. We had tons of people hold onto noodles to rest during the 1/4 mile swim; no one looked judged them. Others walked across the finish line; we still cheered like crazy. We were absolutely amazed with anyone who would put themselves out there and challenge themselves. So just remember that THAT is what is going through people’s minds, not your stroke or speed on the bike.

    BTW – I totally signed up as a volunteer at the triathlon because of reading your blog & was thinking of you and your crazy skills all day as I saw people complete the race.

  • liljan98

    It seems that there are already a lot of folks cheering for you on the sidelines (of this blog at least, if not at the pool/road in person), and I gladly join in. You can do this! Being terrified of it is totally valid, I know I would be, no matter how much I’ve trained before. I’m a cyclist (if I do any sports at all) and I’m impressed with anyone who’s willing to do a tri. Go you!

    And I really really love your bucket, by the way ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Laural

    Big big big hugs. I’m too terrified to even sign up – so go you!
    Honestly, who cares how you do. The biggest thing will be jumping in the pool and starting. And you have to because you have an awesome outfit.
    As for form … Who cares? seriously. I run like Phoebe on Friends (remember that episode) sometimes – okay not that bad, but bad, and I wear a sparkly skirt in the process.
    Just own it!

  • Sharon

    I feel like I could have written this too. I feel that people don’t really listen to me when I say I’m afraid either. Maybe because I’ve tried so many new things in the past two years that they feel I should “be over it” or something. I don’t know but I’m losing sleep over my triathlon too. And I’m worried about my times really sucking, and falling off my bike, or worse…falling off my bike and taking out one of the ‘real’ triathletes. I’m afraid I’m going to pee myself or that it will be hot and I’ll pass out. I went to a swim clinic last night and couldn’t eat for the whole day. So I get it. And I will cheer for you virtually! When you go out there know that there is another scaredy pants who will be feeling the exact same way when she does your triathlon. And if there’s you and me feeling this way, I bet there’s a whole shitload of others ๐Ÿ™‚