So I thought it went without saying: I thought everyone would simply know and understand that I have also been freaking out about the impending race at Straddie.
But then I got a message from someone I won’t name, saying that they were considering pulling out of the same race (in a fortnight’s time) because they weren’t ready and they were freaking out. As though they were the only one.
Clearly, it seems that in trying to keep the blog a little more positive and light-hearted this time around, I have done a disservice to the three or four people who occasionally stop by and gawk at the photos of how terrible I look when ‘tri-ing’. Because apparently it may seem that my massive ego is carrying me through this ‘Tri number 2’ process as though on the wings of a confident, calm and powerful eagle.
So, dear readers, pull your chair closer to your computer monitor and let me tell you a little story.
SPOILER ALERT: There are no eagles carrying me through this godawful and terrifying process.
A few days ago, maybe a few weeks ago (I don’t want to get too specific) I decided that I no longer wanted to be a good triathlete. Because I kind of felt like I was over it.
I can’t put my finger on why, and I couldn’t at the time either. There was a general feeling that I wasn’t improving quickly enough, that I was going to let myself down in this race and that I needed to escape the mess I was about to find myself in.
There was an even less rational feeling that I didn’t deserve to do well at this race, because I am an annoying and pointless human being who really should stop being so self-absorbed. And because I didn’t deserve it, I wanted to run away from it – I was ready to sabotage myself.
When I tried to picture the race (a pastime that usually gets the adrenaline pumping through my veins, inducing an extreme thirst to get to the start line and just get on with the race) I couldn’t get past the swim.
All I could think was that I won’t get a chance to practice swimming in the Straddie ocean, in the pounding waves and powerful rips that I imagine it has lined up for me. And the last time that I tried to swim a race in an ocean I’d never practiced in before, I suffered the epic DNF and had a close encounter with death.
I got to the stage where every time I pictured jumping into the waves at Straddie, I involuntarily squeezed my eyes shut and stopped breathing. It was like someone punched me in the stomach.
Even if I tried to pretend that there was no swim required, I was convinced that the bike and run legs will be the worst I’ve ever experienced. The roads on Straddie will be old, run-down, full of potholes and covered in loose rocks, I realised. I couldn’t – and still can’t – shake the feeling that I am going to get a flat tyre in this race.
And the run leg! Oh, the run leg. Even the website and the organisers warn that the run is one of the toughest of any triathlon course in the country. I did one session of beach running in my training and decided it was too hard. I don’t know what running 8km on beach, boardwalk and up steps will be like. But I became sure I didn’t want to find out, either.
For about 72 hours, I lost all motivation to tri.
I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling, because even though it consumed me I somehow knew it was illogical. Somewhere deep down inside me I managed to believe that the feeling would probably pass, and I just had to wait it out.
To help myself along, I decided to take a couple of days off to rest. You’d think after 32 years of living with myself I would have figured out to never listen to my own advice on such matters, because obviously I am a moron. Resting didn’t help at all; I just felt even worse about myself and more convinced that I was going to do really badly at Straddie.
I bought some triathlon magazines to read, to find inspiration and reignite the flame that had been burning so strongly inside me for 6 months straight. I couldn’t face looking at them.
Even Instagram depressed me.
During this period, to top it all off I also had a nightmare. We were at Stradbroke Island for the race and my family were all there to cheer me on. In reality none of them (except Shane) can attend because it’s in the middle of the day on a busy Saturday, on a somewhat difficult-to-access island. But in my dream they were all there and looking very disappointed with me when I turned up late and missed the swim entirely, getting myself disqualified from the race.
It would be nice to say that eventually something clicked, like an alarm going off inside me or a legendary lightbulb moment illuminating the darkness I’d found myself in.
But it wasn’t like that at all. It was a tough, hard slog to keep getting myself out of the door to train. I had to go through the motions, zombie-style. And slowly each time it was less of a fight, until one day I realised I’d not had to beat down the demons at all.
I think it’s normal to question your motives along the journey, and to second-guess whether something is worth fighting for. Especially goals that take a long time to reach, increasing the likelihood that you become tired or immune to the usual ‘pep-talks’ you can give yourself. And even more especially when the goals can seem so frivolous and self-indulgent.
You’re not alone, though. I’m lucky that my massive ego assured me that I was not the only freak to doubt the potential benefits of continuing, but for those less blessed in the self-esteem department I hope that this story helps you.
I suppose if I walked away from Straddie, I’d have to walk away from the Noosa Tri as well. I would have to acknowledge that I’ve reached my limit. I’m not ready for that yet.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still terrified. I’m absolutely dreading getting into the sea at Straddie. I am nervous about everything, from the weather to our accommodation to my goggles to my performance. But it’s the normal kind of terror, that lets me know I’m doing something hard that is helping me to grow. I am braver and stronger for attempting this race. If I wasn’t nervous, it wouldn’t be worth it.
10 days to go!