March 30, 2012

Staring Fear Down

A few weeks ago, I heard something on the radio that I've been thinking about ever since. I forget who said it, or even which station I heard it on (although I suspect it was on the Oprah Channel on XM), but someone said "right now, there are people making plans for tomorrow, not realizing that for them, tomorrow won't come." It really hit home for me. We never know what tomorrow brings. A few weeks ago, my brother-in-law's mother died suddenly. A few years ago, my 16 year old cousin was killed in a car crash. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

When I was a little girl, probably about 8 or 9 years old, my family lived in Houston. One day we went to the beach (Stewart Beach) and a new waterslide had been put in. My parents offered for both me and my younger sister (she is two years younger) to go on it. I had never been on a waterslide before, and really wanted to, but I was scared. My sister ended up going on it---alone--while I stayed back with my parents behind the fence. As I watched her through the fence sliding down the chute on her little mat, I felt a harsh pang of regret. I wanted to do it, too. Of course, by that time, it was too late. I had let fear rule me. A few years later, I had the opportunity to go on a waterslide again, and went. Of course, I loved it.

I don't want to live my life in fear. Fear shouldn't stop me from doing something I want to do. I have no clue what tomorrow will bring. I don't want to live with regret. I don't want to be one of those people saying "I could have done this, I should have done that, I would have done it.". Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

To that end, yesterday I swallowed my fear and signed up for my first half-Ironman distance (70.3) triathlon.

As I am oft heard to say in real life: Oh. Em. Gee!

Back in January, I wrote a post about my 2012 goals. In it, I wrote about my fears doing a 70.3 distance. After I wrote it, I decided not to pursue the half-ironman distance; I would stick to Olympic-distance and sprints. Two weeks ago I was supposed to do an Oly (my second) but that got canceled. As recently as a few days ago I was all set to sign up for a few sprints and do an Oly in August; that would be my triathlon race schedule for the year.

Then Wednesday, when I opened my email, I got an email that would change the course of this year. I get Schwaggle deals daily (these are similar to Groupon and LivingSocial, but geared toward athletes). The Schwaggle deal of the day was 40% off the SuperFrog 70.3 triathlon, the one that I had been looking at. It dropped the price from $195 to $117, which was cheaper than the Oly I was thinking of doing this summer. I waffled back and forth for a day, partially paralyzed by fear....and yesterday I bought the deal and signed up.

I'm registered! I am officially in training for the SuperFrog 70.3 Triathlon, which is exactly 6 months from today on September 30. It's a 1.2 mile ocean swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run. This is not an Ironman-brand race; rather, it's a hard-core event put on by those tough, amazing Navy SEALS. Per their website:

This race-course is not for the faint of heart. The swim course is a two-loop open ocean water swim in the brisk September waters. There will be multiple wave starts that will be set 5-10 minutes apart. The water temperature will be approximately 60 degrees. Wetsuits are recommended. Next, the bike course is a flat and fast 56mile bike ride of four loops on Highway 75. Safety certified RIGID helmets are required for the bike portion of the race. You will NOT be allowed to race without a helmet. And lastly, the run course is a 13.1mile course is a combination of soft sand, hard-packed sand, and hard pavement. The run is made up of two 6.6mile loops. Water will be available at all aid-stations (4 per loop). Any racer who fails to complete any part of the swim, bike and run loops will be disqualified.

I am nervous enough about the distance, but seeing how tough it's going to be is freaking me out! I read tons of race reports and everyone, from elite athletes to average age-groupers, talk about how tough it it. The swim is a double-looped ocean swim. All my triathlons to date have been in bays. I have never had to content with getting through waves and swimming with currents. The bike will have a strong headwind one way (and therefore a strong tailwind the other way) for four loops. And the run? Several miles of it are on SAND. Yes, sand. Sand is so hard for me to run on!

The other thing I am scared about is the time cutoff. Most 70.3 (at least Ironman-branded) have an 8 1/2 hour time limit. This race has an 8 hour cutoff. I'm just not sure I can do this in 8 hours. I'm estimating an hour for the swim (my Oly swim time was 40 minutes, and this swim is not too much longer, but the waves and current should set me back, so I'm padding my estimated time). I'm estimating 4 hours on the bike (1 lap of this same course took me 55 minutes in a sprint triathlon I did, although that was a year ago, and I should be stronger and faster now, especially with my new clipless pedals). And while most half marathons take me between 2:30 and 2:45, I am estimating 3 hours, since I will be exhausted from the swim and bike, plus the sand running will be horrific. That adds up to 8 hours right there---it could even be longer depending on how tired I am--and that doesn't even include transitions!

Of course, I could surprise myself and be much faster. I just want to give myself a lenient estimate. And, even if I finish in under 8 hours---that is 8 HOURS OF CONSTANT MOVING! How exhausting!

I emailed one of the race directors, and asked if the 8 hour time limit was strict. I got an answer right away.

The time limit for the SUPERFROG Triathlon is 8 hours. Our main concern is that Hwy 75 must be re-opened by 1:00pm. This means that you must be able to complete the swim/bike portions of the event in 6 hours. While we do try to enforce the 8 hour event time limit- if you have completed most of the run by the 8 hour cut-off, we will still allow you to finish the event........If you still have a few miles (3,4,5?) You will definitely not be swept from the course. At that point, you will be on the run course (which is not part of the Hwy that has to close). If you are still on the bike course at that time- we will have to pull you off the course.

I was also informed that the slowest time last year was 8:06.

So, here are my two fears, and how I'm addressing them:

1) I am afraid of coming in last. Well, this may very well happen. In fact, I'm expecting to come in last place. But I really don't care. By the time I cross the finish line, I will have swam, biked and ran 70.3 miles. I am not in competition with ANYONE except myself. I will be so proud just to finish, last or not.

2) I am afraid of training for six months and being so slow that I get pulled. After reading the those emails, however, I don't think that would happen. At the 8 hour mark, I should be done, or close to done. Heck, even if I'm 5 miles out (an hour or so) it seems they'll still let me finish. But if worse comes to worst and I'm pulled, it'll be okay. I'd be sad, and really bummed, but if I train hard, and do my best on race day, that's all I can ask of myself. I can only do my best, which I will do.

The kicker is that I am registered to do a half marathon the weekend after this huge race. If it were a local race, I'd blow it off---but it's the Portland Half Marathon, a race I'm doing with my dear friend Krista (I convinced her to do her first half marathon with me!) and I really want to do it. My new plan is to take it easy the week between---lots of rest, compression, massage, and ice---and on race day in Portland just run easy, have fun, and not worry about pace at all. After Portland, I am racing AT ALL until January, so I will have lots and lots of time to rest and recover from the 70.3 and the half marathon after that.

So, I'm officially in training for my first 70.3! What I need to concentrate most on is increasing my bike mileage. To date, my longest ride was about 32 miles, and that was last summer. I need to be able to ride for hours. I don't need to increase my swims too much, as I can do 2500-3000 yards already, but I need to practice swimming in the ocean and dodging waves. I also intend on signing up for a sprint triathlon this summer that's in the ocean to give me some extra practice. And while I don't need to increase my running (I'm already in training for several half marathons) I do need to practice running on sand. And, of course, I need to do bricks. Lots and lots of long bricks (doing a long bike ride followed by a long run).

Thank you for being on this journey with me. I have exactly six months to train, fret, worry, and get excited. I WILL do this distance. I will NOT let fear stop me. I will climb to the top of my proverbial waterslide--and gleefully ride down.


  1. Girl, I will come in last with you, well, not THERE where you are, but here in the one I'm doing on Sept 15th! Don't let those silly fears get to your head! Keep focused on the training, you will finish!
    I'm so happy you registered!

  2. I believe you can do it!! Happy training!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I'm seriously excited for you! And this was a fantastic post. You are so right, you just never know what tomorrow will bring so just go for it! And I bet you will do much better than you think. I don't think you will have any problem with the 8 cut off.

    And by the way, I just found Schwaggle recently and love it! As well as Groupon and all the others.

  5. omg good luck! I haven't been able to bring myself to commit to a 70.3 yet because of the swim. Maybe next year. :)

  6. You are gonna do good !! ROOTING FOR YA !!

  7. You are so amazing Sugar! You can do it. I look up to you! You are a strong triathlete! Just keep repeating to yourself "I am STRONG! I can do this! I AM STRONG!!! I CAN DO THIS!" Good luck!

  8. You are going to do amazing things out there!! Don't let those seeds of doubt cloud your true abilities.
    Always Remember: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard! You WILL NOT be last! :)


I love to read your comments!