Swim: 3,000 m/99,745 m
Bike: 0/1,034.8 miles
Run: 6/315.3 miles
As I settled comfortably into bed last night, some random thought lit a fuse in my brain and, before I could tamp it out, an uncontrollable wave of fear about my upcoming Olympic triathlon exploded into my consciousness.
There have been smaller moments of “What have I gotten myself into?” over the course of the season, but last night it all seemed to come crashing home. I only have six weeks before this race, and I’m feeling wholly unprepared. With my life schedule, six weeks essentially translates into six weekends available for the long brick workouts that will build my fitness and confidence before the race. And every Saturday between now and then is dedicated to a long run as part of my half-marathon training plan. And I work on Saturdays, so adding a bike brick to those long, hard runs would be driving myself to a point of exhaustion on those days that I just can’t afford.
I think the thing that worries me the most is the swim. I have no doubt that I can get through 1,500 meters in the river. Likewise, I know I can ride 26 miles at a decent pace and then run 6 miles immediately afterward. But all three in a row? I just worry that the swim is going to take it all out of me. 30-40 minutes is a long time to swim in a river, both in terms of physical effort as well as the mental drain of knowing that I will be swimming for so long with a bike and a run waiting for me when I hit the shore.
I also worry about fueling enough during the race. I am considering purchasing a “fuel box” that attaches to the bike’s top bar just behind the handlebars where I can store some solids such as Shot Bloks. I also have a single bottle that I will fill with a sports beverage like Nuun (which I just ordered). But I wonder if that single bottle will be enough? I need to figure out what the course support will offer, although I don’t remember hearing about anything on the bike course.
And speaking of the bike course, I need to find a time to pack up my gear and my family and head out to the race location, which is more than an hour from my home. It’s imperative that I check out the course beforehand so I can formulate a race strategy – when to push and when to hold back. I’d love to see it twice, but I just don’t know if there will be time for that.
I guess these are common fears faced by any athlete approaching a longer-distance race. Am I fit enough? Will I have the proper nutrition? What if it’s 1000 degrees or pouring rain on race day? I hear the bike course is hilly – have I been doing enough hill training? It’s easy to say “trust your training,” but when the training has been just what I can fit in around my regular life I begin to question my readiness. I haven’t been working with a coach or setting and meeting specific training goals each week. I will probably never train in all three sports on the same day in the next six weeks, so I will always be wondering about my readiness.
In the plus column, I look back to the 3-hour, 52-mile ride from last weekend and take confidence from the fact that I still felt strong at the end. I tell myself that the longer, harder runs that are part of my half-marathon training are a big help because of the length and intensity of those sessions, even though they only include running. I can formulate my nutrition plan in advance and iron out the wrinkles during longer workouts in the next few weeks. And there are, after all, still six weeks in which I can get in some longer bricks.
There’s no doubt that I can get through this triathlon, but I haven’t been putting in all of this physical and mental effort this year to just finish. I want to finish strong. I’m not even sure what that means, time-wise. I know how well I could complete each leg independently, but putting them all together can be an entirely different story, as I have discovered in the past.
These thoughts kept me up for a solid hour last night. When I started to drift from performance anxiety to worries about what clothes I would wear during the race, I knew my mind was getting the better of me. The best I can do is to just keep doing what I can. And to remember the most important lesson from my second triathlon – I’m doing this because it’s fun. Right?