I would be lying through my teeth if I told you that I am not excited, nervous, antsy, questioning my training, worried about forgetting something, concerned that I won't finish, will freak out during the open water swim, hurt myself this week, eat something bad, not eat enough, oversleep the morning of the race, not be able to sleep the night before the race, have car trouble on the drive there, start too fast on the swim.... I think you get the idea! But apparently that is all perfectly normal... which is a first for me!
Back in March of this year I challenged my Brother to compete in a Sprint Triathlon with me as a diversionary tactic to get us both motivated to improve our health and give us something to focus on besides the everyday events of our jobs and recent loss of our Dad... so we looked for a race that was halfway between Montgomery and Austin and that was in the late Summer or early Fall to give us time to train. We found the CajunMan in Lafayette, LA which is on 12 September and consists of an 800 yard swim, 20 mile bike and 5K run and is almost exactly halfway for each of us. I will confess this... I will never forget the moment I actually pushed the "SUBMIT" button on the registration page because I knew at that point that I was committed and there was no turning back. As I learned more about the race I found out that in the past they have donated portions of the proceeds to the American Brain Tumor Society which added another significance to the event having recently lost our Dad to brain cancer... it all seemed to fit together nicely and it was now a reality!
So... you know me... time to get my OCD tendencies to work for me on this one... find some books, become a member of online forums, subscribe to Triathlete magazine, build a spreadsheet (why?... because I can!), purchase a GPS watch, find an excuse to buy a new bike (Trek 2.1... to replace my 1987 Panasonic DX-3000... thank you very much!), get a shoe fit, buy a race belt, figure out what BodyGlide is all about, research wetsuits, join USAT, learn to train by tracking heart rate (back to the spreadsheet), learn how to swim competitively, etc.... HOLY CRAP... that was just Day 1!
After the initial overwhelming feeling and realization of what I had just signed up to do... I thought to myself... why on earth did you do this? This is actually going to require a lot of effort... never mind a couple thousand dollars (I blame the OCD)... but it is what it is at this point!
So I set out to start a "Couch to Sprint Triathlon" training plan and begin to talk with the folks in my office who do triathlons. Sara Santoski loans me her book full of training plans and I pick one that looks to fit the bill... then proceed to procrastinate for a few weeks. I eventually break out a calendar and work backwards on the plan to figure out when I need to start it. After we get settled in Prattville I begin the training... I once saw a triathlon bumper sticker that said "Fear the training... Not the race!" Turns out that is a pretty good moniker to live by! The initial training sessions in swimming and biking were really depressing as I was not in the physical shape my mind thought I was but the beauty of the plan was that it was designed to take you from the couch to a Sprint distance in 12 weeks and so I learned my first lesson the hard way... follow the plan... because over exertion leads to pain/injury which in turn leads to non-training. So I benched my ego and decided slow and steady would win the day!
Now an interesting thing happened along the way... as I began to train I started to see small victories along the way and the more I trained... the more I really started to enjoy it! Now I won't lie... I did miss a few workouts in the beginning for various reasons (all lame of course) but then I settled into stride and found myself actually looking forward to the training not dreading it and it became a mental thing of not missing one! The introduction of the Garmin 405 GPS watch with the ability to download training data WAS INCREDIBLE and I really began to analyze my workouts and correlate how I felt with what was recorded. This small thing allowed me to understand the physical cues my body sent my brain and I was able to train better giving more incremental improvements in each discipline without crossing the line leading to injury... technology is amazing!
Fast forward... week 12 of the plan... a light week in preparation of race day on Sunday! I had an amazing week of training last week and felt a turning point in my brain as I realized on Sunday that I can do it... I have been mentally positive the entire 12 weeks but there has always been that nagging doubt in the back of my head... I know I can complete each event individually... can I do them strung together??? I now feel I can and that has led to both excitement and anxiety... one thing is for sure though... I can hardly wait for the weekend!
One thing I have learned throughout this process is that you can certainly do it alone if you choose to... but having a coach/mentor/friend can really improve both your training and relieve some of the anxiety. I have the luxury of having a world class triathlete (Scott "Jonser" Jones) as both a life long friend and mentor whom I have nagged incessantly with newbie questions... all the while he is in the midst of his own training for Ironman Canada (Age Group winner) and Ironman Kona as well as running triathlon training camps for his athletes... yet he has never hesitated once to help me out! You see... Jonser started training me back in April of 1991... first to be a Patrol Plane Commander... then an Instructor Pilot... and today to complete my first Sprint Triathlon... for that I am forever grateful... thanks Jonser!
Race week... it is finally here... all of the sweat is about to be put to the test... I know one thing for sure... my Brother and I are ready... we have both put in the effort required to succeed... it is now time to execute! I am looking forward to crossing that finish line with my Brother and having the first one in the books... I plan on it being the first of many! Attitude trumps pain...