There is the slight whiff of fear in the air as I have just realised that the half Ironman distance triathlon in Zurich that we signed up for over a year ago is but two weeks away.
As with many novice triathletes, the thing that is causing me the most anxiety is envisaging the watery gauntlet before I can get on my trusty bike and onto more familiar territory (land). Swimming to me is a real mental block and I am so aware that I have had half a year to train for this event and severely neglected to go to the pool often enough. I should also add that I have yet to locate a suitable wetsuit and practice some lake swimming to get a feel for the water temperature and the sensation of being slightly more buoyant.
This will be my second triathlon. My first was a much shorter course at the Hever Castle Tri where the swim was only 800 metres and even then I felt really, really slow. Again, with the mental block, looking over the course and vast expanse of water is a psychological battle and I wonder if I can physically get to the end.
This all means that, with two weeks to go and with little chance of suddenly unleashing my inner mermaid, I am going to have to rely on pure grit and mental stamina to get through the 1.9km course and avoid any contact with the safety canoe. Seeing as I haven’t got my body ready for the event – I am going to have to rely on my brain alone and this is how I’ll do it.
Write some race goals: A friend of mine who is a successful long-distance runner says that she
always sets focus points for a race she is nervous about. Mine will be to focus on pacing myself to complete the swim course and envisage myself climbing out of the water in one piece. Running is the discipline I am most experienced and comfortable in so my focus point will be getting off the bike, slipping into my trainers and pacing the way to 13.1 miles. Then beer.
Prepare a plan and try and stick to it: A race like this with three stages and more kit than I can shake a stick out of will require a good race plan. I need to know what my strategy is going into it so that I can stay fuelled throughout and also not have to spend half an hour in transition. Having a written representation of how I anticipate the race will go will be an advantage – even if it all goes tits up and I don’t stick to it, it will still be a good exercise to settle nerves and know what to expect.
Remember I’m not a pro athlete: I sometimes forget that I am an amateur athlete and as such, as cliche’d as this goes, even taking part is a triumph. My expectations aren’t too high like they were in the London Marathon (which ended in disappointment). Even completing this distance will be a first and will be amazing. If I come last – as much as my pride will suffer, at least I tried.
Remember this isn’t the first sufferfest I’ve endured: Last month I cycled 320km in one go on the London to Paris 24 hr sportive (blog post coming soon). Doing this was probably the best mental preparation I could have done because it proved to myself that I can last the duration of a tough challenge and live to tell the tale. At any low points in the half Ironman, I will remember that.