Monday, June 1, 2009

Fear and Mental Fragility.

"Fear is the strongest driving force in competition. Not fear of one's opponent, but of the skill and high standard he represents; fear, too, of not acquitting oneself well. In the achievement of higher performances, of beating formidable rivals, the athlete defeats fear and conquers himself." - Franz Stampfl

Last weekend I went down to Cambridge, MD to preview the Eagleman course. I didn't do this as any sort of physical "challenge" as I should, by now, be able to swim, bike, and run the distances necessary for the half ironman. In fact, I've done them all as stand alone so why did I travel down there?

I did this to help my sometime feeble mind get ready for the race. I fully expect there will be hard times during the race where I will be thinking of everything but racing as strong as I should be racing. That everything will no doubt include a fear of failure and I'm trying to position myself to combat that fear as I know it will come at some point. I also know I've done the training (at least most of it) and I am readier than I originally expected I would be (except for those extra pounds still stuck on my body). What I don't know is how to best handle the fear associated with not doing well or of the unknown.

I wasn't happy with my performance this past weekend. I had hoped to be able to bike faster and easier than I was able to when I biked the EM course. I had hoped to be able to run faster and easier off the bike and on the next day when I went for my longer run. I failed miserably on the swim dry-run (pun intended) firstly since I had to delay it (due to no fault of my own as the weather gods didn't cooperate yet again with thunder and lightening at the race site) and secondly when I had wetsuit issues with the zipper. When I asked one of the local park denizens for help with the zipper she kept commenting that I needed to suck in my gut (see poundage issue previously mentioned). I then ran out of time as I had to check out of the hotel to head back north. I also wasn't happy with how my body felt with the various aches and pains both during and after each workout.

Did I waste my time then? No, I don't think so. I learned some things that I believe will help fight the fear of failure by gaining some experiences and lessons learned that will help being better prepared come race day:

1) I didn't drink enough on the bike even with my new Profile Design Aqua Rack on the bike. I finished 2 water bottles and 1.5 Gatorade bottles but needed more. The 5 (yes 5) cold medium diet cokes afterwards did taste a little like heaven though...

2) I probably didn't eat enough either. 1 bar and 3 gels while in the bike. A bagel with PB&J for breakfast and the slice of banana bread, although it tasted good, probably wasn't the right choice.
3) Points 1 & 2 manifested themselves on the transition run when my quads cramped up for the first 1/2 mile. I kept going and they did loosen up so that helped.

4) I decided I needed to eat some Endurolytes as part of T2 whether I feel I need them or not to prevent cramping on the run.

5) My shirts were bothering me due to the heat so I will put a backup in the bag to provide options in part of T2.

6) The wind. This could be a chapter unto itself. It will be what it will be. I kept having the mental image of a survivor game seeing when someone will give up. I kept focusing on keeping going even though the survivor theme song kept going through my head again and again. Queue it: Da-Di-Da-Di-Daaaaaaa.

The next two weeks will be my taper. I somewhat jokingly have said that this one of the few things I do well in the triathlon world but I expect the key to be managing my mental state of mind as it swings from being ready to not ready, Rock Star to slug and back again. Hopefully it will end on Rock Star but each workout is an opportunity for it to swing either way.

I want to, as Stampfl says, defeat fear and conquer myself. It is all mental from here (or so I hope).

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