Monday, September 07, 2015

Panic at the Canadian

I signed up to do the Super Sprint Triathlon at The Canadian a week before the race. My original plans were to do my first open water Sprint Tri in August and the second one at The Canadian but those plans got derailed when I injured my knee while mountain biking in early July. The wound is not quite fully healed yet and I will have a nice big scar to show for it and probably quite a bit of scar tissue under it! When I fell, I also injured my tibiofibular joint and this has kept me from running all summer.

My training for this race was some easy road cycling and many kilometres of harder mountain biking - harder in the hill climbing department moreso than the technical aspect of it. No running or swimming since June. I figured I would have no problem doing the Super Sprint and it would be nice to do a race just for the fun of it.

On race morning, I woke up in a good mood. I was super excited to do this race! I was a little too confident in my ability to have a good race, I think, because the swim put me back in my place. The men were starting 5 minutes ahead of the women so we stood behind them as they got ready to go. My problems started right there and then: I was standing in weeds and they were freaking me out a little. The ground was very mushy and the weeds were everywhere, touching my legs and body. I was trying not to have more than one foot touching the ground at a time, and I could tell I wasn't the only one feeling this way: most women were grossed out.

The horn finally went off and off we went. The second I put my face in the water, I was hit with the biggest panic attack you can imagine. My heart rate was through the roof and my brain stopped working. All there was was fear - irrational fear, I know, but uncontrollable fear nonetheless. I turned on my back because I felt I was going to drown if I tried to keep my face in the water. Once on my back, I told myself to breathe deeply, to just keep moving, to feel the wonderful freshness of the water on this hot day. I managed to lower my heart rate quite a bit with those thoughts, but my hands would get tangled up in the weeds every couple of meters and I would get unsettled again. It's been hard for me to swim on my back since the concussion - it throws off my balance and makes me a bit nauseous, but in that case, I had no other option. Eventually, I got to a spot where I didn't feel any more weeds and I decided to try doing a bit of breast stroke. I made it 10-12 meters before I freaked out again. Back to square one, I couldn't breathe, I was terrified, I could not think straight. I turned on my back again, focusing on just making it through the swim. This was the longest 200m of my life. I have wanted to quit at least a dozen times, but I willed myself to just keep moving and it would end. The tears were welling up in my eyes and I told myself to keep it together, that I had faced worst things in my life and that I could make it through. I told myself I was brave and I was so proud of me for pushing through.

It's a miracle, but I did make it through the swim.

When my friends saw me at the swim exit, I looked like shit. They got worried because I wasn't my usual happy self.

As I approached the T-zone, I got pissed. Really pissed. I was disappointed about how things rolled and I was in a terrible mood. I passed the OTC tent and everyone cheered for me, but I could barely smile at them!

I got to my transition area and someone had dropped their towel on my stuff. I grabbed the towel and threw it as far as I could. Some of my rage left my body thanks to that inconsiderate person who didn't care about putting their stuff on mine. T1 was fast - I was 37/37 out of the water but my swim time, which includes T1, says I was 29/37.

I applied the advice given by coach Geordie during my bike: use the bike as a warm-up for the run. My initial plan was to treat the bike like a 20K time trial, but his words made a lot of sense: I had to keep some gas in the tank for the run. I gave a steady effort, but didn't go all out. Interestingly, I managed a 25 kph average speed (same as what I did at the Early Bird in May when I pushed really hard on the bike) with that strategy. I was pissed for the first 8K of the bike, the bad feelings from the swim didn't want to leave!! 19/37 on my arrival in the T-zone for T2. I'm very pleased with being in the middle of the pack on my strongest sport.

T2 was smooth and uneventful. The run was hard. Not only had I not run all summer, but it was almost noon by the time I started the run and it was very hot and humid. My asthma was flaring up big time and I wished I had brought my puffer
with me on the run. I was still in a somewhat crabby mood, and gave myself objectives: you run until that house, you can stop and walk after you pass that cone, you gotta start running again once you run by that sign, etc. It worked really well for me. There were a lot of water stations, the course being an out and back, and I was properly hydrated and refreshed the whole time. Before I knew it, I reached the 4K mark. I decided to focus all my anger in this kilometre to give me the strength to finish strong. There's no shortage of reasons for me to be angry considering the year I just had, haha, and by the time I passed my friends again 500m or so from the finish line, I was all anger. It fuelled every step and kept me going.

More cheers from the OTC gang, a great smile from a volunteer and the finish line was in sight. There was nothing left in my legs, but I didn't want to walk, so I focused on Joe who was at the finish line taking pictures.

Another miracle - I made it across the finish line.

This race was the toughest I have ever done. My body was undertrained but it could handle the distances without problems, but my mind was not ready to face such a massive panic attack and it tired me out. I am very proud of myself for facing the panic and making the best I could in the circumstances. I was terrified and it brought out the brave side of me. I see good things in my future and I can't wait to make them happen.