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Reality check June 22, 2009

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling.

Iron Girl is THIS SUNDAY.  As in, there are no more Sundays between now and Iron Girl.  As in, there are six days until my first triathlon.  As in, at this time next week, I will be a triathlete.

The reality of the situation has been settling in for a while, actually.  Two weekends ago, we rode the Iron Girl Atlanta race course up at Lake Lanier.  Our coaches pointed out where the expo would be, where transition would be, where the run course would be, and, most importantly, where THEY would be, cheering us on!  That’s when it really hit me–I am going to DO this.

Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared me for the toughness of the Iron Girl cycling course.  I had heard from previous participants that it was VERY hilly, but I wasn’t terribly concerned–after all, I’ve been KILLING the uphills all season.  However, as anyone who’s graduated elementary school knows, what goes up MUST come down.  At the other side of the two biggest inclines of the course were two MASSIVE downhill stretches.  I freaked out, froze up, and ended up braking the entire way down (while hyperventilating and generally panicking).  Even my amazing coach’s encouragement couldn’t break through the fear.  It was like I was paralyzed.

I made it through the course, but I was pretty down on myself.  After all, that was the ACTUAL course–there would be no, “Oh, Iron Girl is nothing like this.”  I scheduled a time to go out to Stone Mountain and work on downhills with one of my friends/mentors.  Again, I panicked and froze and was unable to generate any speed at all.  It actually felt worse than it did at Lake Lanier, as the hills at Stone Mountain are more rolling and less shockingly steep (meaning that I should have been able to tackle them handily).  I was beginning to think that I just wasn’t meant for cycling, and that my love affair with triathlons was going to come to an untimely end.

Last Wednesday night, before swim practice, my coach and I were talking about my fear and how to get over it.  She said to me, “Betty, I am so frustrated that this is holding you back, because I SEE what a great athlete you are.”  She probably thought nothing of that statement, but it stopped me in my tracks–in my 29 years, no one has EVER used the word “athlete” to describe me, unless they were being sarcastic or trying to make fun of me.  I thought about that word the entire time I was in the pool, and I really started to understand that it DID apply to me.  No matter what happened in my past to make me insecure about my athletic abilities, I’ve been working my ass off to turn the tides and do something physically monumental for me.  I even started tearing up while I was swimming*–the comment really struck me in an unexpected and inspiring way.

After thinking a LOT (and typing a pretty emotional email to my coach), I decided that I needed to buck up and get over my hangups on the bike.  Sure, saying it isn’t necessarily enough to make it happen (if it is, poof, I need a million dollars in my wallet), but I knew I could push through at least a little bit and show my coaches and myself that I was capable of making progress.  After our open-water swim on Saturday, we headed to Cartersville to ride.  My coach stayed with me on the shorter course (about 14-16 miles) and worked with me on bike handling, cadence, and stability.  And lo and behold, after a few miles and some zen internal chanting, I managed to go down some hills without braking–and I even hit about 24 miles per hour at one point, which was a new land-speed record for me.  😉  Even though I know I won’t be barrelling down the Iron Girl hills at 50+ mph, I feel a LOT more confident in my cycling abilities.  I know that however fast I go, I’ll be much more comfortable–which means I’ll have much more fun!

Did I mention that Iron Girl is in less than a week?  EEK!!!!

* Oh, by the way, I swam a continuous 1500 meters that night–and it felt GREAT!!!



1. getsmartgetstrong - June 20, 2010

I love this. I too had problems going from being morbidly obese to an athlete – and I know it is from last year – but I want to know the rest of the story!

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