half ironman half shmironman. Or no comfort zones.

I’ve just come back to my computer on a rainy Tuesday.  After a failed workout.  I had 2 hours on the bike on hills in my schedule and woke up at 6 this morning determined to make it happen. Had breakfast, got dressed, got the bike packed into my car (not easy as it’s a mini) and headed about 10 miles away from here where rolling hills begin.  I waited for it to get light and found, to my dismay, that the day was grey.  As I got into my first mile I was very conscious that I had no lights on my bike or myself (although my jacket is a fairly luminous orange).  The second mile in I realised I was struggling to get out of my bike clips.  This is a permanent low-grade fear of mine – not being able to clip out – which can escalate quickly at any provocation.  This was such a provocation.  I talked myself down, out of the clips and got my toolkit out to see if I could loosen the clips.  Didn’t have the right size allen key (although my clips are already pretty low on their setting I still struggle to get out).  And I then proceeded to have a minor panic attack.  The hills I was intending to climb in this grey drizzle are pretty steep and the thought of not being able to get off my bike if it got too hard, combined with my fear that I was not visible enough in the drizzle due to not having any lights meant that I got on my bike, turned around, and headed back to my car.  Head hung in shame, but I couldn’t do this. 

I’m all for the cheesy inspirational quotes.  I love Oprah, I encourage others daily, I have a Lulumemon bag hanging on my wall to inspire me (“floss! Do something that scares you!”).  I believe in it – I believe in not getting too comfortable with what you already know, in constantly pushing on and beyond yourself. 

But in the last few weeks I have found myself, on a few occasions, sitting in my car in the same situation as this morning.  Panic struck.  Terrified. Close to tears.  Unable to move forward or ahead.

I hate the expression “comfort zone”.  But it’s very descriptive.  And I’ve spent so little time there in the past 6 months that I’m hyperventilating a little with all the “doing things that scare me”.  I feel I’ve done little but do things that scare me.  Doing the course in London terrified me.  It terrified me because I was nearly the oldest one there, and was afraid of being thought ridiculous for even thinking I could do this.  It terrified me because so much of the material we covered, practically and theoretically, was new to me.  Mostly it terrified me because becoming a personal trainer is something I want to do so much and doing something you want so much can be very scary – the thought of failing at something you really want is so much more scary than failing at something you don’t care about. 

But I did it.  I passed every subject, practical and theoretical, the first time round.  And I came home and thankfully my family was still there, they all survived without me around as much.  Home was, and is, very much a comfort zone.

But still the scary stuff continues.  Starting a new business? Scary.  And this half ironman training?  It’s entirely utterly terrifying.  What doesn’t help is that I am such a beginner at this.  Just working out my training schedule makes my head hurt.  Thankfully I have a coach who has been a huge help but my new training schedule is – you guessed it – scary. 

Most of the time I can pull myself together and tell myself to have faith.  To have faith that breaking down the elements I need to put my business in place will eventually result in me having a business.
To have faith that all the sessions in the gym, in the pool, out on the run and on the bike will eventually meld together into my being able to do this thing in September without collapsing on the course.  That spending time doing something that is so hard and so new to me will benefit me as a person, as a parent, as a wife and as a trainer.  Most of the time I find myself able to breathe in, to breathe out – to figure out how to break the problem into smaller, doable targets. 

What is my point here?  I guess that most of the time I try to “feel the fear and do it anyway”.  To fake it till I make it.  To break my challenge down into small manageable steps.  But sometimes, just sometimes – the big picture overwhelms me.  Sometimes I freeze in the face of all I have to conquer.  I don’t know what more to say about that – is it good or is bad?  It is what it is, I guess.

Today my new turbo trainer will arrive (courier willing).  Tonight I will set it up and tomorrow I will ride, indoors.  I won’t have to worry about unsurmountable hills for a little while, or dark mornings, or scary cars whooshing narrowly past me.  I will go to the pool and do my drills without worrying about the 1900m that await me in September. I will go out and run my tempo workout so hard tomorrow I won’t have a chance to worry about it. 

And I will go back to my inspirational quotes and use them as weaponry against my fear.  Here’s what Penelope Trunk said yesterday “no one is a failure in the middle of a big change. You can’t fail if you’re moving toward something. You fail only if you stop.” And I will keep reminding myself how great this felt, and how good it was.  Running was inconceivable 10 years ago.  Running Boston was inconceivable 5 years ago.  Who knows what I will have done 5 years from now?


5 thoughts on “half ironman half shmironman. Or no comfort zones.

  1. You know I love this. : ) Of course, I'm taking a second unscheduled rest day because the outside of my left knee aches and I'm not saying those four letters so you don't say them either.So don't ramp it up too much, fear or no fear. Sometimes you just have to catch the fear on an off day. It's easier to maim or kill when its not looking.

  2. What I love is your final line… Who knows what I will have done five years from now! RIGHT ON! Exactly…My first season of tri, when I was training for a 1/2 IM I signed up for without ever having even ever done a tri, I remember that Terrified feeling. Swimming in the open water… terrifying. The idea of 70.3 miles.. terrifying. But most of all, it was getting on that bike and riding it outside with clipless pedals. TERRIFYING. I couldn't sleep the night before a long ride I was so stressed out about it. But I made it! I did that half! and you will too!And it's been five years since then….! And if nothing else I can say that now… five years later…I don't get nervous about riding until the minute before I start. Then I get a little nervous, but it usually goes away and only returns when a car or truck or person or runner or bike or animal gets near me. 🙂

  3. Wow, it sounds like the universe was conspiring against you that morning. Your line "the thought of failing at something you really want is so much more scary than failing at something you don't care about." really struck me—I'm in the process of starting a business, too, and there are some days when the anxiety and the fear is just. too. much. to bear. I keep reminding myself that I'm just building new 'muscles' as I tackle each new, scary thing. Hang in there. You've got this.

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