I was registered for my first Sprint Triathlon in Long Boat Key, Florida. I was thoroughly confident with the running and cycling portions. However, I was concerned about the swim even for a short distance like 400 meters. Nevertheless, I felt ready. I had been training in a pool two days a week and even did an occasional swim in the ocean to replicate an open water experience. Prior to race day, I even checked out the lagoon where I was to be doing the swim.
On race day, I felt nervous but ready. The water looked calm. The brightly colored buoys made the whole thing seem festive and fun. As we entered the lagoon, I sunk into the muck. I was OK with that. What I wasn't prepared for was the blackness of the water. I was used to the clear pool with its blue lines I followed. I wasn't prepared for the sun blinding me as it bounced off the water. What I was most unprepared for was the 200 other individuals trying to go where I wanted to go! The flurry of kicking feet, bobbing heads and moving hands seemed to be coming at me in all directions. It wasn't long before I was I was frozen in a panic.
I tried to make it to the first buoy with a combination of a side-stroke and weak doggy paddle but something in me was locked up. Fear. Withdraw. I'll never know but as I saw the line of swimmers moving fast and forward I knew I was going nowhere. I wasn't in a complete panic and knew enough to wave over the volunteer with a board who got me to shore. I was done and I was crushed.
Once I got myself together, my wife helped me come to some important realizations. (Don't tell her but I really do appreciate the calm logic she brings to a situation). What I learned from this experience applies to any major endeavor we undertake whether it’s launching a venture, doing our best at work or home - and of course if you love tackling endurance events. Here are my takeaways from my epic fail:
- Admit your mistakes and learn from them: My mistake was making a 2/3 commitment. I was 100% prepared with running and cycling. I didn't dedicate nearly enough time to learning about open water swimming and the training required. Professional ventures are almost always multi-faceted. Make sure you dedicate the appropriate amount of time to every piece.
- Take a little time to grieve and then move forward: For at least 4 hours after, I pouted like a four-year-old. Then I went for a mind-clearing run. After that, I could focus on learning from what happened. Figure out what you unwind mechanism is, do it and then figure out how you'll moved ahead.
- Observe and then Copy Success: My wife had some valuable observations. Her keenest one was that was that I had never been to a triathlon or witnessed one. No doubt, if I had watched one or two and had a better idea how things started I would have been better prepared. Again, in a work setting, you can get experience through mentoring, listening to industry leaders and of course, reading.
- Know the options and resources available to you: One of my biggest frustrations was that I had never quit a run or ride and I realized why. I’d built up a series of tools and tricks I used when I was struggling. During a marathon, if I’m spent, I can walk, refuel, talk to runners for motivation and the list goes on. Not only didn’t I have prior experience, I hadn’t taken the simple but smart step of getting similar tips from others that had successfully completed a triathlon.
- Invest in professional coaching: The professional coaching industry seems to be one of the fastest growing industries these days. This quote from a book called Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly sums it up best:
I’m thrilled to have started work with coach Angie Ferguson and her group called Geared Up (http://www.gearedup.biz/ if you’re interested) and it’s exciting to see results already! Whether you want to be a better professional, parent, friend, spouse, or athlete there’s a coach out there for you. They range from free to accredited professionals. Trust me -- it will make a huge difference .
Looking forward to sharing the lessons of a very difference triathlon experience soon….