Photograph of lake copyright Ben Mizen - BMiz https://flic.kr/p/fTYzCs

Doubts

I am writing this the morning after the Brownlees’ took gold and silver at the Rio 2016 Olympics. In two days I will be completing in my own Olympic distance triathlon. I am under no illusion that I will be completing that in somewhat more time than the superhuman times that the brothers do. But I will be giving it my all.
Three days ago I was in a different place, I had a different mindset. I decided that I really needed to swim in a lake with the wet-suit on, and daft cap aloft, before the big day. I had been swimming 1 – 1 ½ kilometres in the pool so although not my favourite part of the the tri I knew I would complete it. However I had not experienced the lake and so felt I should do it. It worked out that I should have done it a lot earlier. The moment I entered the lake everything felt wrong, doubts rose up in me. I pushed them down, I was in the correct kit, I swam, this was not a problem. The doubts continued to bubble away down there somewhere. I swam around a short circuit, perhaps one hundred metres. It was hard, much harder than I had expected, the doubts rose again. I pushed them away with a quick exchange of bravado with the lifeguard, and headed towards the big circuit. The rhythm was out, the environment was different, my breathing was all over the place, this was not going to work. Reaching the first buoy I decided I was not going to make it and so looped around and headed back towards the shallows. The guard read this as me needing help and so headed out towards me in the canoe to drag me in. My humiliation was complete. I left the water confused and defeated. Steve, the operator of the lake, encouraged me to do some shorter loops, offering advice and encouragement. I did a couple of short laps in much the same manner and then left with my doubts and fears intact and reinforced.
I emailed my running companion Hilmar about the swim.

…It is seriously different to the pool and I now have big concerns that I could do 1k… …I may have to be sensible and make a call about doing the novice or postponing all together. The cycle and run I am ready for so they are not a problem, but the open water is very challenging.

Himlar did not respond by email, but instead called, to encourage me. ‘I am sure you can do it, it can’t be that different, let’s go again Thursday and see how we do.’ So we did, Hilmar left work early and met met me at the lake. I entered with some trepidation remembering Steve’s advice, but this time the short loop felt better. The pace was more appropriate, my breathing was smooth, even the crocodile eyes were working. I tried a bigger loop, the same experience. Hilmar had ignored the small loops and gone of swimming the big loop, even though by his own confession he had done way less training than I had. So I started out on the big loop. Reaching the first buoy, I turned and headed for the second and completed three loops. I had completed the distance I would need to complete, where were the doubts, what was so different today compared to Tuesday? I left the lake with a fresh mindset and mindset that said we can do this.

I joked with Hilmar on the way home that this experience had sermon written all over it. Here I am on a journey preparing for the prize of completing my first triathlon, and the lessons I was learning could be mapped directly to my life journey and goals. Just a few that come to mind from my experience this week:

  • People can look the part but still have doubts and fears.
  • The mind is a powerful tool which can propel you or paralyse you on the journey. Be careful what you feed it, and what you allow others to feed it.
  • Journeying in community is key to reaching the end.
  • Setbacks are part of the journey, not a reason to stop.
  • Planning and preparation may not be all you need, but they are important.
  • Listen to those who have journeyed down the same road before you.

I am sure there are more learning points, and they could all have their own blogs written about them. But for now I shall take another lesson and reflect upon that in my greater journey. That would be the fact that I have not yet actually done the tri, and yet have already learnt so much that I can use in my day-to-day journey. So we don’t’ need to have reached the goal, before reflecting and using what we have learn’t. Journey well, and reflect as you go.
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Blatant piece of promotion: You can still sponsor me for the tri at: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/maxcross

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Photograph of lake copyright Ben Mizen – BMiz https://flic.kr/p/fTYzCs

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