Bike, Life, Triathlon

Pedaling Past the Fear

This Saturday was the Fort Lauderdale Triathlete’s ride on Hector’s Tour to Inspire.  As I mentioned in my last post, I was terrified of going to this event as it was a one hour group ride and I had never ridden with a group before.  At some point or another, you have probably seen a group ride.  When I see them out and about, I always watch in awe as dozens of riders move like one large wave.  It reminds me of the way birds fly together in unison.  The riders always look so fluid.  All I could picture was this graceful fluid motion with some Mr. Bean like character at the tail end of the group flailing about like some idiot.  That idiot would be me, or so I pictured.   My wonderful hubby tried to convince me otherwise.  He really pushed me to go.  I thought about it and decided I would show up, but prepared to just listen to Hector speak.  That was what meant most to me.

I pulled into the parking lot with a lump in my throat.  I was kind of frozen in my car.  I had to bring myself back to my strategy of choosing one small thing to just move forward.  I decided I would just get out and at least meet everyone.  I could always just join in the run.  I walked up to a gentleman in a Fort Lauderdale Triathlete kit and introduced myself.  He just so happened to be the person I spoke with on the phone.  I said “I brought my bike, but I’m thinking I will just try for a couple of miles and if anything, I’ll drop off the group and turn back around to meet you guys for the run.”  He said that was fine, but that he figured on a newer group hanging back a little so they didn’t plan on dropping anyone.  I was doing my best not to be a nervous wreck at this point.  I turned around and Hector was there so we introduced ourselves and chatted about various things until others started arriving.  The group was surprisingly small.  I felt much more comfortable, but still terrified. They weren’t as intimidating as I expected.  We got together for a quick group shot.

Just before we were about to head out, this group of what seemed like a dozen or so riders whipped into the parking lot.  Ah, that’s that intimidated feeling I was expecting.  There was no way I would ever keep up with these guys!  It was like out of one of those movies where the cool kids in their leather jackets drive in on their motorcycles and do donuts around the less cool kids, except these guys were decked out in their FL Tri kits and peeled in on way cool tri bikes.  Man, I’m a geek.  The other difference was, while these guys were totally cool, they were really nice salt of the earth people.  Introductions were quick and they chatted about how they planned to do somewhere around 20 mph.  The lump in my throat grew more by the moment.  We split into two groups, the speed demons (as I would call them) and a somewhat slower group.

We started out and our less aggressive group consisted of another woman named Christina, a woman whose name escapes me at the moment, Matt and Norman.  We got going and I was doing ok keeping up.  I was like a kid on a carnival ride.  I was terrified but probably had the biggest goofiest grin on my face.  I’d say about 15 minutes in, I realized I hadn’t started my Garmin and I definitely wanted stats on this ride so I hit the button and figured some data is better than no data.  I realized about 30 minutes in that I had a death grip in my handlebars and need to relax a little.  Norman was amazing.  He was my wing man, and my coach and motivator.  He told me I was doing really well, almost exactly when I needed to hear it.  I told him I really needed to work on my turns as I was turning way wide, which could be bad if traffic was around.  He gave me some tips, which I applied to our next turn and felt pretty good about it.  He told me I’d look like a pro in no time.  I really started to feel it about 45 minutes into the ride.  The two leading ladies seemed to decide to really crank it but then I realized that they were probably going the same speed, I was just getting tired.  I really admired the one woman, she had a really sleek tri bike and amazing calves.  The back of her knees and legs looked like two muscular babies smiling at you.  Yeah, you  pictured that right.  I was super relieved when I saw the plaza ahead.  Matt said I did really well considering it was my first group ride.  I was on cloud nine.  I had completed my first group ride free of crashes and I kept up with the group, the slower group at least.  Now, if only my legs would work for the run.  After that ride, I wasn’t sure they would!

We headed out for the usual Runner’s Depot course, which starts of with running up and over an overpass.  I was not looking forward to that.  I pushed hard, but wasn’t sure I could run a full 5k at this point.  Luckily, after a little over half a mile, the group decided to turn back for sake of time.  Oh boy, back over the overpass.  I really wanted to walk at that point but I was able to push past the pain and make it back to the store without walking.  I was completely beat and starving.  The  Einstein’s store in the plaza had set up some bagels for us so that was awesome.  I dove right into that.  After everyone chowed down and wiped off, we went inside for Hector’s talk.

Hector started off by telling us who he was.  A husband, father, triathlete, real estate agent, actor, etc. and then he ended the description with “oh, and I am a double arm amputee.”  He says the reason he ends with that, is because it is not what he wants to define him.  He went on to tell his story.  He lost his arms, one near the shoulder and the other just below the elbow, in a work accident when he was 26 years old.    Listening to him, you can just feel his energy and zest for life.  This is someone who had every opportunity to feel sorry for himself.  To complain, to lie down, to give up.  He decided that he would not lose the rest of his life lingering in misery, but embrace this as a challenge like none he has ever faced.  He had to relearn how to do everything over again, this time without arms.  Triathlon was just another challenge that he decided to face and conquer.  He has ridden thousands of miles, across various states to help bring some joy to children struggling with illness or injury.

I cannot thank my hubby enough for really pushing me to ride at this event.  I would have probably gone to hear Hector speak anyway, but it was that much more impactful after having pushed myself past fear.  I felt like I really lived life to the fullest in those moments.  This is something I want to try to do more often.  This is something I challenge anyone reading this to do.  Think of just one thing that you want to do, but might be afraid of doing and go for it.  I have said before that I think of the worst case scenarios way too often, and that is true, but I am doing my best to recognize that the worst case scenario is rare.  Risking that scenario in comparison to the feeling you get when you do something amazing is well worth it.  It was a great day filled with lots of laughs and some great new people I hope to call friends.  We parted ways and I told them I couldn’t wait to do it again.  That’s great, because there’s a ride next weekend, they said……… oh boy!

Bike, Life, Triathlon

Yes Colonel Sanders, I AM Chicken

I often wonder how many other people think the way I do, fear things the way I do.  I have said before that in nearly every situation, my mind always processes the worst case scenarios.  Maybe there is something wrong with my medulla oblongata (yes, that’s a Waterboy reference there).  It happens without me even realizing it, and has probably kept me out of trouble now and then, but sometimes it’s not very beneficial.  It can work against me, becoming a fear that I struggle with.  Sometimes I can overcome that fear easily, other times, not so much.

I have found that I am really good at convincing myself to not do, or try something.  I can quickly justify avoiding any given situation if I am afraid of it.  I have my own special brand of crazy where even I begin to believe my own excuses.  I think a lot of it is stubbornness.  I talk the talk, but sometimes have trouble walking the walk.  I know that failure is good, but it’s certainly not the outcome I want.   I know that every time I fail, I learn from it.  I gain from it.  I know that I want to instill that value in my son.  I want him to be ok with failure, and I want him to embrace it.  When I fail, I make a point of trying to embrace it, but I don’t want to fail.  I also know that at the root of many of my fears, it’s the fear of failure that is stopping me.

A prime example is the triathlon swim group that Gary (The Stroke Doctor) told me to join.  I wrote about it in one of my past blog posts.  I told him I would join as soon as I felt like I could keep up.  He laughed and asked why I would wait to get good, to join a group that is supposed to help me get good.  He point blanked me, and was totally right.  Have I joined yet? Nope.  I keep swimming solo.  All these little signs have been popping up pushing me to join his group.  My local pool membership was coming due.  I told myself I would join his group if it weren’t for the fact that I already had a credit on file to pay for my renewal.  (This would be one of those awesome excuses of mine.)  I went to use my credit that was supposed to be on file, only to find that it was no longer on file.  They had applied it to my son’s summer camp registration.  It was the perfect opportunity!  Did I take advantage of that? Nope, I just paid the dues and swam on my own.  There have also been a few times when I arrived at the pool and it was too full.  I have no intentions of sharing a lane with a bunch of kiddos that will overtake me.  If I swam with the group, there would always be availability.  Other times, my pool has been closed to the general public because they are hosting a swim meet.  I keep making excuses.  The pool is a further drive, so I would be taking too much time for my family, etc.

The truth is, the swim itself scares me.  Let alone when I am being told to execute a certain number of yards with a group of people and someone watching on.   I am afraid that I will come to find out that I am just not cut out for this swimming stuff, which means I am not cut out for triathlon and that would break my heart.  I keep surviving the triathlon, but I want to really do well in one.  It’s a catch 22 for me.  I either struggle now in forcing myself to be uncomfortable and join this group, or I struggle at my next tri when I am again fighting to survive the swim.  So far, I am staying in my current comfort zone, but have told myself that after my CPT test I will have more time and consider it.  Yeah, that is what I am waiting for.  That sounds good to me.

This weekend there is an even with the Fort Lauderdale Triathletes that I would love to attend, but probably won’t.  You see I joined FL-Tri club a few months ago, but have yet to attend anything they have done.  Why?  Well, because I am scared, I guess.  That’s probably the most simplified way to put it if I am honest with myself.  What I am afraid of, I have not pinpointed exactly.  I am lacking in success in the triathlon department to be sure, but I am sure they are used to getting newbies in the fold.  I am definitely afraid of the group bike rides.  I have never ridden with a group and am absolutely terrified of that.  Part of me thinks that I will start comparing myself to others which never goes well.  Maybe that’s why I train alone.

Anyway, there’s a gentleman named Hector Picard that I met briefly through Special Compass.  He’s been dubbed “the no arm triathlete.”  He is a motivational speaker and is doing something called the Tour to Inspire.  He’s cycling in various states to raise money for different charities and gives all his race medals to children who are struggling with different illnesses or challenges.  He’s an amazing individual and is riding with FL-Tri Saturday morning.  It’s a one hour group ride, followed by a short run and then he will be speaking.  I worked up the nerve to email the person coordinating it.  I wrote that I had never been on a group ride, but would love to attend or help out if they needed volunteers, etc.  He asked me to give him a call, and we spoke about it.  He said that they would probably be in two groups or so, and one would probably be a slower pace than the other but there were no set pace plans.  Deep down inside, I was hoping he would say something along the lines of “Since you are new to this, it’s probably best you don’t ride but we could use a volunteer.”  This would have given me an out to not have to ride but feel less useless.  Instead, he concluded the call saying he hoped I could make it.  Meaning, come on out and give it a shot.  I concluded the call with a thanks and the thought “guess I am not going.”

Why?  Fear again.  I am afraid of my comfort level on the bike.  I’m afraid to be the one to wipe out.  I’ve been seeing all of Hector’s posts on FB of all the rides he has already done.  I don’t really want to be a part of the first one with the ambulance in the background.  I am also just horrible at socializing in these types of situations, another reason I haven’t reached out to join the group meets.  So, while I have not completely decided yet, I am working on my excuses already.  Maybe I should ride in a group for the first time before I try to do it during something like this.  I certainly don’t want to slow the group down, or make anyone have to accommodate me in any way.  Yeah, I like that one.  I’m going with that one.

There are many more of these types of examples, but there are some where I am successful.  I will give myself credit for those.  I definitely learn from fear and failure, but I have also embraced my inner Colonel Sanders as I call it.  There are just some things that I am chicken about right now.  I plan to try to overcome those.  One of the ways of doing that is this blog post.  I know that putting a goal out there publicly can help.  So, my goal is to eventually convince myself to join the swim group.  As for the cycling event, well that one comes up in a matter of days, so I am not sure yet how that will go.  I will have to see how chicken I am by Saturday.  If I don’t attend, then my goal is to sign up for a group ride.  This way, I can at least get the experience casually and not at an event.  It might go well, it might not.  At least I know that when the going gets tough, I can get going, even if I am scared.