The dust of the initial rush after having finished has settled. Today I try to find ways to figure out and describe my feelings after having completed my first Olympic distance triathlon yesterday at the Ayia Napa Triathlon.
During the past few weeks there have been many times where I thought: “What am I doing, why am I even considering participating in a race? I am not a professional athlete, what am I getting myself into? Can I not just relax, enjoy the exercise as it is and not push myself any further, to a race, why? What is the point anyway?”
In those weeks my mood swung from wanting to quit and not believing I could do it, to feeling unprepared, then getting excited and through a similar cycle again. And again. Sounds familiar anyone?
As we are reaching the transition area in the morning, I see fellow athletes getting ready. They are placing their bicycles in the racks, their stuff in their baskets. Wriggle into their wetsuits, with a little help here and there zipping up. I organize my stuff, say good morning and wish well to my ‘neighbor’ athletes. A walk to the beach, where waves are crashing on the shore and a quick swim to get a sense of the water.
These moments of preparation are weird, I am in the moment, and can remember even the tiniest detail.
Having a chat with Nireas friends at the beach before the race was both normal and awkward at the same time. I am there, listening and talking but not there. Recognize this anyone?
And there we go…
I try to find a position to start from. So many people. Off we go. Wading through the waves and knee deep water and then diving in to start the swim. I am not a fan of crowds and lots of people, but the detour that I made yesterday to avoid others was something else! It was difficult to sight with the big rolling waves. My second lap of swimming feels better and before I know it I am out of the water and on to the bicycle.
Wind! And the thinking machine switches back on: “Why am I doing this? This cannot be healthy for a person? How far do I still have to go?” I see a lady on the side of the road on a ‘normal’ bicycle, with her dog on a leash running besides her. For a moment I wish I was her. Churchill’s quote, shared with me by a friend recently, passed through my head: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” It would not call it that, but it is tough, so I keep going: 1,2,3,4, 1,23,4 is the mantra in my head. The Dutch calves are doing good work on the bicycle.
Whilst swimming and then on the bicycle, my main issue, patiently waited just below the surface. As I complete my second loop on the bicycle, it makes its glorious appearance: the 10km RUN!
I try to start slow and stay slow, but with the legs still in the cycling mode, this is somehow difficult. And I need to pee! “Where is the turnaround point?” First lap, second lap and then downhill towards the finish, accompanied in the last few hundred meters, everything feels light and bright!
Finished: a sweaty salty snotty mess
As a sweaty salty snotty mess I cross the finish line, receive my medal and hugs and cool off in the cold sea.
And then: eat, relax, share experiences, attend the award ceremony for the Sprint and Triathlon distance, collect my gear and in the car back home.
The answer to my doubts, fears and questions is now sinking in.
I am on an airplane as I am writing this. Happy to sit and not sure yet how I will get out of this chair. My legs are stiff, my head is a bit warm and there is this tired glow all through my body. A general sense of accomplishment is washing over me. I completed an Olympic distance triathlon yesterday!
Am trying to find words what it means for me to do a race. There are many times I told myself it is “not necessary”, “ridiculous”, “selfish” and “pointless”. Whilst all these things may, or may not be, partially or wholly true, there is something else, something more profound.
After the initial rush of finishing, I felt a bit numb to be honest. I was tired, but was that it? I did not feel ecstatic nor overwhelmed. Nothing really. But as time passes there is an increasing sense of accomplishment surfacing. I sit more straight, the look in my eyes is more clear, and I feel silently proud of what I have done.
Not the selfish type of good feelings, no, what is appearing are feelings of ability, accomplishing something despite confronting my own fears, doubts and limiting beliefs. Despite the opinions of others. This is the ultimate reward. For me. From the initial idea to do an Olympic distance triathlon, written in my diary in 2015, to preparing to do it, and to then actually doing it and finishing it. The greatest reward is in everything that happens before the “Just do it”. And in now, sitting here, having done it.
Maybe it is also this: when the thought first entered my mind there in 2015, it seemed a gigantic thing to accomplish. Like climbing Mount Everest. I don’t know if that is a good comparison, at least something that seemed too far out of reach. Friends said I was crazy, my parents thought it was the wrong thing to do. And because it felt out of reach, I myself had put the first mental barrier right there in front of my own nose, before even having started. “You can say all you want Inge, but you will not do it anyway”, a little voice inside me would say.
Now, almost 4 years later, I did it. And what felt like an insurmountable thing at the time, slowly but surely became feasible, realistic and achievable.
Yes it feels good. It feels good in a way that is hard to describe. Personal, emotional and profound. Not the type of ‘rush’ adrenaline type of feeling. A deep sense of well-being, fulfilment and accomplishment. Self-esteem boosting. Peaceful. Character building even perhaps?
So what is it like?
It is about sacrifice that doesn’t feel like sacrifice
Waking up at the break of dawn to go to the race (why oh why?)
About believing you are well prepared and arriving at the event without goggles (someone always has spares :-))
Toilet, yes, no?
Smiles left and right from neighbouring athletes
Being called an athlete (who, me?)
Forgetting to start my watch
Swimming direction Egypt instead of around the marks
Becoming a salty sweaty snotty mess (how to blow your nose and not have stuff land on your shoulder with this wind??)
Self-inflicted suffering (and smiling at the same time)
Having a rash on my neck from the wetsuit
Crossing the finish line (and boom, it is over, also a weird feeling)
Stories from the others (the good bad and the ugly)
Gulping down a cold beer (and a second one)
Fast food (never tasted that good!)
And now, sitting in the plane, writing this. Thinking about all of us, competitor, volunteer, organiser and supporter.
It is worthwhile. It is do-able. The longer this flight takes, the more it dawns on me. The more I feel it. If I have to pick one word, for me the best word to describe how I feel is: liberated. Free from a layer of fears, a layer of limiting beliefs and opinions of others. Ready to receive and explore a new layer.
I know I am using big words. This is how I experienced yesterday’s triathlon.
What about you?
What a fantastic and well organized event, great participation of Nireas team members, with some podium places and personal best’s!
I wish all a good recovery, time for me to stretch my legs and get out of this airplane chair now and hug my dad at the arrivals!