On the 2nd June I woke up at the usual time, went downstairs, let the dog out, fed her and made HWMBO and me a coffee then headed back upstairs.
Usually I’m pretty relaxed but this particular morning my heart rate was high and the feeling of anxiety was through the roof, today was the day I had been dreading, my first triathlon!
Water is something I’ve had a total fear off since I was about 7 years old. Up until that point it was never something that worried me, in fact I could swim before I could even walk! Here is an extract from my book “Beyond Impossible” explaining why I now have a fear of water. I was around 7 and my sister was about 5 years old.
“She’d taken us for a walk along a river in Norway when it was iced over in the bitterly cold winter months. Jacqui and I had a ball with us which we had been happily playing with before the nanny seized it and kicked it across the ice.
“Well, go and get it back then!” she ordered my sister.
“I can’t!” Jacqui replied. “What if I fall through the ice?”
“Don’t make her do it,” I pleaded. “She could freeze to death if she falls in, and she can’t swim.”
The nanny wouldn’t budge and insisted Jacqui walk over the thin ice to retrieve the ball. I could barely breathe as I watched a terrified Jacqui tentatively step onto the frozen river and attempt to walk slowly towards the ball, the ice creaking and cracking beneath her feet. Sure enough, she had only gone a few steps when – crack! – the ice gave way completely and Jacqui fell into the icy water. She screamed in shock and flailed her arms in her desperate bid to stay afloat, causing more of the ice to break up around her and push her along the river as the current flowed. Watching it all unfold on the riverbank I felt helpless.
“Do something!” I screamed at the nanny. “You have to help her, she might drown!”
With absolutely no sense of urgency, the nanny reached Jacqui’s position and held her leg over the water so she could grab on to it to pull herself out of the water. I rushed to help drag my sister back onto the bank, hugging her to try and give her back some warmth as she was shivering and soaked through. The nanny showed no comfort or concern. She just looked down on us and said: “Don’t tell anyone about this, or next time, I’ll push you both in the river and you won’t get out again.” Once we got back to the house, she ran a bath so hot Jacqui yelped in pain when she was ordered to get into it. Even though it was boiling hot, that woman told her to “just be quiet and get on with it”.
Watching my younger sister floating down the river made me feel totally helpless as there was noting I could do to help her, that feeling of anxiety/fear of water has stayed with me ever since.
I decided after my return from America that I was finally going to take control and overcome my fear. Sometimes I find the best way to actually do something is to put it out there on social media, that way there’s no going back, I was taking ownership of my challenge.
Kevin contacted me offering to teach me how to swim which was marvellous but turning up for the first lesson at the beginning of January 2018 I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and to be honest nervous as hell! My googles were incredibly uncomfortable, I had no swimming hat so my hair got in my eyes but on the plus side I did have a swimming costume.
Here are a couple of my old blogs describing my journey into swimming
During this time my cycling was improving, I felt as though my speed had picked up, going downhill was becoming less of a challenge, my confidence was growing but cycling down a steep descent with a right or left turn at the bottom is still difficult as I struggle to take either hand off the handlebars to indicate in case I fall off! Cornering is another slight issue as I worry if I go round the bend too fast I will crash, but with more practice I’m sured both problems will become second nature.
Running is tough as I can only do one or two short sessions per week otherwise my knee becomes sore, this then impacts on everything else in my life such as walking and going up and down stairs, I need to be sensible. Most of the time I have to run with a knee brace on but every so often I enjoy running free.
The aim for this event was simply finishing to prove to myself that I had overcome my fear of water. However, several weeks before the race I would find myself timing my rides or runs, the competitive spirit is never that far away.
I’m a fairly organised person so the week before the triathlon everything was on the bed in the spare room waiting to be packed into my bag, I had even taken my trisuit to the swimming pool to make sure it felt comfortable, unfortunately I’d only had one practice at transition so this really wasn’t going to be very slick!
Breakfast on the morning of the race wasn’t going to happen I was way to anxious. After my coffee with HWMBO and me blubbing that I couldn’t do it I changed into my trisuit picked up my bag and headed to the start. All the way there I wanted to turn back and go home but I knew I would only be disappointed/angry with myself if I did, especially after all my hard work.
With the car parked I walked with Pebbles (my bike) to Cranbrook Leisure Centre meeting up with a few friends which was lovely. Having registered someone very kindly lent me their hole punch as I needed to attach my race number onto my pink tri-belt – who knew about the hole punch!
Racking up the bike sounds a simple job, even working out how to put the bike on the stand took thought! Deciding which way round to put Pebbles was was more complicated than it should have been, which way round do I put her, changing my mind several times. I was possibly over thinking everything at this stage. I tried to picture myself coming out of the pool and how I would then pull out the bike. With the decision made I laid out my kit and then started chatting to some of the other competitors.
The swim was getting closer, nerves increasing, time to head to the pool. It was a relief to see lots of people doing breaststroke. I knew that if I panicked too much and couldn’t get my breathing this was always an option but I really wanted to try and do the full distance freestyle (all of 300m) however slowly. As I moved down the line to the start my heart rate continued to ramp up, I tried to do lots of relaxed breathing then it was time to get into the water – OMG here we go.
Just at that point I saw HWMBO, now I couldn’t fail! My tactic was to not worry about speed and try to relax in the water that way I could breath.
Finally the swim was over, thank goodness; out of the steps, slowly as my foot missed the lower rung of the ladder first time I tried, out of the door, goggles, hat off and ran towards my bike – where was it. My friend Evie and HWMBO shouted at me “Mimi it’s over here” Quick dash underneath one line of bikes to where Pebbles was hanging out looking glorious in orange and pink. This is where everything seemed to happen way too slowly. I sat down to put my cycling shoes on knocking the next door bike that nearly caused a domino effect, thankfully a marvellous man managed to save the bike and more importantly me from feeling incredibly embarrassed. With shoes, helmet on Pebbles and I dashed out (looking very professional at this stage) towards the road where I could climb aboard and start the cycle leg.
Loved this stage, 20km of good solid cycling, every time I saw someone I did my best to overtake (I know sad!) then off the bike, trainers on and off on the run. This was actually quite difficult as I simply couldn’t get my breathe for the first 500m, the legs felt good but the lungs simply didn’t seem to work leaving me with no option but to walk for a minute to try and regulate my breathing. Most of the run was off road and very hilly but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other saying “hi” to all the other runners coming towards me (they were looking fantastic as these were the faster lot) The final 500m towards the finish, boy did it feel good I was grinning from ear to ear I had done it completing an event I never thought I would have the courage or capability of ever achieving because of the swim.
Being a member of the Weald Tri Club is wonderful. I have made new friends, gained confidence and have been given lots of support, I can’t thank them enough.
After chatting with friends at the finish line I went home to have a bath followed by a glass or two of bubbles to celebrate (as one does). I discovered a few hours later that I had actually won my age category, not the best time in the world but I’ll take it.
A big thank you goes to Kevin for his patience in teaching me how to swim, we did it!
“Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things is the best way to grow, whatever your age”
I have a long way to go with my swimming but one step at a time and one day ……who knows!