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In Order to Win, You Have to Show Up and Start

Over the weekend, I had a chance to meet some young athletes who visited my wellness spa – A to Zen Massage – in Greensboro. They were in town for the New Balance Track Championships competing in the Relay Medley Event.


In passing, one of the girls wondered aloud what would happen if their team finished last. I told her a bit about my own experience with triathlons (see How I Finished in the Top 3 in My Niche (or Age Group) at a Triathlon | Every Touch Marketing for my most recent musing about “placing” at an event). What matters most is that you show up and start.

When I got home, I remembered I’d previously written something else about tris and looked through my files to find this, written August 20, 2011. I know a lot of people out there don’t believe I ever lack for confidence, so I want to share this to as a way to show how I pump myself up to do the tough stuff. Enjoy!

2013-08-18 11.01.44

<My training partner, Liv>

It’s Saturday August 20th and the eve of my first triathlon, the Ramblin’ Rose in Winston Salem, NC. My event training is done, gear bought, schedule and pre-event meal planned. This afternoon I will go to pick up my registration packet, attend a pre-event clinic on how to set up my transition area and scout out the biking and running courses. Then I’ll go home to gather my thoughts, pack for tomorrow and relax with friends for a few hours before heading to bed.

But I’ve gotta be honest…I’m really kind of nervous. Well nervous in a confident sort of way. I understand the set-up and sequence of events. I’ve got directions to the event location and a checklist for what I need to take tomorrow printed out. Perhaps most importantly, I know I can do each of the required segments since did a practice triathlon earlier this week – albeit with the elements spread apart over several hours unlike how they’ll be tomorrow. I completed about 75 percent of the overall distance that I’ll do in the real event. Yay me!

And though I was really tired after my practice tri, I woke up the next day with almost no soreness or fatigue (until I took a Zumba and yoga class that morning, anyway.) So yesterday, I rewarded myself and got rid of the soreness with a fantastic massage on my legs and upper shoulders. I’ve already got one set up for the day after the event and am as stoked about getting that massage as I am about completing this athletic milestone.

So why am I nervous? Because I’ve never done anything like this before. True I used to compete in figure skating events as a teen and pre-teen. I’ve participated in a number of cycling events of twenty to forty miles each. And, at 41, I’m probably in the best shape and conditioning of my adult life – thanks to all my recent training. But this is different. This is pushing my physical abilities and envelope in a completely new way. I’m combining two activities – running and biking – that I enjoy and do fairly well in with another of which one I am a complete novice – swimming.

It’s not that I didn’t know how to swim before now – it’s just that I didn’t like to. My first memory of swimming was of taking group lessons as a toddler. I didn’t really like the teacher, especially after she pushed me into the water when I wouldn’t jump in on my own. That was the last lesson with her! And even though I successfully learned to swim through private swimming lessons the next year, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had recurrent and terrifying nightmares about drowning.

Since those early days, I’ve nearly always felt awkward and anxious in a pool or other body of water, save for one summer I spent with my cousins in Wisconsin (almost thirty years ago) in which we went to the pool and swam every single day. Since then though, my swimming efforts and abilities have receded more and more as has my desire to improve them. Until now.

As the deadline for event registration got closer and closer, I knew I had to push myself past my fear of the water and swimmer’s ear in order to participate. I put it off time and time again but finally began taking baby steps into the shallow end of the pool a few weeks ago. First I called local indoor pools to find out their hours and prices for adult swimming. I posted messages on Facebook about needing a swim coach and watched swimming instructional videos on YouTube. I made a trip to a local triathlete supply store and bought ear plugs, a swim cap, and nose clip (you never know). And finally, I visited and joined a gym with a pool – and dove in.

Sadly, that first swim brought all my fears and goals into clear view. My freestyle stroke and related breathing abilities were sub-par and not good enough to get me across the pool once, let alone all 225 yards I’d have to swim at the Ramblin’ Rose. I gasped, choked and panicked within moments of taking the water. Immediately crushed, I thought my chances of completing the live event tomorrow – or any triathlon – was totally out of reach.

Then I remembered someone telling me they had done the back stroke in a similar sprint triathlon earlier this year. As with all the other swimming techniques, I hadn’t done the back stroke in years but thought maybe it was worth a try. So I went back to the side of the pool, grabbed the edge and pushed off in a backward glide across the water. I started pulling myself across one stroke at a time, working to establish some kind of a rhythm between my arms, legs and breathing. It was a struggle at first, I think because I was upset and trying a bit too hard. But suddenly I was at the other end of the lane and realized I might actually be able to pull this off. I pushed off again, relaxed a little and got into cadence that felt pretty good. Soon was across the pool again and back to where I began. Within fifteen minutes, I completed 250 yards and knew I could do so again. Just five days later, I combined my new ability with a bike and run. Woo hoo! 

I don’t know exactly how tomorrow’s event will go, but I know I can finish it. I am excited to enjoy and savor each part of the day – from packing for and setting up my transition area to chatting in line with other novice swimmers to riding my bike and running through beautiful downtown Winston Salem on an unseasonably cool August morning. I’m excited to hear my husband cheering for me as I swim, pedal and jog past him and to feel the cool air and warm sun on my damp body and hair. And yes of course, I am eagerly anticipating crossing the final finish line, discovering my time and heartily celebrating the completion of the race.

But regardless of how things turn out tomorrow, what place I finish in or whether everything goes more or less than perfectly, I know I’ve already won. I’ve challenged myself over and over during my training to try new things and “swim” out of my comfort zone while facing and embracing my fears. And as I’ve striven for excellence athletically, I’ve also achieved greater things in other areas of my life, especially my career. The level of focus and commitment required for being ready for this event has been transferred to my business which has already brought some huge rewards there too. I am blessed.

Most importantly, I’ve gotten more comfortable with who I am, what I am capable of doing and what I envision for my future. I am proud of and confident in myself in a way I’ve never been before. To me, that is more important than anything else, especially how I place in a race. (That and getting my victory massage on Monday 🙂

So yes, no matter how it goes or how long it takes, I have won the race by getting this far and doing what it takes to finish tomorrow. I know I can do it! And I’ll bet you can too.

Congratulations to the girls from Westfield, and everyone who showed up and started at Nationals. You are all winners!

This article was originally published on www.TheSunflowerPrincess.com

Felicia Brown, LMBT is the author of three books including Free & Easy Ways to Promote Your Massage, Spa & Wellness Business and The Sunflower Princess: A Healing Fairy Tale. She is also a business and marketing coach, speaker, spa owner, and casually competitive triathlete. Visit her other websites and blogs at Spalutions.com, ZenVersusZin.com and AtoZenMassage.com.