One of my biggest fears is bike rides!
My heart rate increases when I am about to mount, I hate the feeling of being clipped in, I get really nervous when I approach a downhill.
I realize that it is quite normal to experience fear. We only need to ensure that fear doesn’t become a debilitating factor. Instead, if we recognize our fear, we can simply face it head on.
I had the pleasure of doing this last weekend. As part of a triathlon (Swim, Bike and Run), I was required to complete a 15 mile hilly (not rolling hills…but hard core HILLS) bike course. Of course when I signed up for the event (yes, I pay to torture myself), I thought it would be like any triathlon…a couple of rolling hills and maybe one major hill. When I started to ask around, they all indicated that the bike course was extra challenging. “Great!”, I thought to myself. Bike is my weakest sport compared to the swim and/or run. I didn’t get to take my bike out much, let alone practice hills! I started to freak out.
As soon as I realized that I was slightly in over my head, I starting wishing that the weather would be bad on race day so that I could legitimately excuse myself from doing the bike ride. The forecast had my back up until the day before Race Day. It was showing thunderstorms. I was relieved. Then, in a sudden turn of events, the forecast turned against me…it was perfect weather for a Tri! Imagine my disappointment. If I was going to quit, now, it was only because of ME. I drove the bike course to get a preview of the experience and to be completely honest that just made me feel WORSE! This was a beast of a bike course; 5 – 6 challenging inclines, some steep declines and of course some standard rolling hills. Where’s a good thunderstorm when you NEED one??!!
When I was driving up on Race morning with my husband, I felt that I owed it to him to tell him exactly how I felt. I said, “Honey, I really don’t want to do this”. He was very supportive. This was my forth TRI and I wasn’t even this nervous for my first TRI. I also knew that the nerves and fear was getting the better of me. Then, my imposter syndrome made a cameo appearance! I felt like I did not belong…all these athletes looked like they knew exactly what they were doing as opposed to me…I totally wanted to quit.
Finally, I gathered up some courage. I decided to set up my transition area and if after that I was still uncomfortable, I would back out. Weirdly, as soon as I set up transition, and walked though the transition steps in my head, my mindset started shifting. When it came time for the swim, I got into my wave and starting loosening up by talking to people. Once I completed the swim, I knew that I had to see this through to the end. Here it was…the DREADED bike course.
On the first turn itself was a major hill! I switched to the lowest gear and kept pedaling. I was feeling good. About five minutes into this, my quads started burning but the hill kept going. I got off the bike and started walking it up. I wasn’t alone in doing this. At this point I realized that this course was difficult for more than just me. I had signed up for something above my current ability but I wasn’t alone. That somehow gave me comfort. From that point it was about handling everything to the best of MY ability and just get to the end of the bike course. In the process I improved my confidence in uphills, downhills, mounting and riding a bike in general.
It was a huge relief to see the end of the bike course. I did it! the worse was over. I knew I would finish. I gave it everything I had left in the run and it was AMAZING to cross the finish line. My husband and daughter were there to cheer me on. I couldn’t believe I had done it.
On our way home, I told my family about the different things that happened on the bike course and and how I dealt with each situation. I reflected on how fear had totally consumed me – to the point of almost making me quit the race even before it had started.
We all experience butterflies, anxiety, fear of the unknown. But if we are willing to give things a shot, we may end up coming out of the experience a much stronger person. We often don’t give ourselves enough credit.
What is your fear? Are you willing to face it?