Your limits are further away than you think
A few weeks ago I completed my very first olympic triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k cycle and 10k run) and raised £360 for The Noakes Foundation (find out more about their work here: The Noakes Foundation). And, I am actually quite happy to say that I am proud of myself. Voicing that we're proud of ourselves is something the majority of us are not often that good at but this time I'm making an exception!
I am also incredibly proud of my mum for completing her second super sprint triathlon. We're both quite active and I know there are a lot of people out there that would find a triathlon a 'walk in the park' but we definitely had to push ourselves.
After taking part in the super sprint triathlon (400m swim, 5km cycle + 2.5km run) with my mum last year I was feeling confident and immediately signed up for the Olympic distance for this year. Christmas came around and I still hadn't started my training. Then summer started creeping closer and I'd only been swimming and running a handful of times. The panic started setting in and I realised that I was actually going to have to start taking this seriously or I'd be crossing the finishing line a few hours, OR DAYS, after everyone else. I managed to use my time efficiently and squeeze in practice where I could. I ran in my lunch break, I cycled to and from meetings and I swam in the mornings or evenings.
I started to feel like this might be do-able, at a push, but felt far from prepared. It turns out, most people felt that way. A number of the girls I spoke to in my wave were either first timers like me or had done shorter versions but never the full length. This made me feel a little less terrified but it didn't change the fact that they could easily be 10 times fitter than me.
I barely slept the night before, I'm not entirely sure why but I guess my brain decided over thinking things instead of sleeping was going to help in some way. It didn't.
The morning arrived and I grabbed a quick breakfast, half an avocado with olive oil and balsamic vinegar plus half a protein bar. The worst bit was waiting for it to start. I stood up on the promenade whilst the earlier groups began their races and watched the strong current dragging contestants off course.
The swim was my biggest worry and the fear made it difficult to maintain steady breathing. We lined up on the edge of the beach, trying to concentrate on what we were being told but all with one eye on that defiant current. All of a sudden, I wasn't ready at all, a horn was blown and we were off. I'd been told horrific stories of people pulling you under the water from behind and swimming straight over the top of you so I made sure I was right out on the edge of the pack. It wasn't a problem for long as I ended up at the back with all the space I needed anyway!
The first 200-300m were the worst. My chest felt tight and I wanted to swim fast to get it over with but I also knew I needed to pace myself. I subsequently realised that the physical part of a triathlon was actually only part of the challenge, being mentally prepared for the endurance was equally as important. This realisation helped strangely, I knew my body could do it and that the more I relaxed the better it would be, so I took it slow, found my rhythm and kept myself going until I reached the shore again.
WE DID IT
Once the swim was over I felt a lot better and focused on completing the rest of the race as fast as my legs would let me. Mum had finished her race and was on the sidelines cheering me on and I couldn't help but smile every time I passed my team of supporters because it made me realise that this was actually happening... and that it would soon be over.
Joking aside, I will be forever glad that I did it. I spent all year thinking 'I should have signed up for the shorter distance' and 'I'm not prepared for this' but on the day I pushed myself further than I thought I could and actually achieved a time I was happy with.
Too often we put limits on our abilities, especially when there's fear of failure lurking at the back of our minds, but if we don't challenge those limits we'll never do anything we're truly proud of. It's not always about competing with the world around you it's about fighting off your own thoughts and worries that stop you from doing things you know, deep down, you want to do. We all have a lot more in us than we give ourselves credit for so next time you're thinking about signing up to something, whether it's a triathlon, a 5k run or even a networking event you're scared to go to, remember that most of our monsters do not warrant the fears we have of them.
All photography by Ben Heath