My TTF Goals Have Nothing to do with Getting to the Finish Line

For every triathlete, there’s a part of the race that scares them. Most often it’s the swim leg. For others, it could just as easily be the bike or the run. Even transition can be stressful. Worrying about how to get to the finish line can take up a lot of mental bandwidth, but for me, it’s not getting to the finish line that is terrifying.

It’s getting to the start line.

It’s the start line because as someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, there’s nothing scarier or more exhausting than being in a large city with thousands of strangers, desperately waiting for the starter’s pistol to go off.

***

If you followed my TTF training last year, my Instagram feed was full of pictures of me swimming, biking and running with a smile on my face. I was an Ambassador, my job to inspire others to join in on the excitement of the TTF. But this is what you didn’t see:

  • The days that putting on my running shoes and going for a run on my quiet country roads was a Herculean effort. I skipped a lot of running workouts.
  • The days that I cried and hyperventilated during the 35 minute drive to the pool, sometimes turning around and driving home because the thought of talking to my lane mates was terrifying (for the record, they were in their mid-sixties and the nicest people ever).
  • The days following a tune-up race soothing my raw nerves were spent riding my bike, the only activity that seemed to help ease my anxiety.
  • That injuries and illness sent me into a mental tailspin, thinking that if I didn’t make it to the start line on race day I’d be letting my teammates and the race director down.
  • That despite getting stronger, faster and smashing my swim time goal on race day, I was a failure.

If depression lies, then anxiety is the thief of joy — and anxiety stole all of the joy from my 2015 triathlon season.

***

When I was asked to join the 2016 TTF Ambassador team, I decided that this year would be different, and I’d rediscover the reasons why I took up the sport in the first place: because it made me feel happy and good about myself. But that wasn’t going to happen without first seeking mental health support and treatment.

So these days, my training plan looks different from last year. Sure, there’s still the early morning workouts and self-deprecating selfies, but now I start each day with anti-anxiety medication. Every few weeks, I go to therapy to learn strategies to manage my anxiety and I have smaller races leading up to the TTF to put those strategies into practice. I’m more open with my friends and family about things that will trigger an anxiety attack, and as small as it seems, even running each week with a group of friends is a step towards making race day less scary.

See you at the start line.

Related Posts