Facing Down My Fears
It's Wednesday morning and a few days before my first triathlon race in nearly two years. This weekend sees me compete (a relative term!) at the Outlaw Half, in the grounds of the beautiful Bowood estate here in the UK. It's a half iron distance event, comprising of a 1.2 miles swim; 56 mile bike and a half marathon run of 13.1 miles.
Nothing I haven't done before and a distance I know I can cope with. The race holds no fear, but I do have a healthy respect for the distance and have learned from past events to never take anything for granted. Case in point is the 70.3 race I did in Weymouth back in 2019 where I was flying along until I experienced three punctures in a row and ended up running with my bike for the last 16km desperately trying to make the bike cut-off time and failing by 2 minutes.
So yes, I worry about punctures etc at any race, but my past experience and learning has equipped me with the confidence that I know what to do in these situations and that I can handle most things, having experienced these things in the past.
But worry is different to fear.
I guess where my fears lie at the moment is the race after this weekend and my first go at the 24hour Self-transcendence race at Battersea Park track, London. A whole day of running round a 400m track and seeing how far I can get.
On the face of it, there is nothing to be afraid of in terms of the race structure. Plenty of people never more than a few metres away from me. Plenty of food on offer at track side. Support from race officials and lap counters. No means of getting lost. Plenty of clothing to change into with my car parked at track side. Nothing to fear.
What I do fear however, is finding out what I'm made of; going beyond my limits. Whether this race takes me to that edge I don't know. After all, I've completed 19 Ironman races, a double iron race, P-Company, the Commando Course and various other 'extreme' physical pursuits. But they have always felt within my capabilities.
This one feels different. I know my body can take it if I'm sensible with my pacing and nutrition. I know that even if I walk the majority of it, I can still be there at the end of the 24 hours.
What I don't know is how my mind will cope with the going round and round in circles nature of the race. Will I be able to stay in the moment? How will my mind cope with a body that just wants to stop? How will my demeanour change as I go through various phases of optimism and negativity?
What will self-transcendence mean for me?