We’re getting close to the day. Parts of your body may hurt. Parts of your mind may be telling you you’re nuts. Ignore them. You are an athlete no matter what your brain might say; that’s only history talking — parents, friends, glossy magazines. Why believe what those say anyway? Keep swimming, biking and running.
If you need reassurance, hear this: You are going out and doing it, ergo you are an athlete. Congratulations. Now get out there and do it.
The swim. You are strengthening your strokes of choice at this point: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, sidestroke, dog paddle.
In the pool do whatever combination will get you through the swim and onto the beach.
Get into the lake if you haven’t already done so and feel the chill of the water. Get your head under and see the murkiness. I’m telling you it’s OK.
I’ve swam in the race area of Kootenay Lake many times, and Ogopogo’s cousin does not live there. The most frightening things you’ll encounter, other than swimmers (which are the scariest, I assure you), are fleeing fish, weedy things and your thoughts; anything scary you can imagine (I’ve imagined many; we could get together and write an encyclopedia of imagined scary water things) will only cause you to tense up. Swimming’s hard enough without that. These are only thoughts. Let them go.
Let’s talk about open water sighting.
Unfortunately no lines are marked on the bottom of the lake to direct you.
There are two elements to sighting: one is that you need to see where you are going, so lifting your eyes to look is necessary; the other is that you need something to look for.
Books could be written on open water sighting technique: lifting only your eyes before taking your breath then breathing, kicking a little harder, pulling a little harder, blah, blah. Do what you need to do. Get in the water and practice.
Swim, look for a large object and point your body in that direction. Take anywhere from six to 10 strokes and look again for that magical object.
In my experience the magical object looks impossible to miss when not swimming. When actually swimming, the object truly is magical because it has vanished. Those large buoys they put out on race day? Useless for sighting until you are within spitting distance.
Pick something large like an unusual tree or a building. Use it as much as possible. When all else fails, follow the swimmers in front of you and pray they are somewhat on course.
Keep sighting for your magical object because you cannot assume those swimmers in front of you are even going in the right direction. And though it can seem endless out there, it does end, just like every other swim you’ve ever done. Tuck that in one of your cerebral crevices for race day. It will end. Practice sighting.
As for biking and running, at this point you are increasing your time or distance on the bike, limiting yourself to no more than a 10 per cent increase in a week, right? Also, you provide yourself with plenty of rest to let your body leap to new levels of fitness.
It would be a good idea to throw in one or two bricks before race day.
A “brick” is a training simulation of moving from bike to run, so called because often your legs feel like a “ton of bricks” getting off the bike and attempting to run.
That awful stilted feeling when your legs seem like they’re not bending and your running stride is about six inches long? It’s natural. Everyone gets it. You just need to get used to the feeling. For me, it takes about two kilometres on a warm day to get rid of the feeling. That’s close to 10 minutes or so.
A good thing to do is try it, learn what it feels like, before race day. Go for a normal bike ride, then get off the bike and quickly put on your running shoes and attempt to run for 15 minutes. If it feels downright weird and unnatural, then that’s about right.
You are sharing an experience that almost every athlete, including all those graceful racing-car-creatures that seem to float above the earth, goes through. Enjoy it.
Congratulations, you are truly an athlete.
Now get out and train — but do not increase distance or time (whichever you are using to measure) more than 10 per cent in each discipline in a week.
Rest: sleep, stretch, meditate, levitate, whatever relaxes your mind and spirit.
Celebrate your new fitness and achievement. You are already a champion.