Last night, I went to the kickoff meeting for the triathlon club I’ll be joining for group training this spring. While the training program doesn’t start until late February, my friend the triathlon evangelist talked me into going to the general meeting as a way to meet people, learn about year-round club events, and take advantage of the ongoing Sports Basement 20%-off-everything-until-there’s-snow-in-Tahoe discount. (One of these things was especially convincing.)

I expected to go in and feel a sense of “These are my people! This is what I want to do!” Everyone I talked to was encouraging, the video of last year’s events made me smile, and I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of ages and shapes of people who proudly call themselves triathletes.

But as the meeting went on, with club leaders showing off the vast number of member-led events on the calendar, talking up the track-workout-and-bar-after combo, and introducing new training programs, a weird thing happened. Instead of feeling energized, I kind of wanted to throw up, or at least sneak out of the room.

In theory, I want to — and will — join the club for the camaraderie, the encouragement, the structure. In reality, I am petrified of having to expose my weaknesses to strangers (or, maybe worse, friends). I can barely call myself a runner with a straight face, much less an “athlete,” and my pursuits to date have largely been solo. My goals and times and training plans have been mine and mine alone, and I have plenty of reasons for that, but last night forced me to realize that some of those reasons are the less-attractive kind: fear of failing in front of others; fear of discovering that my training and times stack up pathetically against my peers’; fear of giving up control and having to do things I don’t want to do.

That’s not the person I want to be, but it’s where I am right now.

I didn’t figure this all out until a few hours after the meeting, but when I did, my mind jumped to the 8 Secrets Every Beginning Athlete Needs to Know post some lovely internet person linked to earlier in the year. I often find myself rolling my eyes at that sort of thing, but this post hit me exactly where I am — even moreso when I revisited it after the meeting. For example:

Sometimes it can seem as though it’s been so long since we learned or started anything new that we avoid picking up new habits it at all costs. We like our routines and our comfort zones.



You’re tasking your brain and body with performing new and very different functions and movements. You’re asking yourself to move and think in ways that are foreign and confusing. So yes, frustration and overwhelm are part of the package.

Sing it.

And my curmudgeonly little heart was even — dare I say — moved by:

You will surprise yourself. By being better than others. By being better than you thought you’d be. By actually doing this thing you’d never imagined yourself capable of doing. Embrace this part of you and accept that you have more potential and capacity to do new things than you ever imagined.

Sure hope so.

Here, I think, is the start of the attitude adjustment I needed: I’m scared, it’s OK to be scared, and I’m not some special snowflake because I’m Oh So Scared — lots of people start where I am. Maybe not everyone; I will surely encounter some people like the ones at the climbing gym who rock a route I’ve been struggling to finish and then mention it’s their third time ever climbing. (That blog post has something to say about those people, too: “Even if they started with you, they might have a history in a similar sport, be naturally athletic, or believe they are a beginner even when they’re really not.” I feel like I need to record that as an mp3 mantra or something.) But those two people who were brave enough to admit at the meeting that they didn’t have a bike yet, or the way-more-than-two people who raised their hands to say they didn’t know how to swim? Those are my folks. And we’ll take our jittery stomach butterflies and figure this out together.


So after that, I shopped. I really need to tone it down on the athletic gear shopping, or at least finally take all the nasty old tank tops out of my dresser, so I stuck with some things I know I’ll use: these socks that went missing at the laundromat, the trigger point foam roller, and a 24-pack of Gu. I probably should have taken better advantage of the 20% off and bought some big-ticket item — especially considering I’m already overwhelmed by how much gear triathlons apparently require — but a season’s supply of Gu was enough thinking ahead for the moment.

Sale shoes in my size were picked over, and so even though I’d had my heart semi-set on buying trail running shoes (despite not having run a single trail since my first 10K) (I know), I resigned myself to going home without. Then, online, I saw they had Adrenaline 11s for $52. I debated for a while — I already have the purple ones lined up, what if I want to experiment with other shoes, etc. — but what won out was, “If you have two pair of Adrenalines, you can alternate every other run and run the marathon in the purple ones.” Sold! to the crazy girl who just planned her footwear for September. I have this whole other thing going on about orthotics and whether I can transition out of them while in the Adrenalines and whether I should be experimenting with less stability, but the fact is that right now, the combo of Adrenalines for most runs/PureCadences for recovery is working. I can count on one finger the number of pairs of shoes that have made it to the 300-mile mark without catastrophe in my entire running life, and the red Adrenalines are on pace to join them soon, so I took a chance.

I think the only important message of this part of the post is: Sports Basement is 20% off everything right now, but probably only for a couple of days, and sorry if I bought the last pair of blue size-7 Adrenaline 11s.

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13 thoughts on “Intimidation

  1. Kristina says:

    I did my first tri last year and just LOVED the experience. But it took me another 9 months before I felt comfortable to hook up with a tri group. I do think that there is a certain elitism among the triathlete community (let’s not even start talking about the economic elitism), but there are beginners in every single race. After all, everyone has to start somewhere!
    Good luck with the experience. And I’ll say that you’re braver than I to jump in with a group at once!

    • kimretta says:

      Ooh, I just clicked over to your site and you did Wildflower! That’s what my group will be training for, so clearly I’m going to go read all your training posts.

      The training group I’ll be in is very much for beginners, and my tri club friends have assured me that it will be much less intimidating than the club as a whole (and the club will then be less intimidating after that). Fingers crossed!

      • Kristina says:

        I don’t think I have any training posts….
        I actually was out with a foot injury for about 2 months – so, no running. The good thing about that was that I ended up focusing on the bike and swim more than I would have, and that was good because those were (and are) not my strengths.
        Wildflower is SUCH an awesome experience. I think it’s worth the hype!

  2. I know how it feels to be intimidated in this kind of situation and I think you are taking the right attitude. Just remember it will be worth and…that you are not the only feeling this way. Once you meet a few people, it will be much better. I wish you luck!

    • kimretta says:

      Thanks! I’m excited for the training group kickoff, because (from what I’m told) we’ll all be relative novices there, which might be a little more my speed vs. meeting a bunch of Ironmen all at once.

  3. a) Red Adrenalines rule.
    b) 20% off til it snow rules. Hellooo new ski helmet for $49!
    c) You are sooo far ahead of the game to even realize & be able to articulate what’s making you feel a little hesitant to try something new, to say nothing of the fact that you’ve already decided to own it & do it. That means you rule as well. 🙂

  4. Diana says:

    Uh, in my book, you’re a runner. You read running magazines, run on vacation, plan for races months in advance, and go through running shoes like I go through mineral make up 😉 I’m so excited for this next chapter of your athletic career! We’ll have to compare notes…I start tri training in March but am leading up to it with an 8k. Which feels like a lot to me. Luckily I got out of the 14k relay because my prego friend and relay partner is just too, well…prego.

    • Kimra says:

      Aw, thank you! If you want a virtual training partner for the 8K, I’m your girl — I see myself doing a lot of 4-5 mile runs between my upcoming half and May!

      I also go through a lot of mineral makeup. Sweat, etc. You know how it is.

      • Diana says:

        Awesome! I totally want to take you up on it. And thanks for the Sports Basement tip…I have some new exciting gear coming my way just in time for training! And free shipping to boot.

  5. Linda says:

    You are amazing. Go for it!

  6. Kelly says:

    good for you for getting out there and going to the meeting! That’s an important first step! And I’m totally with you, I would have got the Adrenaline’s and planned my shoe-wearing through the end of 2012 if I had to. Though I must admit I’m kind of in love with the 12’s!

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