Last weekend, I competed in an Xterra triathlon. It was pretty short, and I am in good enough shape right now that the distances weren’t a challenge for me. But, while I have competed in many triathlons, they have all been on a road bike and mostly road running as well. Doing the mountain bike leg was a challenge, AND something I was scared to do.
I don’t have a mountain bike, so I had to find one to borrow. I asked a few friends who didn’t have one I could borrow, so then I had to post on a cycling FaceBook group where I’m a member. That was a little scary too, but fruitful. One kind woman offered me her bike for about 3 weeks to have time to practice and then use it in the race. We didn’t know each other, so this was truly generosity at its best.
The Learning Zone
Then, I had to get out on some trails to practice. Truth is, I have only been on a mountain bike a couple times and not on any real single track trails. I realized that it is very different than road biking, that I wasn’t very good, AND, that going downhill was scary.
After practicing a few times on my own, a friend who mountain bikes asked if I wanted to ride the course with her and she would give me some tips. Another act of real generosity! And so helpful! She taught me some positioning moves that I would never have picked up on my own. Riding on the race course gave me more confidence for race day. There were a few spots that still scared me, but I felt like I could do it.
Race morning came and instead of being overcast with rain
imminent, as was predicted, it was sunny and rather warm. I found some
nice people to chat with and that calmed my nerves. The swim went better
than I expected, and I got on the bike saying a little prayer that I didn’t
crash and hurt myself. I passed a few people on the bike, but was passed by many
more people. I got through it with no falls, though! My run felt good
since I wasn’t exhausted from the bike and I finished strong and feeling
good. A little later I learned I had come in 3rd in my age
The whole experience moved me out of my comfort zone. Deciding to do the race when the opportunity presented itself, asking to borrow a bike on FB, practicing on my own, but especially allowing someone to offer their time to help me learn, and then of course, doing the race all felt uncomfortable, but I was so happy I did it.
The illustration shows the different stages of moving outside one’s comfort zone. I definitely felt the fear zone, but as I conquered it, I moved into the learning zone where I acquired new skills on the bike, and as I got to race day, I moved into the growth zone where I lived out a dream, a long time goal, and conquered my objective. Life would have been far easier if I hadn’t done it, but I wouldn’t have developed more either. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the loss, but I definitely noticed and appreciated the stretch.
Many years ago, I made a goal of doing something new, exercise-wise, every year. I am not sure I have done it every year, but I try. The same goal can work equally well in other parts of our life as well. It’s good to stretch ourselves socially, intellectually, and often in our work lives as well. So, the next time a new opportunity comes by and you think, “I’d like to, but I’m scared.” Don’t back down and go for it!