Ah Anxiety … Welcome Back … I’ve Missed You

Because this is a “safe place” …

I used to have ALL kinds of anxiety before triathlons. It would start the week before and progress all the way to the start of the race. It has, on occasion, been so bad that it results in stomach issues that either slowed me immensely or even caused me to not even start the race. The symptoms would go away as soon as the race started without me, so I know it was all related to that.

I kid you not.

Last season when I decided to forego the swim portions and started doing duathlon’s the anxiety went away. So we know now that it was related to the swimming. Not a big shock among triathletes in general.

The good thing was duathlon’s became like my running and cycling events. Even though I knew there would be pain involved, especially in a century ride or a half marathon, it never provoked anxiety. Probably because I felt like in a worst case scenario I can get off a bike or start walking in a run. No big deal. So when taking on this new adventure of trail running I thought, well, it’s just running in the woods. No big deal.

All the same feeling as it used to be in the triathlon’s, even though at its core it is simply a running race in the woods.

So WHY am I feeling like this?

At it’s base definition anxiety is defined as:

anx·i·e·ty (aNGˈzīədē/) noun “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. desire to do something, typically accompanied by unease.”
synonyms: worry, concern, apprehension, apprehensiveness, uneasiness, unease, fearfulness, fear, disquiet, disquietude, inquietude, perturbation, agitation, angst, misgiving, nervousness, nerves, tension, tenseness;

Well, that makes sense right?

As I said, at it’s core trail running is road running in the woods. Yes, it’s typically a longer distance (my race tomorrow is a 25K, so a bit longer than the normal half marathon) but it still requires the same basic abilities as a road race. Put one foot in front of the other. There are a few differences though.

You cannot “zone” out like one tends to do during a road run. There are things underfoot that can derail you quickly (stumps, knots, divots, etc.).

There are also “things” in the woods that can derail you in a different way (snakes, bears, alligators, spiders, etc.). And by the way, in Florida we have black bears. Black bears have NEVER attacked a human. This ain’t grizzly bear, revenant types. Leo is safe in these woods.

There are also other “things” traipsing through the woods around you that are FAR more dangerous to your self perseverance that stumps and bears; the other humans. Not the other runners per se, but the mountain bikers, dirt bikers, ATV’ers, and hunters that shoot at anything that moves. Nothing quite so jarring as running or biking through a trail and hearing a gunshot. That’ll wake you up quickly.   

Music is usually frowned upon. This is nothing odd to me as triathlon’s don’t allow earphones either. I am OK with that.

So it really comes down to that first definition above. Specifically “something with an uncertain outcome”. This is a new undertaking, so I guess some nervousness and apprehension is to be expected. I need to embrace this uncertainty and allow it to become part of what pushes me through.

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know. ~ Donald Rumsfeld

According to Buddha, certainty is actually an illusion. If you think about it there is never a time when you know for sure how things will unfold. Even with the best preparation, you can’t control everything in the universe. Job security is subject to industry and company shifts. Relationships transform as people grow and change how they see the world and what they want out of it. There are never any guarantees, even when you think you have it all figured out. When you don’t know what the future will hold, you’re actually dealing with life as it always is: yours to live and create moment by moment, day by day. (Tiny Buddha). Even though there are no guarantees, there ARE constants in your life that are unlikely to change in the near future: your health, your mental capacity, your family, your true friends. At the end of the day, nothing else matters. You can have the best house in the world, but it becomes a prison if you’re alone. Your job may offer a million perks, but you won’t enjoy them if you’re not strong in mind and body.

A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown. ~ Denis Waitley

Acceptance of the unknown is the key to many things in the world, and anxiety happens when you don’t accept in your heart the unknown facing you. When you try to reason with the unknown, and try to know what cannot be known is when the anxiety happens. Acceptance is a hard thing, and takes practice. It is something I obviously still struggle with in these undertakings of mine, but thing is this … even with the anxiety I still pursue the unknown. I still attempt these scary and worrisome tasks knowing that it is going to hurt, going to be scary, going to cause sleeplessness and numerous trips to the bathroom.

I guess that is a win in a way …

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