Nerves, Asthma, and the IceBreaker Triathlon

Sunday was the IceBreaker Triathlon at the Walnut Creek YMCA, and I thought I was ready. This was a sprint triathlon where you swim 400 yards in a indoor pool, take a non-transition (not counted) break to go to the spin room, ride 10 miles at a preset gear, take a non-transitioned break to the treadmills, and then run 2 miles. I trained, I was ready … or so I thought.

Having borderline asthma, my doctor advised me some time ago to pre-treat with an inhaler before starting any exercise. He knows how hard I train, and feels that it is better to prepare by pre-treating. So as I was changing in order to meet my 7:50 a.m. pool start, I took two puffs off my inhaler. I was good to go. I swam 400 yards easily just two days before, so I knew I could do it.

What I didn’t plan on was nerves. As we entered the pool to warm up, I saw that I was in the lane closest to the bleachers. Not my favorite spot to be. I felt like everyone was watching me. I started chatting with my lane partner … he had completed an IRONMAN! Yikes! I told myself to just swim my pace and take it easy, as there are other events (bike and run) to conserve energy for. No sense trying to race someone who can swim miles.

The horn sounded and we took off. The first 100 yards went well, and I was trying to keep an even pace. But every time I would breathe, I could see the crowd, and the water was churning more than when I trained. I started to feel tense and a little nervous, and suddenly my chest was tightening. All I could think of was that I had used my inhaler, that this shouldn’t be happening! But it was, and I had just passed the 125 yard mark.

I got to the edge marking 150 yards and stood up. My counter asked if I was ok, and I told her I was having a little trouble breathing and needed to catch my breath. She said “you can walk in the shallow end, just keep moving, you’re ok”. So I walked a few feet and started swimming again. I was devasted and embarrassed. I trained for this, why was this happening?

After a couple of laps I had to walk a little again. My counter, bless her heart, was so encouraging and congratulated me when I finished, saying “You did great! 8:36!” I was shocked. Even though I had to catch my breath, I beat my time on Friday (when the swim was easy) by almost 30 seconds!

I got out of the pool and changed quickly in my tri-suit and bike shoes, and carried a bag with my running shoes in them so I wouldn’t have to go back to the locker room again. I know that there was no transition time, but it doesn’t hurt to train. Then I headed upstairs to the spin room.

As I got set up on a spin bike, one of the volunteers explained to me that once I got the spin bike to gear 12, they would start the count. I was to notify them when I got close to 10 miles. But I had a slight problem; I remembered my dear friend and mentor Stephanie doing this very same triathlon the year before, and I know she was in 10th gear … so that’s what I had trained on for long distances when on a spin bike. What I didn’t know was that there were different settings for men and women. Now, two gears may not sound like a lot, but it felt like going up a 10-mile slope. I got it done, but not nearly as fast as I would have liked, coming in at 25:54.

I left the spin room and headed for the treadmills. I quickly changed shoes and checked in. I got on and started running. I usually avoid treadmills, even though I own one. I prefer to run outside, as my previous posts have hinted at. but after shredding my legs on a 10-mile upward slope bike ride, I finished the run at 18:05. The total for the triathlon was 52:35.

My dear friend, running partner, and now training partner Kara finished her first triathlon in under 48 minutes. She was amazing. My wife Julie finished her first triathlon as well, bad back and all, in 54 minutes. These two ladies are amazing, and truly an inspiration to me.

I learned a few things to work on before our next triathlon in May: (1) Work on becoming a stronger swimmer. (2) Learn to control my nerves and not worry about what others think. (3) Train harder on the bike on harder gears, so the next time this gear will be easy. (4) Learn to relax and enjoy the moment. We did have a great time, and it took an amazing amount of work just to be able to get here and attempt an event such as this. While this was my third sprint, it was wonderful to see my wife and one of my dearest friends become triathletes. Now, on to training for the next one.

Kara and I posing after completing the IceBreaker Triathlon.

It’s going to be a great year!

Live healthy, be happy!


5 thoughts on “Nerves, Asthma, and the IceBreaker Triathlon

    • I will try that. Thank you. I know it helps when running to pre-treat, but in swimming once your heart rate goes up, it’s hard to get it back down. In running in biking, you can slow down, but not so much in swimming. I’m slow enough already 😉

  1. I know that when I panic, mine acts up worse. A lot of time, I can calm it down if I calm down. I do have an inhaler I am supposed to take every day and I know I do much better when I actually do it. It’s just I always forget! I try to take a couple puffs of my quick acting inhaler right before a run and I know that definitely helps!

    • Thanks for the confirmation Celeste. That’s exactly what happened. However, someone else mentioned that the inhaler quickens the heart rate. While this is ok when running or biking, as you can slow down, it’s not good in swimming as it leads to a higher feeling of panic. I will have to try to use it well before a swim to see if that theory holds true. Thanks for reading my blog. I really appreciate it.

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