There are moments in our lives that remind us of our strengths but they will first test us, break us down, confuse our path, and fucking question our worth. 

These are the moments that your mind gets flooded with old demons you’ve already slayed.  It totally sucks, I know, as you thought you were so over this story. 

Two weeks ago I had an encounter with an old demon of mine that made me question, that just maybe I am not good enough.  This demon hunts me when I am feeling down, insecure, weak, and incompetent.  

This old demon of mine came unleashed during my olympic distance triathlon race in Delaware two Sundays ago.  One second I was feeling like a total badass at the start line and the next second, I found myself in a full blown out panic attack between the start line and the first buoy marker of the swim leg.

This race was supposed to be a training race leading up to my main race, Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant in Canada. I have completed 10 Ironman races prior to this race, 2 of them, which were full Ironman distances and I’ve never had a panic attack in the water before.  I felt mentally defeated, overwhelmed, not good enough, and physically hyperventilating.

The first thing I did in my head, was blame the fucking pond for my panic attack.  You see, I much prefer swimming in clear ocean or bay and Lums Pond was far from my ideal open water swim.   So I put my head back in the water with anger and started swimming again for the 1st buoy. This totally made it worst as I now felt like I was suffocating, ventilating and couldn’t catch my breath.   At this point, I was just about ready to give up as I started to question my athletic ability while watching all my age group pass me by! 

I was treading water and I felt this constriction escalating from my chest to my neck and all I wanted to do was rip my fucking wetsuit from my body.  I unzipped that motherfucker all the way down and I tried to remember when was the last time I even wear my wetsuit. Boom! It was exactly 1 year ago in Ironman Lake Placid.  As I processed this new information, I started to think: have my boobs gotten bigger?  did all my green protein smoothies finally helped me gain muscle? 

With my wetsuit fully unzipped I calmed myself down and started swimming again to the first buoy by breathing on the same side every 2nd stroke.  When I got to 3rd buoy I had my demon fully leashed back tight and I found my natural breathing rhythm with breathing on both sides every 3rd stroke. I started to surrender to the pond, less fight, less ego, knowing that I still had a fight in the bike and run portion. I came out of the swim with my wetsuit already unzipped so I run quickly into transition focusing only on the now. I kept reminding myself of my why and this was a practice race. This mindset allowed me to not blow the entire race and still come out of, top 6th in my age group.

It only takes seconds of defeat, to go back feeling NOT ENOUGH and it takes double the effort in believing that you are MORE THAN FUCKING ENOUGH.   These moments in our lives that test our strength, worth, and courage are needed to put us back in check that we are all humans. 

Get to know your triggers and know how to calm yourself down in order to never give up on yourself. These moments are teaching opportunities to create the tools that you will need for your real race, the race of life.

Remember, a race is never lost unless you give up. I am grateful for my panic attack.  As it taught me two important lesson: 1) always test your gear before a race and 2) never be cocky with any sport as you always need to practice even if you have done it a million times.

Esther Collinetti