Swimming in the pool has been going really well. I've even trained with a coach. An open water swim was, of course, the next logical training step. Although I planned it well, it didn't go quite like I thought.
I must confess - I've always been afraid of creatures in the water. The funny thing is, I'm OK when the water is clear and the creatures are visible; it's just when I can't see them that the panic sets in.
I've regularly kayaked the waters of Florida, where I've watched alligators and fish swim freely. As I've approached them in my secure, bright orange kayak armor, they've totally ignored me and I've felt superior and comfortable. I've snapped their pictures and have impressed all my friends with how close I've come to the danger.I've snorkeled in the Florida Keys and have enjoyed these times in the water immensely, swimming with barracuda and other huge fish. Never once, while snorkeling, have I been afraid of the swimmy creatures.
But muddy the water and take away my armor, and all bets are off!
Now I've known all along the swim portion of a triathlon isn’t scheduled for those who are afraid of creatures. So, I've committed to a number of open water swims prior to my first sprint triathlon. I knew panic was going to be the issue, but had no idea just how hard and different the open water was going to be than the pool.
There was NO visibility. I really thought I would be able to see! It was REALLY salty! And, I kept going off course. This wasn't fun at all!
I had my husband kayaking alongside me for moral support and to kill anything that tried to attack me. He was amazed at how wimpy I was, because he's been seeing me conquer so many other things lately. He told me how well I was doing and pushed me to go farther.
For my first open water swim today, I figure I only swam about 200 yards - 600 yards short of what I swim in the pool and far short of the 1/4 mile in my scheduled race. At the end, I sat on the beach out of breath, wondering how in the world I would go running for my bike feeling like this. My husband reminded me that I was going to have to master my fear if I was going to do a triathlon...I snapped back, "I have until October!" All the while, I was wondering if I could really master my fear at all.
When I got my bearings and got back in my kayak, we fought the 15 knot winds to get back to the car. On the way, we saw a big fin in the water...I'm sure it was a dolphin...right? We usually see dolphins out there...this time, I wasn't so sure - maybe it was a shark! Maybe I was swimming with him all along! And, what about those crabs and little fish I keep seeing? Aren't those bait for bigger fish? Oh my God! What was I thinking being out in this water? What was that quote I just read about open water swimming and entering the food chain?
“Ah, deep breath,” I thought. “Clear your head. Stop the panic. Think it through. What are the actual risks? Yup, you do enter the food chain. But, humans are still pretty high up on that chain even in the water. Yup, the sharks exist. They occasionally bite people. But mostly, people swim safely in open water without encountering sharks or alligators.” Wasn't I actually at more risk on the road on my bike with the crazy drivers than in the open water?
Lots of rational thoughts exist to ward off fear, but I'm really glad I have time to keep practicing. I'll need more time in the open water to convince myself that the swimming creatures aren't conspiring to eat me!
There is NO WAY that a few swimming creatures are going to stop me from my dream of completing a triathlon! What am I going to say? "I can't race, 'cause I'm afraid"? Nope...not me! I've beat too many other obstacles in my life to be stopped by a few fish!
So, onward and upward!