When I decided to take on doing a triathlon this year, I was seriously terrified. That whole swimming thing was really freaking me out. I felt so unsure. My fear of water was very real and very terrifying. But, I had put it out there and made it a goal. I don’t like not hitting my goals.
So, I signed up for a swim class and felt like a fish out of water. I was diligent in my attendance of this class and slowly but surely, I became confident in the pool. I was even enjoying myself! I took the next step of participating in an indoor triathlon to get the feel of being in a competitive situation.
Everything was going great.
Then, on a super hot day a few weeks ago, Brette suggested we go swim in the lake. I froze.
I knew I had to face open water. The tri coming up in August is not in a pool for pete sake, it’s in a lake. I had to practice, but I was scared.
That day, I stood in the water for a good 10 minutes just staring at it, trying to talk myself into actually swimming. I finally had to countdown from 5. The following thoughts went through my head as I plunged my non-wetsuit clad body into the water.
- “Holy sheet it’s cold.”
- “I can’t see anything but green muck – clearly there is a monster in here waiting to eat me!”
- “Is that a weed? Eww!”
- “Will I see fish? Will they nibble on my flesh? AHH!”
- “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”
I flailed around for about 5 minutes, while doing 2 mini-laps where I could still touch the bottom. My heart rate was sky high and I really wanted to cry. I took myself back to the beach and waited for Brette. I was mad, embarrassed and still a bit terrified. How the hell was I going to do a triathlon?
Fast forward 2 weeks.
Last night, I swam across the entire lake. Twice.
This lake to be exact.
It’s 600 yards each way, so I swam 1,200 total yards in open water. Without panicking. Without drowning.
So, what happened in two weeks? I was so bummed after that first attempt. I went to the pool a couple of times and reminded myself that I can, in fact, swim and swim for long distances without issue. After that, I turned on the mental game. I started visualizing myself swimming in the lake, breathing easy, staying steady and even enjoying myself. I visualized often.
The following week, Brette and I went back to the lake. Lake Nokomis started open water swims on Tuesday nights where you can swim all the way across – from beach to beach. They have lifeguards out on kayaks. Tons of people came out – most of which were decked out in wet suits and clearly training for a race. Brette opted to swim across and I stayed in the bay. It was super windy and choppy, which made me nervous. Staying closer to shore, I talked to a ton of people who had came out to swim. These people gave me calm. Swimming was not big deal to them. Certainly if they all had figured out how to do this, I could too. I swam 3 laps along the buoys without a problem. I vowed to myself that the following week, I would swim across the lake and back. All week, I visualized doing it. I gave myself pep talks. Brette gave me pep talks. By the time we got there on Tuesday, I felt like I had already done it. I hoped right in and off I went, like it was no big deal.
I stayed steady and calm. I stopped every now and again to make sure I was going straight (I never was), looked around, and then kept going. I stopped once I got to the other side, took a breather and talked to a number of swimmers. At that point I was so giddy and down right excited to swim back. Again, I stayed steady and calm and enjoyed my time in the water. I learned to work with both my body and my mind to conquer the open water. Who am I?
I am a swimmer.