Thursday, June 9, 2011

Let The Irrational Freak Out Commence

Yup.  It's started.  The good old irrational freak out. 

What am I freaking out about you ask?

My first triathlon in almost 3 years is what.  Mainly the swim portion.

But don't you swim 2-3 times a week already you ask?

Yes.  But that's in the safety of a pool.   This is the wide open space of a lake.  There are no lane lines to follow.  The water is not clear.  The bottom (if I can see it) is not smooth.  It's dark, murky and generally creepy.  I don't do myself any sort of favours by imagining all the potential scariness at the bottom of a lake.  Dead animals.  Huge old dead trees.  Maybe even dead bodies.  There is a  scene from Jaws always comes to mind.  You know, the one where Richard Dreyfuss is scuba diving at night by an abandoned boat and he finds a big hole in the hull of the boat.  In the big hole, he finds a huge shark's tooth.  He goes to pull the tooth out and the decaying, chewed up head of the boat owner pops out and Dreyfuss proceeds to scream like a girl all the way back to the surface.  THAT scene.

Yes, you could say I have a bit of an overactive imagination. 

How do I deal with this? 

Other than mentally telling myself to stop being a scaredy cat, I find that distraction is the best way.  Fear of open water swimming is not uncommon so there is plenty of useful info online, especially geared towards newbie triathletes.   This article is quite helpful.  Both techniques mentioned in it are essentially a form of distraction.  It's all about taking your mind off the "unpleasantness" of the activity by either focusing on internal factors (i.e how do I feel, is my technique good etc) or external factors (i.e what is going on around them).  I usually prefer to focus internally because for me, external focus still reminds me that I'm in a lake, surrounded by a bunch of other people.  Basically, I'll pick something I'm doing and focus on it for the entire swim.  During an Ironman swim (3.8km) Ive been known to count my strokes.  That is a mind numbing activity and usually keeps me occupied for a fair amount of the swim.   One two three, breathe, one, two, three, breathe.  It's kind of meditative actually.  In an Olympic distance swim (1.5km) I remember humming Rush's YYZ for the entire 30 minutes it took me to swim that distance.   Very motivating and I actually managed to get a really good rhythm going.

Hey whatever it takes to soothe the screaming child inside my head. 

The swim this weekend is only 500m.  Realistically it shouldn't take me more than 10 minutes to do that so I'm sure I'll survive. And maybe, just maybe, it will help me take those first few steps towards keeping The Irrational Freak Outs at bay.
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