Saturday, July 28, 2012

Conquering My Fear with a Little Saturday Fun

I've always had an overactive imagination.  It's no wonder I ended up studying Fine Arts in university.  This overactive imagination can sometimes get the better of me especially since I'm not sure how to control it when it plays on my anxieties.  To those of you that have been reading this blog since it's inception, you know just how petrified I am of open water swimming.  It's ironic given that I love the sport of triathlon.  People have asked me why I don't just do duathlons (run, bike, run) and my answer is that they're too freaking hard.  Seriously.  It's all legs all the time.  At least with triathlon, you've got a chance to give your legs a break before you beat the crap out of them.   All that aside, I always struggle with the swim leg of a triathlon.  I don't know what it is about open water that sets me off.  Creepy things on the bottom of the lake? The Loch Ness Monster?  Murky water?  Or the worry that I'm going to all of sudden not be able to swim anymore and I'll be in the middle of a lake...?  I'm sure it's a combination of all of those things.  So it never fails that I always have some kind of panic attack when I'm in the water.  I'm one of those people that you see doing backstroke to calm down.  The ridiculous part is that I know how to swim and I'm actually not that bad.  So when my better half said we were going to ride at Lake Wilcox today and we were going to swim first, well, I had a bit of an internal freakout.  I said I'd do it but I was nervous about it all last night and when I got up this morning I had butterflies. 

And so the self talk began. 

"Why are you so afraid, you know how to swim?"  I know, I don't know why I"m afraid.  I know it's irrational but I never claimed to be a rational person.

"What could go wrong?  You'll have a wetsuit on so you can float and there will be other people around."  I know, but I can't help but worry. 

"Stop worrying and just do it.  Focus on everything else but the fact that you're in open water."  Ok, I'll try.

And on and on it went.   At one point I almost managed to talk myself OUT of getting into the water.  But then I got annoyed with myself.  I've registered for 2 sprint distance triathlons so I have to get in the water and get used to it.  So I set myself the goal of getting in, putting my face in and swimming a few strokes to see how I felt. 

We pulled in the parking lot at Sunset Beach and it was packed with triathletes which I figured was a good thing as that meant that there should be a lot of people swimming.  The other good thing I saw was that there was a line of buoys that went right across the lake.  Awe-some!  I am horrible at sighting so to have something to follow is very helpful.  We met our friends Linnea and Glenn, got our wetsuits on and made our way down to the water.  I felt like barfing or maybe even crying. We got down to the little landing and we were greeted by a bunch of ducks just chilling out as well as a few other triathletes getting ready to swim.
Duck Posse, Chillin by the Lake

I hesitantly made my way into the murky water.  The bottom wasn't too bad, it was fairly sandy for the first few feet, then it started to get muddy and weedy.  This is when I started to get a little freaked out.  I decided to just jump in and breast stroke for a bit.  That is no easy feat in a wetsuit.  Linnea asked if I wanted her to stay with me.  I was tempted but the stubborn part of me wanted to do this on my own.  And, she came out to do a swim, I didn't want to hold her back so I told her no, it was ok, I'd be fine.  Then she said well at least it's not the Ironman Switzerland swim, right?  God love her ability to put things in perspective.  That made me feel a bit better.  I joked that I didn't even think I'd make it over to the buoys and she said just take your time.  I figured I was in the water, I might as well put my face in and try to swim.  So, off I went.  The first few strokes felt a little weird.  I always forget how different swimming in a wetsuit is.  I got into a bit of a rhythm and tried not to think about what I was doing.  Then the panic struck me out of nowhere so I stopped and looked around.  Everyone was still nearby so I put my head back in and swam over to towards the buoys.  The next thing I knew I had made it to the big red buoy that started the line of buoys that went across the lake.  Linnea said that it was about 1km across the lake.  I could see a red buoy out in the middle and figured I'd try to make it to that one.  I knew that everyone wanted to swim across the lake but I couldn't bring myself to do that just yet.  Baby steps.  Gary asked me if it was ok if he went.  I wanted him to stay with me but I didn't want him to miss a workout so I said no, go ahead.  I really had to do this on my own.   So he went off and I followed on his feet for a bit and then looked up and freaked out.  I was getting farther away from shore. 

This is ridiculous.  You can do this.

I decided that staying close to shore would probably be the best thing for me at this point.  If I could see the shoreline, I'd feel better.  So, I swam back to red buoy, floated on my back for a bit to get my breathing back to normal, then rolled over and started to swim back to where we came into the water.  I thought that maybe if I thought about my form and worked on my sighting that might be distraction enough.  So I picked a point along the shore where there happened to be a guy fishing, and used that as my focal point.   

One two three, breathe, one two three, breathe & sight.

Sometimes counting makes it better. 

Before I knew it, I was almost at the shore.  I rolled over on my back and floated for a bit.  That was actually really relaxing.  I tried to backstroke but it made me kind of dizzy so I stopped.  I tread water for a bit and figured I'd try swimming back to the red buoy.  So, off I went.

One two three, breathe, one two three, breathe & sight.  God I'm tired.

I stopped once to take a breather.  Swimming in a wetsuit is hard work until you get used to it.  My shoulders were tired and I think I was swimming faster than I would normally.  I wasn't far from the red buoy so I put my face back in and continued on.  I got to the red buoy and actually thought, wow, that wasn't so bad.  So I decided to swim up the line of buoys.  I made it to the second one before I started to panic a bit.  Ok ok, don't push it, you've already done way better than you expected.

It was true, I had.  I didn't even think I'd make it over the few hundred meters to the red buoy, let alone swim back and forth between it several times.  With that little victory, I turned around and swam back to shore, practicing my sighting and thinking about my stroke.  I swam through a bunch of weeds coming towards the shore and got grossed out so I flipped over on to my back and backstroked until I could touch the bottom. 

First open water swim, a success.  I might have only swam about 500-600m but it wasn't about distance for me.  I just had to be able to know that I could get in and do it.  The next time we go out, I'll try to swim a bit farther.  It's all about baby steps.  Today I was a happy camper.

Nice cone head. 
With the swim done, it was time to ride.  I knew the ride was going to be tough because I was riding with the speedy folks today.  I didn't really know where I was going but everyone made an effort to come back and ride with me and thankfully, they never really got that far ahead of me.  Except when I stopped to take some pictures.  This was the first ride where I spent most of it in my big chain ring.  The route is a lot flatter than what we normally ride so it just felt right.  I worked at getting into my aero bars and staying in them.  My longest ride this year was just under 50km.  I had a feeling that today would be a bit longer than that.  I was actually feeling really good so I was actually able to stay pretty close to the group.  The plan was to ride out for an hour and then turn back.  That plan gradually started to change the further along we got.  We rode out an extra 10 minutes to get to a little diner so everyone could fuel up.  I was ready to turn around.  Thankfully everyone else was as well.  I was still feeling pretty good so I hung on and climbed some of the smaller hills in my big chain ring.  At about 1:30 in I was starting to hurt.  1:40 in and I was struggling.  I had been eating gels but I don't think that was enough given the slightly harder than normal effort.  Glenn stopped to give me some Cliff shot blocs.  That helped for a bit.  At the two hour mark my legs just ached.  Since I slowed down it gave me the opportunity to take a few pics.

Huge horse farm.
The Yellow Jersey & Fluffy Clouds
We stopped at a set of lights and Gary said that we were almost done, but that we had one last hill to climb.  I wanted to get off my bike right then and there but I thought NO, suck it up and get it done.  We turned the corner and I saw the hill.  Ah. Crap.  My left foot had developed a hot spot and it was hurting like hell.  I couldn't really put much pressure on it at all so I basically had to cycle up this hill one legged.  I grit my teeth, put my head down and reefed on my handle bars.  I may whine and want to quit but my bull-headed nature won't let me do that so I'll always finish.  It may not be pretty but I'll get it done.  Today was exactly that. 

Total ride time: 2:21:54.  Distance covered 66.17km.  Longest ride this year and my fastest average pace too.  Woot!

Today's little adventure has done wonders for my confidence.  I'm actually kind of looking forward to getting into the water again to see how much farther I can go.

Call me crazy but that was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.   Maybe it was the 2 coffees I had before we started.....

Enough said.

Is there something you're afraid of doing?  Have you been able to conquer that fear? 

What's your idea of a fun way to spend a Saturday morning?

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