You are lucky you are reading this. Or maybe, I am lucky you are reading this.
Tuesday night, I did an open water swim practice with the Aquaman program at Cherry Creek reservoir in Denver. My plan? To execute their long course of a 1-mile swim (2 750-meter loops) and a 5K. Sounded simple enough – a 1-hour or so workout, excellent training for the Boulder Peak Triathlon this coming weekend. I was confident enough that I could swim that far, I’ve done much more in the pool and previous open-water swims had left me feeling good, not panicked.
The water for the first lap was pretty calm. Despite a strong current that had me swimming far off course (until a kind fellow swimmer grabbed my leg to bring my attention to my misguided path), I felt pretty okay after 750 meters. I completed it in a faster time than any previous open water swim – dare I say, I was pleased. I swam up onto the beach and went through the chute to do lap 2. At first, I thought the few seconds on the beach had ruined my rhythm. I was swimming, but seemingly standing still. The bright green buoy was no closer. Then, every time I turned to get a breath, I got a splash of water instead. The chop was increasing, the wind picking up. As I bounced up and down in the waves, I started to sense a bit of seasickness. Need I remind you that at this time last summer, I was celebrating my second child’s passing of the swim test so I didn’t ever have to leave my pool chair and go near the water. I am not a swimmer.
I arrived at the first buoy and could see the kayakers (read, escape) in the distance. The second buoy seemed extremely far away. I saw people turning to cut in toward shore. Should I join them? Were we called in and I missed the memo. My determination was too great to give up however, so I kept going. My rhythm was completely shot and then it hit me – there was no escape. I was in the middle of the reservoir with white caps and poor swimming skills. Swimmers passed me. I still felt like I was treading water. My kids were on shore, handing out water to runners…were they going to see their mother drown? Then, an even worse thought came into my head, were they going to see their mother quit? And, if I quit – would I doom myself for the Sunday triathlon. I couldn’t let my head win.
Yoga. Yoga came to me. In yoga, we learn and teach that as long as you can breathe, you are okay. I could breathe…between swallows of water. As long as I could breathe, I could keep moving forward.
Once I reached the final buoy, getting to shore seemed a breeze. When I hit the transition area, I felt better when the guy next to me said it was the worst open water swim he’d ever experienced. The swim took a lot out of me, but I ran anyway – just slow and steady — because it just felt good to have my feet touch the ground.
Oh, I’m sure people have endured far worse than the swim I did on Tuesday – but it was a milestone for me. I experienced the swimming panic, but I overcame. I didn’t let it defeat me – or more so, I didn’t let my mind defeat me.