Who would have thought a triathlon would be a good way to get over one’s fear of swimming!? But, it worked. Actually, my journey began with taking swimming lessons to see if I could master it enough to enter a triathlon, but after 3 months of lessons, I was better but not good enough. So my girlfriend and I decided to stop.
Then her daughter pushed, prodded, intimidated, cajoled and we got back to training. I should say I got back to worrying and experiencing extreme angst and anxiety. In fact, I can’t remember when I have ever experienced so much anxiety with the associated knots in my stomach right up to the morning of the event.
Then a funny thing happened. After I jumped into the water, I swam 200 meters and barely remember any of it. I stopped at the 200 meter mark to catch my breath and literally could not remember how I got there (fugue state?). All I remember was starting with the freestyle, then flipping into a backstroke and I had completed the first 200 meters.
This was a major turning point (literallly), because the first 200 meters was along the shore, but then the course turned left towards
the center of the river. When swimming along the shore, one has this belief that “worst case scenario”, I can always swim to the shoreline and get out, but once you turn left and head away from shore, it’s like there’s no turning back. Somewhere in my psyche, I found the nerve to “go for it”. Said thanks to the kayaker who let me hang on while I caught my breath and took off to the center of the river.
All the lessons slowly and gradually came back to me during the swim. I moved my thumb up the outer edge of my body to ensure that my stroke was right (as Megan taught me). I slowed my stroke so I would not get too winded (as Marsha taught me). I found my own pace (as Dennis taught me). I relaxed and for the first time in 4 months of training, I was actually enjoying swimming. While doing the backstroke, I was looking up at the sky and noticing the birds, and felt they were accompanying me on this journey. Occasionally, I was bumped by other swimmers, and got water up my nose or in my mouth, but I kept going. Doing the backstroke made it harder to get my bearings, because I had to stop, turn, and look, but that was okay. I was swimming and relaxing and enjoying.
I exited the water with a smile on my face and an “OMG I did it” in my heart. What a rush.