I know I’m not alone in my fear of open water swimming. There’s been twitter talk between friends about it recently and procrastination of even toeing the lake water (yes, I’m guilty of this one, too). Frayed Laces just wrote about how to face those fears in a blog post (how timely!). Heck, Nick wouldn’t even swim with other people until about a year after he started practicing.
So, what is it about open water swimming that’s so scary / frustrating / anxiety-inducing for me (and, I’m guessing a few others, too)?
- Lake water is murky, and things lurk below the surface. I know, I know… I live in Minnesota where there are no piranhas, sharks or jellyfish. But, it’s the unknown, what I can’t see, that makes me panicky. I grew up swimming summers away at the outdoor pool in Hallock, where I later lifeguarded for seven summers; the water was turquoise and totally transparent. Unless you count man-made Lake Bronson, lakes were few and far between in northwestern Minnesota.
- Weeds give me the willies. During my first open water swim of the season at Lake Nokomis, I had a minor freakout when I swam through a gaggle of green weeds winding up from below. As they brushed against my body, I envisioned them wrapping around my arms and legs and pulling me down. I quickly flipped to my back and took a few deep breaths as the tears nearly filled my goggles. After regaining some composure, I swam back to shore as calmly as I could and shortened the rest of the workout.
- When I really think about where I’m swimming – the lake, its depth, being far from shore – my heart rate rises and chest tightens. A good reason to swim with teammates… just in case.
- I’m slooooooow. Swimming is by far my weakest sport (or as Coach Matt says, my third best sport!). I’m lapped repeatedly in the pool and at the lake, which drives me crazy and practically brings me to tears every single time I swim. I want nothing more than to be fast now – NOW! – not a month, six months or a year from now. It’s difficult to keep it in perspective that many of my teammates have been swimmings for years – and most wear a wetsuit (I have yet to buy one). I only started swimming laps this year, January in the pool and June in the lake. Increasing my swim speed and building endurance will take time and practice; I desperately need to remember this.
- Expanding on the last one: I’m competitive. And, no one puts more pressure on me to perform well than myself. Sure, triathlon is competitive; who doesn’t want a top spot in your AG? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to kick ass in the 30-34 age group, both during the swim and overall in my first hardcore race on Saturday. But, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about this:
In all honesty, I enjoy swimming when I’m not freaking out about murky water and weeds and coming in last. There’s something about the creamy cool water that’s oddly freeing and soothing. And, I almost like my hair post swim, too… almost :)
So, tomorrow morning when I’m lining up on the Lake Nokomis beach for the start my first ever Olympic distance race, Life Time Tri, I’m going to take a deep breath, try to forget my open water fears and race against the swimmer I was yesterday.
Good luck to everyone racing tomorrow!