The morning of my very first triathlon training with the group brought four trips to the bathroom. I was severely worried about what I would be faced with in regards to the swimming portion of this training. You see, when it comes to deep water, I have this irrational, unreasoning, ridiculous fear of it. And it’s not something I have developed in my adult years. This goes back much further in time than that. When I was born, I know my parents had my scuba tank all picked out, hoping that I would join them under the sea in scuba bliss. Years of them arguing, begging, pleading, and even a few feet of rope (by means of tying it around my waist and throwing me overboard with some swim wings, hoping I would enjoy the deep water through osmosis) was not enough to get me to budge, and in fact, made the fear even more embedded in my brain.
When people ask me just “what” it is that scares me the most about deep water, a few words come to mind:
dangling. sharks. the movie “open water”. dangling. sharks. dangling.
Deep water makes me feel out of control, unsafe, and vulnerable to all sorts of creatures and situations that I just don’t enjoy. So what’s a person to do? (Tequila?)
I shook off all deadly thoughts, packed up my gear and headed out the door. I wasn’t really prepared for a “triathlon” per say. I didn’t have the correct swim suit, bike pants or sports bra. What I did have going for me was my fancy, middle-priced swim cap and goggles. Deep down inside I was hoping that it was a magical cap and super goggles that would kick my fear in the ass. Right.
I almost turned around and went home twice on my way to Ft. Desoto. But I didn’t. (Goal #1. Check!). When I Deb, the organizer of the group, I instantly felt a little bit better since not only had she reassured me via email, but now she was saying those same words of encouragement to me in person. Two of the gals in the group had already participated in their first Sprint Tri, and all three of them were doing the Top Gun Tri during the last weekend of July.
I figured they were going to be WAY out of my league, and that I would never be able to keep up with them during this training. (Get in car, leave, NOW.)
I followed them down to the shore, took a look at the water and cringed a little. It was pretty calm, but it was very churned up. Not only would I be swimming in deep water, but I wouldn’t be able to see the bottom (crap). I snapped out of my deathly daydream, slathered on some sunscreen, put on a dri-fit tank over my swimsuit (I was wearing my regular bra for extra ta-ta support, and didn’t want to woo everybody with the beautiful straps that were showing), grabbed my magical cap and super goggles and got in the water. (Goal #2, Check!).
When we got in, I learned that one of the other members that was with us was also pretty fearful of the deep (hooray!), so I didn’t feel so bad when she declared she’d be staying closer to shore than the others. After a few pointers, breathing techniques and distance set, we started off on our first swim. I was in water about as deep as my shoulders (which I could handle) and I wasn’t doing half bad! As soon as I was able to get a rhythm in with my strokes and breathing, I was able to keep a straight path and make it to the end. I used a front crawl stroke for most of the distance, getting on my back for short backstrokes a couple of times when I got tired. Luckily, when you’re competing in a tri, it doesn’t matter what method you use. The goal is to “get out of the water”, and that’s what I did. (Goal #3, Check!).
We swam back to the start, then did a shorter swim one more time before we got out of the water. During the shorter swim, Lindsey, one of the “old pros”, helped me get into the deeper water for the length back to the start. I stayed with her for most of the leg, and was amazed when we stopped and I realized I was treading water! For a moment, I thought panic would set in, but I was OK. The fear is still there, but that was definitely a baby step in the right direction (Goal #4, Check!).
We got out of the water, dried off, had a snack and got on the bike. Once again, I didn’t have any “biking” apparel, so I kept my swimsuit top on, threw on dri-fit shirt and my knee shorts I’ve been using for jogging. I LOVE these shorts. I bought a few of them at Wal-Mart back in the spring and they’re fabulous. They don’t ride, bunch or gather up top. I don’t have to worry about pulling any wedgies out when I wear these, so I figured they would be just fine for the biking. I wore my regular running shoes, adjusted my helmet, and off I went.
Riding a mountain bike is good for training, but bad for speed. It’s heavy, bulky, and makes you do twice the effort you would normally put out if you were on a hybrid or road bike. But for now, it’s all I’ve got. Lindsey was also riding a mountain, so we stayed together for most of the ride. Most sprint tri bike distances are around 10-12 miles. At Ft. Desoto, the distance from the North beach to the East beach and back is equal to 10 miles, so that was the goal. Along the way, Lindsey pointed out some mile markers to help gauge our location.
Flag pole= 3 miles (yes!).
East beach dead end= 5 miles (whoo!).
The fort= 1.5 miles to go (gasp!)
I work well with landmarks.
I had to stop 3 times during the trek, for some water and butt relief (no not farts, butt soreness), but I was able to finish the 10 miles! (Goal #5. Check!) I got off feeling like my strong jogging legs had turned into jellyfish tentacles, but I knew we had to get some foot mileage in. We power walked (I crawled) down a path about a mile or so, and I realized that the transition from bike to 5k was going to be something I’d really need to work on. Jogging had made my calf muscles super strong, but my quads? Forgetaboutit. Biking was a totally new workout for them, so when I went to walk, they basically said “F-U” and went to sleep.
At the end of the day, I was excited about the prospect of completing my first triathlon. Yes, I was still nervous about the swimming, and I knew I would have to put some work into those quads, but I felt like it was totally doable. I’m hoping to have lots of support from both the group and everyone out there so that I can keep this mindset and complete this goal. As for now? I’ve got a week until the next tri training which will be plenty of time to get all of the panics out of my system, get on that bike, and hit the deep end (no, I won’t be going off of it… hopefully.)