Swimming Through The Fear

Yesterday, after a wonderful birthday dinner on Saturday night with my friend Val and her family and more friends, and after a very intense game of Pictionary, I got up early to head back to the lake where I had crashed and burned 3 weeks before.  I was determined to get the full one-half mile of swimming, going solidly around all 3 buoys and getting back to shore.

I had spent a lot of time thinking (worrying) about what had happened.  I guess the thing, or 2 things, that scared me the most were 1.  I had some chest pain all the way home on Sunday, and 2) I was totally exhausted for 2 days afterwards.  I mean, the Monday after I got home, I had to work, as the next day I was taking G BACK to Denver for a VA appointment, but I was tired all day,  and Tuesday wasn’t too much better, even though all I did was drive to and from Denver and sit around the VA all day.  This bothered me a lot, as I am usually quick to recover after strenuous exercise.  So, on Wednesday, I kicked up my walking pace and did my 3 miles in around 45 mins, and felt so ill effects whatsoever.  No chest pain, no trouble breathing, etc.  So, I started to feel a little bit better.  Then I started doing a little reaserch and realized that since I wasn’t swimming with a cap, I might have had a touch of hypothermia, even though the water wasn’t all that cold-feeling to my body–still you lose a lot of head through your head.

That’s when I started using my new swim cap in the pool and realized it did make a huge difference.  Even when the water is a bit cool, my body warms up fast with the swimming, but of course, your head is just in the water getting cold.  So I began to feel better about that.

Then I did that thing that I working so hard not to do–I started thinking, what if I can’t do this, what if I get afraid, what if I can’t jump off the boat into the Bay, what if the crowd freaks me out, what if I’m too fat, what if, what if what if…That sucks, but it’s what I do.  I do all my “stewing” on the inside.  Outwardly I go on like, la, la, la, everything is great, and inside I’m just this huge ball of anxiety.


Sunday we got to the facility and the same guy who registered me was there and he remembered me.  He said the water was probably in the mid-70’s about the same was it was 3 weeks before, then showed me how, if I wanted to I could just swim back and forth between 2 of the buoys, the closest one, and the one across.  They are 250 M apart, so to swim out and back twice would be a mile.  That sounded good, but I wasn’t sure that, even if I didn’t choke, I would have enough time to do a full mile, since we were supposed to go to breakfast with Val at 9:30, and then head to the movies.

Nothing left but to get going.  I put my stuff on a table, and got my towel out and struggled into my swim cap, making sure it came well down over my ears.  As I was doing this, 2 women came up behind me, chatting with the registration guy.  They were both wet-suited up to their necks, and one of them was talking about how she had “choked” last week when she was doing a triathlon–apparently, she just had not been able to do the swim.  She sounded really worried about getting back in the water, even in the calm lake, even with the very few people that were around that morning.

Suddenly, I did not feel so bad about my “glitch” 3 weeks ago.  I had been spending a lot of time over the last few days, especially when I was swimming, visualizing the lake, seeing myself swimming around the buoys, etc.  In fact, it was the last thing I thought about before I feel asleep the night before.  I was hoping this technique would help relax me.

Thus fortified, G and I went down to the edge of the lake and I got in.  It’s not really a “shore” in that you have to step off about 2 feet.  Graceful that I am, I just get down on my knees and back in!  Yesterday, the water was noticeably chillier than 3 weeks ago, but not unbearable.  The fear creeps up again, but I will it down because I have a different plan.  Instead of just hauling off an swimming, I decide that I’ll warm up a bit (as I do in a pool) and get acclimated to the water.  There’s a place where you can swim along the shore and still stand up, so I do that, and reach one of the 2 girls I spoke to before, who is waiting for her friend.  The girl is behind me muttering how she just can’t bring herself to put her face in the water.  I realize I haven’t done that yet, either, so I quickly get my goggles on and duck my head (well capped) under the water.  The water is chilly on my face, but my head does NOT have that total SHOCK that thew me off so much last time.  I think I’m going to be able to do this.

So, I just shove off the bottom and start swimming.  The sun is up but there’s a few clouds over it and I think, today would be a good morning for some warm sunshine, but then all I’m thinking about is swimming.  I’m swimming!  My head is actually in the water, my rhythm is coming, and I’m not having cold shock every time I put my face in the water.  The swim cap is working!  So, I swim, stroke, swim, stroke, swim and the next think I know, I look up and the first buoy is on my right!  The goal was to go around it being on my LEFT, so I adjust a bit and swim around the outside of if and head to the 2nd buoy.  Swimming the half-mile will be like a big triangle and I have just completed the first side, and am going strong.

Right in the middle of the 2nd side was where I had to stop last time.  There is a small, white marker buoy there, and in no time, I am up to that and realize that I am feeling really good!  I metaphorically wave bye-bye to that buoy and head off to the 2nd course buoy.  Again, in no time it seems like I’m there, and this time, I swim around the correct way and am turning back to the shore.  I can see the 3rd buoy–they are bright orange and big enough for me to see without my glasses (another worry that cropped up, too).  I am swimming in good rhythm and I realize that, while I am only doing a half-mile because I need to be out by a certain time, I feel good enough to know that I COULD do the mile if I wanted to.  I am so rocked by this.  Then, as I turn my head to breathe, I see a solitary goose fly over, and the sun comes out from behind the clouds.  I can feel the warmth on my back, even with the cool water all around me.  I glance up and realize that I am WAY wide of the last buoy, so I correct my course and keep swimming.  I feel great!  I am so happy!  And before I know it, I’ve got past the last buoy, and in a few more strokes, the water is shallow enough for me to stand up and I’m done.

G waves to me from the shore to get my attention.  I want to jump up and down in the water and just holler, but instead I just give her the high fists, and come on out of the water on the bank.

I did it!  The swim cap worked, I have no chest pain, I feel GREAT.  I am hardly even out of breath.  I really, really think about doing the whole thing over again, but the birthday party awaits, so I head for the showers.

But, I DID IT!

G. has her pre-op appointment in Denver on Monday, August 24, so I will be coming back one last time (the lake closes to swimmers on September 6) and I will do the MILE.

Stay tuned!



5 thoughts on “Swimming Through The Fear

  1. What a relief that must have been! And to feel so strong! Congratulations!

    Isn’t it funny that facing a fear feels impossible until you actually do it.

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