Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lost my nerve?

There's a "Last Gasp of Summer" swim this Saturday at a lake just about 20 minutes from here. One mile and two mile options. Course open for 90 min with the 1 mile swim starting either 15 or 30 minutes after the 2 mile start, depending on which web page you read. Either way, that leaves at least an hour for a mile swim. In a lake (no tide). I didn't sign up a few weeks ago, when I first learned about it, because I didn't know if I'd be in town or not.  Now I know I will be.


For some reason, I'm scared to sign up. Do I want to drive all the way over to SeaTac to swim with strangers? What if I'm pulled again? There is something about the Park-to-Park, and the Greenlake Open Water Swim (GLOWS) that are familiar, are family. There are people there who love me. Who know I may be slow but that I'm strong. Do I really want to swim with people who don't believe in me?

I think my confidence is still shaken from the Whidbey Island swim. Especially the idea that I didn't know how bad off I was.  Although I admit that is a possibility, based on how I felt later in the day (neither cold nor tired) I have a hard time believing it is the "truth."

The first ever OWS that I did was GLOWS in 2007.  Here is an excerpt from my race report (note, that I swam this without a wetsuit):

There were about 50 people doing the half-mile and I started near the back. The chop was still strong from all the swimmers and a stiff wind, and I was getting a face full of water every time I turned my head to breathe. It was so cold that I was hyperventilating, my heart was racing. I switched to breaststroke to see if I could catch my breath. Then to sidestroke, facing away from the waves, so I wasn’t being hit in the face. The other swimmers around me (back of the pack) were struggling in the waves as well. I heard one call a lifeguard over to take her back to shore. Another took her wetsuit off and dropped it with a guard.  I pushed on, panting, and wondering how I could relax and breathe.

It occurred to me that I might have to drop. I wasn’t sure what to do to breathe. I slowed down. I switched strokes (trying everything but back stroke) I still couldn’t get my heart to stop racing or my breath to slow. I was taking in large amounts of water. I was quite sure I wasn’t going to do my tri in 3 weeks, not if the swim is going to be like this.  I knew, that I could do this swim if I could relax, but I couldn’t get my body to relax. The green tents of the finish looked so far away.

At one point I was the second to last swimmer. I heard three guards talking to each other- I’ll take this one, you take that one, you go on ahead with the pack. Great. I had my own guard. I took on more water, coughing. The guard asked me if I was ok. I told him I was fine, and kept moving forward.  I’ve had this kind of “death march” feeling in a race before. My goal was to just keep moving as I fought to relax. I couldn’t figure out how to catch my breath and still swim forward.

About half way across the lake I started to relax. Somehow, I got my rhythm. I was able to switch between crawl and breast. I gave into the experience, and swam.  The swim became fun. I started passing other swimmers. The green tents at the finish started coming closer. I could hear my mom’s voice yelling for me, and the cheers of other swimmers and spectators. I saw the swimmer in front of me stand, marked the spot and swam for it. Then I stood, legs shaking, and ran for the finish.

The conditions were bad, and I panicked, but pushed through it and finished in 22:xx (it's a short half mile). My head knows I can do it. My heart continues to doubt.

I'm still undecided about the "Last Gasp." My Saturday plans are not yet finalized, so I'm not sure I can make it. But I wish I were more excited. More able to say "I can do this."  I'm not sure where my confidence has gone or why I need others to believe in my to be able to believe in myself.


  1. Don't force it, Rebecca. You know you can do the swim. I know you can do the swim. But in my opinion, you need to shake off the bad juju from Whidbey -- and only you'll know how and when to do that. But it needs to be the right time and place.

    Some races are just "bad" and I think Whidbey was one of those races. We all have them - things just don't go as planned. But don't let that - and things people who don't know you said - get in your head.

    You enjoy swimming. You've proven time and again you can swim. If Saturday works out logistically, great. If Saturday works out for you mentally, even better. But don't rush it. Set yourself up for success to get this monkey off your back!

  2. Snoopy-- thanks for the kind words. I guess one of my fears is that I'll not have another race until next summer, and this bad vibe will follow me there. Perhaps I need to decide that time will let it leave instead. I'm swimming Saturday no matter what-- either locally or in the race. I'll work to remember how strong I am either way.

    Thanks for the support!

  3. Just remember whether you do it or not that you're becoming a pretty experienced swimmer. Getting pulled in that race is no reflection on you as a swimmer, but on a nervous race committee/officials. I hope you won't let it color your events in the future, but totally understand that it's hard to shake off sometimes. BTW, I'm totally impressed with your swims my dear!