Thursday, July 23, 2009

Open Water Swimming: Squashing a Phobia

Last night I tossed and turned thinking about my open water swim this morning. In case you missed my post earlier in the week, last week during swim time trial I had a bit of a panic attack in the choppy water and turned around after only 100m.

I took a St. John's Wort pill last night to help me sleep. I don't take these very often, they are basically a herbal remedy that "reduces nervousness". Anyway, it was still after 1:00 am when I fell asleep, and woke up frequently throughout the night, always in the water, swimming amongst large ferocious waves (think Perfect Storm).

This is open water phobia is strange to me. I am a relatively strong swimmer, swimming since I was old enough to walk, and swam competitively throughout elementary and part of high school. Although I have abandoned swimming throughout parts of my adult life, I always seem to come back to it. Swimming laps in the pool is solitary, but I tend to relax and it really clears my mind. Being Canadian, it is the perfect winter activity, especially when chased by a hot tub or a sauna afterwards when it is in the middle of a snow storm. What makes my fear even stranger is that I swam open water at my first sprint tri and had no problems (other than kicking and space issues).

I am not afraid of weeds or any aquatic life, but I strangely find myself dwarfed in large bodies of water. I also worry about currents and large waves.

So this morning when the alarm went off at 5:30 am, I immediately starting to come up with excuses why I shouldn't do the swim trial.

Yet I impressed myself with my inner strength. I want to complete this Half Ironman. I even have visions of being an Ironman next year (I can't believe I just wrote that).

I. CAN. DO. THIS!!

So I dragged myself (and darling Hubs in tow) down to the beach to swim the trial. I tried to hide my fear - my heart was racing - literally. I just went nice and slow, didn't worry about my time, and would pop my head up and look for that red buoy bobbing in the distance. And I swam, the entire 1000 meters. I was even able to relax and enjoy myself.

It dawned on me afterwards that one of the best parts of being an athlete is overcoming our fears. I remember being fearful like this before my first marathon, and now 15 marathons later, that fear is gone (I still get nervous before races, but I think that is par for any race). I think that is why I am enjoying this tri stuff so much, time for new goals and achievements. The adrenalin rush of overcoming our fears and doubts in what drives us perhaps? Hopefully with more experience this open water swim stuff will be less scary!

----------------------------

It is also my fourth wedding anniversary today. I share my life with the most wonderful person, my absolute best friend! Here is a picture of us on our honeymoon in Europe (Rome to be exact). Happy Anniversary Hubs! I love you!





Thanks for reading, hope you are experiencing less rain than us Ontarians!

31 comments:

Mel-2nd Chances said...

Great post! I'll be interested in how i fair in my first open water on saturday... but my fear is your opposite. I don't mind the open water so much, for me it's the weeds LOL. Posted about my wetsuit adventures today :D Happy anniversary! Cute pic of you two!

B.o.B. said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'll be following you now as well. Read my post about my first biathlon. I was really worried about the open water swim as well.

Read:
Secrets Don't Make Friends
P.C.'s, Booty Cheeks, and Biathletes

Way to get over your fear and just do it!!!

Meg Runs said...

What a timely post...loved it! I was just talking to someone this morning who told me that when we want to do something important to us, we make it known and support comes, strength comes and we do it...you over came some fears and doubts so quickly, you're going to DO Ironman some day!!

MCM Mama said...

Great job overcoming your fears!

Happy anniversary!

RoadBunner said...

Happy anniversary!

Way to go with the OWS. I am totally afraid of swimming in open water so give you major props!

Denise said...

I think water can be very scary. I grew up playing in the ocean but now I'm terrified of waves and being trapped under the water. Good for you for not letting your fears hold you back.

Lily on the Road said...

Happy Anniversary you two!

Marci, until you are doing open water swims in either the Pacific or Atlantic you should be okay (I'm not trying to undermine your fears, which you have tackled with remarkable strength and determination), granted the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay are large and unreliable, you are a very cautious, careful person and will not be out there in unnerving weather. Maybe take the Bronze Medallion or another Royal Life Saving course...you'll feel better, stronger and more confident.

Okay, I'll shut up know...

cami said...

I'm sure you'll do just fine. As for myself, I can't even dream of doing a biathlon. I nearly drowned last summer in the Mediterranean when two high waves hit back-to-back. It took a while for people to realize what was happening. And who can blame them, really? I mean, what idiot drowns near the shore? Hopefully, this will make you feel much better about your swimming abilities.
Oh, and Happy Anniversary!

Lisa Slow-n-Steady said...

happy anniversary!

i was surprised the first time i tried open water swimming. i discovered a fear that i hadn't previously known about. i guess a lot of people has issues with it. best way to get past it is to face it head on. WELL DONE!

EndorphinBuzz said...

Overcoming your fear is great, congrats.

And aaaawwww, so cute for you and hubby. Happy anniversary.

Fair Weather Runner said...

that is a great post, so true, and congrats on doing the swim!

happy anniversary too!

aron said...

swimming scares me... open water swimming REALLLLLLY scares me!

happy annviersary!!! you got married not too long after us :) 2005 was a good year to get married!

lindsay said...

i love the part about athletes and overcoming fears - very true! yet, i am always a nervous wreck before any race... oh well :)

i am terrified of ow swimming, but i have confidence in you! go get 'em triathlete.

happy anniversary!!

joyRuN said...

1000m in open water!! Great job overcoming that phobia!

I'm still terrified, & am trying to swindle my hubs to come into the water with me again this weekend so I can work on this nonsense.

Happy anniversary :)

Jess said...

Happy anniversary and congrats on conquering your fear!

Marlene said...

Happy Anniversary! Our 4-year is coming up in September. :)

Congratulations!!! Way to face your fear and get it done. Ironman - wow!

Blyfinn said...

I actually thought that the open water swim was more enjoyable then the pool. Well other then the random cold pockets.

Lacey Nicole said...

oh my gosh! so much to comment on. first of all- you got yourself through that open water and the fear. the worst part is the lead up and all the thinking. does saint john's wort really work??? i'm always looking for natural ways to help myself calm down/ fall asleep. sadly i haven't found a good strategy.

you made me really wish i was a swimmer!! and able to go to the beach and swim for fitness in the ocean. i would LOVE that, i love teh ocean so much. but i think if i got far enough out i would have a panic attack. and realistically i'm not at all a strong swimmer so there's no way i could do that at all. WAY TO GO! you did it :)

and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!! :)

The Happy Runner said...

Great job -- you CAN do it :-)

And happy anniversary! Have a nice weekend.

Tri Mommy said...

Great job conquering your fears! And Happy anniversary too!

Runner Leana said...

Congratulations on overcoming your fear of the open water! That's awesome!!! Happy anniversary as well. Hope you have a great weekend!

Kim said...

Whoo Hoo on the swimming!!

Happy Anniversary to you and the Hubs. Have a great weekend.

Natalie D said...

Wow! Great job in going through w it! 15 marathons holy canoli! Happy ann too!! I love italy, we also just celebrated 4 yrs in JUNE... Congrats!

D10 said...

Great post Marci! I always worry about the current too. Growing up in New England everyone always talked about current and undertoe. Hope you had an awesome anniversary.

X-Country2 said...

Great post. I'm hoping to do my first OWS in a couple weeks, and I'm getting pretty nervous too. I'll be using your mantra. :o)

Vava said...

As a former competitive swimmer I can totally relate to your dislike of open water swimming. I think it's the fact that we can't see the bottom. Perhaps visualizing the bottom of a swimming pool would help? Sounds like you did just fine and don't really need any advice - congratulations!

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