Monsters in the Water

Sunday was a beautiful day at Finger Lakes.  I fear there will not be many more like it this year and even with the 80+ degree temps, the water was pretty cool for a swim at the start. 

For the first time ever, I did an open water swim alone.  For whatever reasons, all of the people who said they would be there, weren’t.  I debated bailing on the swim and just running, but I couldn’t.  I really wanted the swim and know my open water days are numbered, so I put on my wetsuit and cap and went it alone (sorry Lise). 

There were demons in the water.  Not real ones, of course… But those of my own creation.  Shaped like crocodiles, Jaws, giant fish and dragons. I think Nessie even made an appearance.  For a 40+ year old man to have such thoughts is a bit embarrassing, but it was a fear I needed to face.  It’s easy to rationalize and throw logic at these fears when you are standing on the shore looking out at them.  It’s when you get in that the real fight begins.  I fought panic a couple of times, especially when I heard what sounded like large bubbles just to the left of me.  It was nothing.  Just my arm entering the water at not quite the same angle.  To help me focus, I really tried to concentrate on form.  While I was out there, it really didn’t feel like it helped.  Funny thing is, I swam the distance a full minute faster…

I’ve never panicked in the water.  I’ve been uncomfortable quite a few times.  Either at my own accord or at the hands (and feet) of others.  But of the two, I think I would rather be crashing, banging and unintentionally high fiving a pack of triathletes, rather than swimming alone.  The sun was setting and the trees cast shadows that were cold and dark.  I knew where the shore was at all times since the lake is narrow, but all I wanted to do was get back to the car.

When I was done I felt silly and a bit ashamed.  The biggest real monster I saw was about a 2lb. bass.  Tasty… but not really all that scary.  This whole triathlon thing seems to be about me facing fears.  Fear of injury (correction: RE-injury), self doubt, fear of the water, fear of crashing.  And, whether fortunately or unfortunately, I seem to have confronted them all this year.  Next year I will push the boundaries a bit.  Longer distances, more challenging races, perhaps…

Once my heart rate came back down below 300 from my adrenaline filled walk on water, I decided to reward/punish myself with a longer run than usual.  The park was fairly empty and the weather was perfect.  After such a self-induced, heart pounding swim, the run seemed almost too mundane.  The leaves are just starting to turn in central Missouri and the forest is thinning with the season.  It was fun to see deeper into the woods.  The wind picked up for the first time (without the aid of a thunderstorm) this fall and the early turners were falling en masse.  I forgot about pace and technique and just ran.  The sun was warm but the wind was cool.  I was sad when it was over.  And I was tired…  I have such a long way to go…

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