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I’d Like to Schedule an Open Water Lobotomy, Please October 22, 2011

Today I did another mini triathlon although it wasn’t my original intent really. My intent had been to get another open water swim in, this one organized by a private group called TriMoreFitness. It was taking place at the actual Marin Triathlon swim course and after last week, I felt like I really need to get back in there and also have another go at open water.

I was feeling so prepared. I’d gone to see the sports psychologist and we’d had a fabulous and what felt like very helpful session. Last night I swam a mile in the pool and felt so incredibly relaxed and happy the whole time. I felt like I was doing everything possible to make this go right.

Sigh.

I admit, it went “righter” in many ways than last time. But still it was not what I had hoped.

This is the course. I know it’s sort of hard to visualize, but this is what we did.

So we started at the point marked “Olympic Swim Start.” First we got in and got our faces wet and practiced floating on our backs for a while. That was pretty relaxing. I checked in with myself. So far so good. The first kayak paddled out ¬†about even with the end of the pier. Man, it looked tiny and far. (first flutter of anxiety as I noticed this) Then it was time to go. I tried to really focus on going SLOW (the coach instructed us to go what felt like “embarassingly slow” and I was glad to comply). I think I was about half way to the pier when my brain kicked in with, “I need a rest.” I flipped over on my back. Already? This was kind of annoying. But whatever. I breathed. When I turned over I noticed the huge and growing gap between me and the vast majority of swimmers. There was one guy behind me with the other kayak I think.

I kept going. It was sort of swim, rest, swim, rest until I got to the pier. I was happy to get there. But then I noticed this weird… “What the heck?” feeling. I was caught in a fishing line. For a second I felt like a fish. It was like walking into a spiderweb (ack! no! What is that??) but stronger. I was really hoping there was no fish on the other end of it.

So, that rattled me. The coach came by on his standup paddleboard and kind of guided me off and away from the pier. He was reassuring. I set my sights on the first buoy beyond the pier (there were 3 total, and after the third we were to sort of make a sharp U-turn to shore). ¬†But by then my breathing was all messed up. I’d swim like two strokes then my body would almost involuntarily flip over, like, HELL NO this isn’t working.

My sighing was also messed up and I realized I was relying on the coach to kind of point the way. Which he did. But then he started talking to me and gesturing and I couldn’t really hear him because I had earplugs in. It seemed important (and potentially lifesaving). So I wrestled one earplug out and tossed it in the water. (sorry for the litter) He was saying something about swimming with one arm. At this point my brain was kind of scrambled. Like seriously scrambled. I had no idea what this meant even though he was gesturing. He could have been speaking Swahili. I tried the one-arm thing and then he said “Face down!” and I was like, “Ohhhhhhhh man I am just screwing up right and left!” I know he was really trying to help me get more relaxed and save energy and all that but I was seriously stressing at this point.

That’s when the wheezy, death-rattle breathing started up. Oh GREAT. I was talking myself the entire time, saying my “You’ve got this!” mantra. But at this point another voice came up, somewhere around my strangled lungs, and responded, “I don’t believe you!” So that’s what was going on. Some crazy Gollum/Smeagal death match in the Bay.

I didn’t know what to do other than just roll over and try and get my composure. But I remembered last week the instruction to “Just keep moving” so I was fluttering my feet and arms like snow/water angel formation. The coach was like, “STAY STILL!” because he wanted me to conserve oxygen and get a grip. But I was now confused as well as freaked out. I heard him say the work “kayak” and that was it.

Suddenly I wanted that kayak and I wanted it BAD. So the kayaker came over and she was very kind and patient and I grabbed the rope thing. I had really, really, reallllllllllllllllllllly wanted to complete this swim without kayak aid. But here we were. She began paddling toward shore and I kicked and she pulled me a long for a while (I have no idea. 50 yards? 100?) until I realized I could breathe. I made some conversation. I said, ‘Oh man, what if this happens to me during the event?” And she said, “No problem, you just go to shore and go do your bike and run.” And I was like, WHAT? Even if If don’t go all the way around the 3rd buoy? And she insisted no, “the swim can be whatever length you can do” and I was like, “Huh!” This was a glimmer of hope and possibility. I swam alongside the kayak and for a little while it felt almost as good as in the pool. I got back to shore.

I think I swam out to the 2nd buoy, which was about halfway between the pier and the turnaround buoy. Which was about 3/4 of the way, more or less. Maybe 2/3. Better than last weekend’s halfway.

So. The good thing about today’s swim is that I went farther. I only hung on the kayak once, as opposed to like half a dozen times.

The bad things were getting tangled in fishing line, getting freaked out by not hearing/understand the coach’s instructions, and the Bad Phase in which I had dueling voices in my head and could only swim two strokes at a time.

I was not the last person out of the water because most of the people did their complete swim, ie around the 3rd buoy. Which would naturally take longer.

After the swim, Lily and I had a rather leisurely transition onto our bikes (which had been locked in my car) and we did one loop of the bike course. My chain slipped off two times. (Lily helped the first time and the 2nd time I put it back on myself, yay for that) I was more tired on this bike ride than any of the other three times I’d done it. I realized I hadn’t really had anything to drink or eat after the swim, and I didn’t drink while on the bike either. (I better get used to that Camelbak) I was pooped. After I got back down we hustled into our running shoes and went up to the run course.

Both of us realized pretty soon that we really, really needed to pee. Which is a not-good feeling when trying to run. It’s almost like having an injury. At the very least it’s extremely distracting. So a lot more walking than usual went on.

That was our mini triathlon of this weekend. I keep telling myself the ways in which it’s going to be better on Race Day for a variety of reasons.

Right now I am really kind of looking forward to completing this season. I’m disappointed that my mental training did not yield a calmer swim than what I had. But I’m glad that I accomplished what I did today and I’m going to move forward. No crying today or tomorrow.

 

 
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