12:35pm — This is a short phone post. But I’m overwhelmed by relief from my experience this morning. Michelle took me out to Lake Temescal and we had a great swim. It was sooo what I needed. I am so grateful. And I think it’s gonna be okay.

20111028-015400.jpgOK, so here’s the longer extended-version of today’s session because it seems a bunch of people have some questions about “What actually did you guys DO out there?”

Well, first of all, I cried like a baby in the car on my entire drive down there. I was terrified and really nervous it was not going to go well. Even my next door neighbor noticed there was something weird about me as I was getting into the car. I was just so wound up because I felt like this was my LAST HOPE (“ObiWan Kenobi, you’re my only hope…”) and if I didn’t have a positive experience it was going to be Game Over.

So I was pretty shaken when I got to the parking lot and Michelle pulled up right next to me. “How are you?” she asked and I was like… “Errr…” It has been a tough week. Starting with the open water swim last weekend. I also had my annual cardiologist appointment this week. He said everything looked terrific, “except your EKG…” It had some funny dips where it was supposed to bump, or vice versa. T-waves. What do I know. (nothing)

He said it COULD be just some good changes that happens when people get more athletic, or it could be.. something else. And given my hyperventilation/shortness of breath nonsense that has been occurring, not to mention some troublesome lightheaded/dizziness stuff as well lately, he said I need to have a treadmill cardiac stress test before the tri. So that’s scheduled for next Friday (um, 2 days before). So that put me into a bit of a worrying state (like I wasn’t already) and it’s just been a domino/snowball effect of anxiety.

We had a bit of a comedy show wriggling into our wetsuits on the beach. That’s always good for some chuckles. There’s nothing more comical than trying to put on a wetsuit.

She said the plan was we’d go into the water, make a plan, etc. We got in about waist deep (BRR! But to be honest, I actually love the feeling of wetsuit in cold water – it’s like, nyah nyah can’t touch me!) and discussed some strategy for race day. I told her my plan was to position in the back of the pack and maybe to the left, since I tend to drift to the right. We discussed this and the course a while and she pretty much convinced me to stay to the right to avoid too much buoy and pier traffic on the turns.

So first we did some back and forth swimming in the super shallow area. (chest high?) So far so good. She asked me how I felt. I said I felt fine because I could pretty much SEE the bottom. Which I think I found reassuring. So they we ventured out beyond the first set of ropes into the “Steep Drop-Off” area. She showed me a little about “bobbing” which is kind of like vertically treading water but without moving. She kept repeating how the wetsuits are going to keep us afloat, and that we can bob like a cork. I found this comforting because that’s my “kayak” position except without holding onto the rope. (that was kind of an “aha!” moment) I can catch my breath MUCH easier when I’m vertical than when I’m on my back (<wheeze position).

Then she asked if I knew about “head up” swimming – which is like doing freestyle but with (duh) head out of water. I said no. Which is weird. I see people doing this in tri videos all the time but I’ve never tried it or learned about it. I actually like it much better than the other “recovery” strokes – breast or side stroke, both which seem to make me more anxious. So I practiced that a bit and I liked it. She said that if I get all out of breath that I should try that for 3-4 strokes and see how it feels for recovery. Then she asked me what my strategy was going to be, mind-wise, while swimming. I said I was going to mentally count to 10 over and over, and I was also going to use a mantra that the wonderful Annelise suggested to me: Exhale on “gentle” and inhale on “kind.” What two better words could there be? As it turned out they were much better and more effective than last week’s “You got this.” (you can’t really ARGUE with “gentle and kind” can you??)

So then we ventured out into the REALLY deep water (like, 20+ feet?). After you can’t touch the bottom anymore, it doesn’t really mattter if it’s 20 feet or 200. There are some lane lanes out there in the middle of the lake and the plan was to do one big rectangle, using all my strategies.  I took off. I think about 3/4 of the way around I started getting that “I’m tired I want to rest” feeling. But I just slowed down and counted. And before I knew it we were back in the corner again, bobbing. No death rattle of doom! No panic! And no need to ever stop, I didn’t even use the head-up method.

I told her that I had gotten that “uh oh” feeling a few times, but that each time I was able to count it down or slow down or “gentle-kind” myself back to just swimming. We went back and forth (60 yards I think) about 4-5 times. Which is about 300 yards? Maybe 500 total given the shorter ones before. Not a huge distance but definitely the longest I have ever gone in open water without having the Bad Feeling. I felt like I could go more. But I didn’t really have to.

I was so happy when we got out of the water. Part of me was disappointed that I hadn’t actually HAD the Death Rattle Wheeze, but of course part of me was enormously relieved. To be honest I’ll be happy if I never have that feeling again.

So, a bunch of major good things happened:

1. Long, uneventful swim in open water.

2. Learned a couple of good “recovery” techniques: bobbing and head-up freestyle.

3. I had a positive experience! So now I can build on that and let go of the bad one from last weekend.

YAY. I feel a million times better than I have all week. I feel so much more confident. I feel like… that triathlon is definitely in my reach now. And I have to say, I have been to see many a therapist about many a fear/bad feeling/etc. And this is the first time that someone actually TOOK me to my scary place (quite literally) and worked it out with me. I am really so grateful. I need this so very badly. Woo hoo and thank you to Michelle, sports psychologist awesomeness.