Inspiration | Confessions of a Panicky Swimmer

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September 22, 2014      No Comments

Our Mermaid Club Ambassador, Rebecca, reflects on her experience at IM Augusta in 2015 and how she took on the water and won!

How do you go from non-swimmer to a 70.3?  Good question.  It’s a journey.  It’s a journey that I took this year with ups and downs, some tears, some fears, tons of support and ultimately victory.

I started swimming two years ago.  By swimming, I mean floundering, getting frustrated and giving up for months until I worked up my courage to get back in the pool.  I mean, I’m no rocket scientist, but in pretty much every other arena in my life I found fairly easy success.  I’ve raised a couple fantastic kids, successful career, figured out how to run marathons, learned to master the road bike.  But the water, oh that damn water, I just couldn’t wrap my hands around the power it held over me.

I don’t recommend this strategy for everyone.  For me though, it was about goal setting.  Someone says, “Hey Rebecca, we are all doing Augusta 70.3.  You should too!”  I can’t say how I agreed to this, but honestly this is pretty typical me behavior.  WTFN?  So in December 2014, I signed up for Augusta and then this is part of the key….I told everyone I knew, including a facebook post, that I was doing it.  Yes, then when reality struck two minutes later all I could think was “Oh crap.  Now I have to learn to swim!!!”

And so the journey really began.  I read everything I could find and put myself in the pool 5 days a week.  Funny thing about swimming, it’s not like running or biking.  Swimming faster isn’t really about working harder.  You want to run faster, you run faster.  Same goes for the bike.  You want to swim more effectively, you must relax.  Oh crap.  Relax?  In the water?  I was honestly certain that I was doomed for failure.

But I kept at it.  I asked a lot of questions.

How do you figure out how to exhale in the water? Sounds silly, but was very real for me.  If you struggle with that, here’s the trick. (Thank you Colleen). Make lots of noise in the water. Hum, groan and laugh out loud.  It works.  I promise.

How to I learn to breathe on the wrong side?  It seems for all of us, there is one side that is easier.  There is a great deal of discussion about this.  Some experts say don’t bother.  Living here in So. Florida near the ocean, I needed to figure that out.  When the water is rough, you will need to breathe toward the shore to see where you are and to reduce the amount of water you will drink during your swim.  Honestly, I used a pool buoy to get over this one.  (Thank you Helena). The Buoy controls your position in the water and allows you to focus on stroke and breathing.  Note to self: don’t get too cozy with the toys like buoys and fins. They become a crutch.  I only allowed myself to use them for drills.

Then we come to the open and dirty water.  Yup.  This was just ugly.  4th of July at the Tradewinds Sprint Triathalon.  I freaked out and ended up backstroking the whole course.  Crap.  Signed up for another sprint in a So Florida lake month later….backstroked that one too.  Then I was in full blown panic mode because my 70.3 was rapidly approaching and I couldn’t put my face in the nasty water.  The answer to this one for me was multifaceted.  First try to figure out if it’s the dark water or the crowd.  I wore dark goggles in the pool and swam a lot with my eyes closed.  I do apologize to anyone who shared a lane with me.  I know it wasn’t pretty.  Then I swam when the pool was very busy and purposefully shared lanes so I got used to being bumped and jostled.

Finally, I asked myself the really important questions, like what’s the worst that can happen?  Am I going to drown? Not likely. Is something going to eat me? Not likely. The big joke with the Augusta course is that a chip bag can float downstream and beat the cut off.  That for me was not actually reassuring.  Imagine being the one to not make it when a bag of chips can!!  Ughh.  Two people helped me with this one.  First, just keep going back and do more races, and you will realize that it gets easier. (Thank you Chris). Second, sometimes you’ve just got to tell yourself whatever phrase it is that becomes your mantra.  Text message to me: “You’re going to make that water your B@*CH” (Thank you, Karen). I repeated that over and over in my crazy, panicked brain until the day before the race when I put my wetsuit on and jumped into the Savannah River for my practice swim.

Will I lie and tell you I wasn’t nervous on race day?  Who am I kidding?  But I did it.  I made that river my B*&CH.  And so can you.

Fins up!

Love Rebecca xo

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