I ended the last blog with the question of whether or not to continue with swimming, specifically open water and triathlon. As much as I would like to walk away, I just can’t quit. I know if I quit now I will regret it and, if truth be told, I have dreams of going further. So with that in mind the next few blogs will be about the tears, triumphs and tantrums that come with facing my swimming fears.
Tuesday nights are TriBB’s swim session, an hour of attempting to transform my “swimming” into something that resembles front crawl. I’m in lane one, it’s relatively safe, the wall is right there and there is no crazy long sets. We work on technique, well we’re supposed to, I work on trying to relax with occasional snippets of technique. It’s tough, the sessions break down aspects of breathing, kicking and arm stroke whilst building our fitness and speed. I’m often at the front, though I prefer not to be, for this makes me panic more and more, I try and relax, I remind myself of the coaching point – Popeye breathing, turning your head just enough to breathe keeping one eye in the water – I try it, 20% air, 80% water, not enough air, I’m panicking! 3 strike breathing is quickly failing as anxiety levels rise, I need more air and resort to 2 stroke breathing, this achieves nothing, I’m shaking my head trying to refocus only to forget to breathe. I’m 34, how do I forget to breathe? Then the wall of safety appears, I grasp it quickly, stand on the steps, “1 minute until you go again”….I smile trying to fake enjoyment, trying to trick my head into relaxing, trying to believe I’ll get it right next time: 3,2,1 go… the cycle restarts.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone at TriBB is ace, supporting each other’s journeys whether it be to your first sprint or to an Ironman. It’s good to see other people on that journey working hard to make progress, pushing each other along.
The weekend brings the dreaded open water session. The lake (Blue Lagoon, Darlington) is lovely but that doesn’t stop the nerves from kicking in as soon as I’ve left the house. They build as the drive progresses, why am I doing this? We arrive get our safety red wrist band, get changed into our neoprene coffins and slowly wade into the water. The water seeps into the wetsuit, I wait for my body to warm the water between suit and skin, I tell myself to work on my breathing, 1 small lap focusing on relaxed breathing! I set off the first marker never gets closer, in my head I’m panicking, arguing with myself to relax. At the first buoy I take a moment to talk to myself, set a new target and then get moving. Breathing every 2 is my go-to strategy but makes swimming straight tough. Second buoy down I wait for a large pack to pass, then set off, 1 lap is only 200m but might as well be 200 miles, I’m knackered as I reach the final buoy, breathing is all over the place and I feel sick. It takes all my resolve to set off for lap 2, I try and focus on 3 stroke breathing, it’s tough, a head battle but it’s almost working, occasionally I realise I’m actually swimming, not relaxed but swimming. Second lap done and I’m out of there! First week of operation swim confidence done, water is definitely winning but I’m still in the battle.