First Open Water

I grew up in Minnesota – the Land of 10,000 Lakes. So, one would assume that I am VERY comfortable in lakes and rivers. While I did grow up swimming in the lake in my hometown, I would not say that I am at all comfortable in lakes or rivers. I have an aversion to swimming in water where I can’t see the bottom and can’t see what is around me. Seaweed (lake weed) freaks me out, and don’t even get me started on the creatures that are swimming around me. I have seen Jaws and I have seen Piranha (the original) and I know what possibly lurks beneath the water. While this is an unrealistic fear (what fear is ever really realistic) it  is a real fear that I need to get over because in about six weeks I will be swimming with a whole lot of people in the Russian River…my first open water swim.

A view of the Russian River

Yesterday was our first training swim in the river. I woke up with butterflies in my stomach and a whole lot of anxiety, knowing that in just a few short hours I would be making the drive to the river and would have to jump into the cold unknown and swim in it for 1.2 miles.

When I arrived at the river I was a bit jittery, but excited. I put my foot and water and found it was cold – really cold! But, I could get over that. When the rest of the swimming crew arrived, we got in the water and started out on our swim. If you could call what I was doing swimming.

I have become very comfortable in the pool. There is no fear of what I can or cannot accomplish when I am in a pool. I thought to myself, “I can swim, so what is the problem?” I don’t know, but I couldn’t put my face in the water to swim. Every time I did, I panicked a little and couldn’t catch my breath. It scared me, but I kept going. I did my side stroke and head-out-of-water crawl. At one point Tammy (the magnificent TLC with Nimble) asked if I wanted to take a break and stand, but no, “Determination Diva” (my name for myself when I am struggling) was not giving up. If I stood I didn’t know if I would start swimming again. So, I said I was fine and just kept going.

At one point during a doggie paddle moment, I said something about not being able to catch my breath or do my stroke Tammy said, “Today is just about getting your face wet, not about your stroke.” After she said that I took the pressure off myself. Come on! This was my first open water swim in I don’t know how long, if ever – unless you count swimming out to the dock in Forest Lake.

After about 20 minutes I started to calm down and slowly put my face in the water – one, maybe two strokes before going back to the side stroke. Slowly but surely I started swimming the way I swim. It felt good to know I could get over that fear and panicked feeling.

I did the swim. Now I know I can do it and maybe next week it won’t be so hard. Maybe next week I will be able to swim like I swim from the start. But sometimes, it is just about putting your face in the water. And that’s OK.

***A special thank you to Tammy and Catrina for swimming with me yesterday. You two rock!***

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One Response to First Open Water

  1. Jessica says:

    Such a good post. I want to do an open water swim but I too have a fear of the open water. Was hoping this summer but Camille only started sleeping more than 3 hours a night last Thursday. I will be thinking of you when I am able to (finally) try it out.

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