Monday, June 06, 2011
Even after twenty-five years of triathlons and open-water swimming, I can still have a day in the water that leaves me feeling panicked, exhausted, cold, and gasping for breath. I can honestly say that this was one of the toughest swims I've ever done.
And I really didn't expect that. Not at all.
Maybe it was the fact that the water was super cold. Like take-your-breath-away cold. Maybe it was that my bad arm was achey from Thursday's karate practice where we did a lot of joint locks. Maybe it was the fact that I ran out of iron pills and forgot to buy any more so my anemia has been creeping up on me. Maybe it was all that. But I flailed, I gasped, and for an hour of swimming I fought that panicky TURN AROUND NOW brain directive.
So how did I get myself through it? By singing cheesy Turn-of-the-(19th)-century songs. I grew up in a family that had an old-fashioned Melodrama theatre in a touristy Gold Rush town. So I know all the words to Daisy, Daisy, 5'2" Eyes of Blue, or I'm Looking Over A Four-Leafed Clover by heart. I can sing harmony on Down By The Old Mill Stream, or dance the Charleston to Dark Town Strutter's Ball. I pulled them all out of my head and more as the minutes scrolled by and one arm after another followed each other into the water, and I told myself in my head not to panic every time I breathed and it didn't seem like I was getting enough air.
I've never been so relieved to stand on the shore. Most of the time, I love the water so much you practically have to drag me away, but this time was different. In sports, we all face moments like this. Times when we really just want to lie down and quit. We all have to reach deep inside for some mental reserves to make it through. But that's when you know you're really an athlete, when you face the fire and keep on going.
Here's hoping the next lake swim will have me singing a different tune!