Where to begin.
Few shorts years ago, I swore that I would never do a swim race in my life. Fast forward to yesterday, there I was signing up for a 2 mile Merrimack River swim. Merrimack is not exactly the cleanest river around, and one thing I knew about it is that it does possess and nice current. How fun! Or maybe not so much – I had these images of myself being taken by the river, taken from Lowell (where the race started) to Newburyport (few towns over), and being spit into the Atlantic Ocean! Sounds like a one long Disney water ride, doesn’t it? The race was only $40 so way cheaper than a trip and ticket to Disney too! That could have been a win- win J
The goal for this race was to just really swim the distance in prep for Kona, and feel what it’s like to swim with currents. I spent good 3 weeks trying to convince Karen – the swim master, and Jorge that I could just as easily swim 2 miles in the good ol’ Walden pond, but to no success.
I really had to fight with myself quite a bit to actually go and do the race. It wasn’t even as much about the distance, or the river and its current, but more the fact that I am way too competitive, and also realistic and knowing I had no chance to win this one didn’t sit well with me. I wasn’t giving up by any means, but reality is reality, and I really don’ t like to lose! As a matter of fact, I hate it.
It took a lot of back and forth in my head to do it! I knew that the only way I was going to have a good experience was if I let go of the time (not easy for me), and just race my own race. Embrace the opportunity to just swim, work on some of the things I have been working on with Karen – the swim master, keep my head in the swim the entire time regardless of if I was first, or last, and when it came down to it, I really just had to swim! Then I saw this:
And THAT was exactly what yesterday was all about.
I showed up at the race, and it was just so different from any other race whether it be tri’s, running or cycling. Very laid back atmosphere that helped to calm my nerves a tiny bit though the fact I couldn't see any buoys anywhere was a bit concerning. Karen – the swim master who was also racing though it’s really just a warm up for her (anything shorter than 5 miles is a sprint for her) gave me a couple of tips and before I knew it we were in the water and off we went. I think I took the tips a bit too literal, and found myself hugging the concrete wall of the Merrimack! At one point in time I actually swam into a tree branch that was hanging off the wall. I had to laugh at myself! Pretty ridiculous since the river is as wide as it gets, but the lack of buoys – I think 5 for the 2 mile swim gave me nothing to sight. In addition to that, since most people were in front of me, and yes – there were a few behind me too though not many, I found myself really swimming all by myself. It was a bit weird, because at least in triathlon swims there are always people around you, but this race gave me a good opportunity to swim my own swim, mind my own business, and try to keep my head in it the whole time, which is what I need to do regardless but rarely ever do.
When I finally made it to the turn around buoy (I did take a little de-tour to get to it), but at least I got closer to the 2.4, I tried to find the current that I fought with for an entire mile, and I did, but not for very long. Not one, but two kayakers one by own proceeded to stop me and tell me I needed to move over closer to the buoys – WHAT BUOYS? I didn’t see any J. I just wanted a free ride. To no luck, I made my way closer to the two buoy, buoy line and was no longer getting any help from the current, but at least I didn’t have to fight it anymore. Now it was just a straight up swim. I could go into way more detail, but I’ll spare you of it.
In the end, I did accomplish bunch of goals that I had for this race. I saw a big group of people getting away from me during the first half mile of the swim, and though it tried to get me down, I didn’t let it, I stayed in the swim, I didn’t look at my watch once (ok – I did once at the turn around, but I didn’t let it get to me and that’s a huge win), I didn’t freak out when I was in the middle of the Merrimack pretty much all by my lone self, and just kept on moving, I truly approached this as a training race, and ignored the clock for the first time ever. Once I actually saw buoys and knew where to go, my comfort level definitely sky rocketed, and though I didn’t win, and got my ass pretty much handed to me, I am ok with that. I am taking away many more important things that I’ll take with me to Vegas this Sunday, and Kona in a few weeks. There, I’ll have my bike waiting for me J.
Getting out of the water, and being done with no bike to get on, was super awkward, and I know I definitely didn’t swim hard enough because I could have kept on swimming and I had plenty of energy left, but yesterday wasn’t about that. Many lessons were learned, and confidence gained from one little swim race. I’ll continue to work on it just like I have been, and one step at a time, I’ll get there.
The whole point of the post besides my own personal experience and mental battle is that you should NEVER say NEVER. There is always that first time for everything, and if you put your mind into it, and work at it, you too can surprise yourself, and reach new goals, new heights!
I almost don’t want to type this out, BUT sitting here 24 hours later removed from the race, I almost want to do it again next year just so I can see how far I will come. Did I REALLY just say that?
And finally, I do have to give a HUGE thank you to Karen – The Swim Master, who was behind this whole Merrimack swim idea. She had to listen to me bi%$c and complain for the last few weeks when I was really trying my best to get out of this swim pretty much on daily basis, but she didn’t back down, and helped me to get my head in a good enough place where I could actually toe that starting line.
Who knew this swim could have had so much positive effect on me regardless of the outcome. I now feel like this is a beginning to a new swimmer wanna be me, and I can’t wait to finally race Vegas 70.3 in just 6 short days! Then it’s few more weeks of some work, and then Kona here I come!