“Who is that guy over there?”
“I dunno . . .”
I was wearing my wetsuit and standing up to my waist in Ashland Reservoir, thinking about the first open-water swim that I was going to do since the triathlon one month ago. I was going to do it last week, but I totally wimped out.* I was still a bit unsure about swimming a mile — four times longer than the triathlon, which seemed to take forever. I was only expecting to swim a half-mile, but the group I was meeting for the first time decided to switch it up.
I waded over and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Jeff. I’m kinda slow, and I’m wicked nervous.”
A few people said nice things to set me at ease. One woman who claimed to be a bit slower gave me some tips on how and where to sight and said she would hang back to keep an eye on me.
Standing in the water I was happy to be there. After all, the morning really was beautiful . . . the kind of morning that you see in commercials for retirement funds . . . the ones with the video of a New England lake, wisps of steam rising in the early hours of the morning, soothing music, and a confident voice-over.
I was anything but confident when I put my face in the water and started to swim toward the beach around the corner that I couldn’t see. Immediately I had that feeling from the triathlon. I was floating just fine, and I was warm enough. But the water just seemed so close in; two feet in every direction of me was a dull, wet brown trailing off to darkness. A few minutes in, I wanted it to be over. I contemplated how bad it would be if I decided to turn around and say, “Sorry, y’all. But this swimming and tri thing isn’t for me.”
But unlike last time, I didn’t panic. Nor did I feel as tired. My breathing was good, even when I was trying to sight. My wetsuit, although tight, wasn’t preventing me from finding a good rhythm. I think I actually swam relaxed. And when my new swimming buddy Lisa said, “Well, you’re faster than me,” I started to think that maybe this swimming thing was something I could do. I decided to just do it and enjoy the morning’s swim.
Of course, my swim friend also said that I needed to try to sight better and swim straighter, since I was “swimming twice as far” with all of the course corrections I was making. And I realized a few times that my technique was suffering. So that’s something to work on, too.
Just before we all left, I got invited to the next session on Friday. As long as the weather is nice, I’ll be there.
* — I really did wimp out last Wednesday. I was wide awake at 4:30AM thinking about being the slowest person, about having diabetes issues, about not fitting in, about not having time to make it to the lake in time, about what I was going to do afterward, about looking like a shlemiel when I went to meet Miriam Tucker at a nice restaurant in Boston that evening because I hadn’t showered, and about all sorts of little issues. It makes me a bit embarrassed when y’all say I’m awesome, because you don’t know about all of these insecurities and the times that I let them get the better of me. I do my best, but sometimes I cave. Not today, though.