Trying to be a BA-D-Mofo isn’t always as awesome as a basket of kittens. In fact, some days, I think whoever it is that licenses bad-assery is going to take my learner’s permit away. I carry that permit around in this wallet, of course:
Monday, I couldn’t get excited about going to the pool to swim laps at 5:45AM and didn’t drag myself out of bed. While Wednesday’s swim was really great, today’s was anything but.
Since Wednesday morning I’ve had an internal dialog about whether and when I would swim sans wetsuit. Almost everyone in my triathlon club was swimming without on Wednesday, but I had just gotten a new sleeveless one in the prior day’s mail and was anxious to try it out. “Next time,” I told myself.
This morning—Friday, that is—I had almost convinced myself that I was going to wear the wetsuit again despite what I told myself two days earlier; the main source of my backsliding being a worry that the tape covering my CGM transmitter might come lose and that it would be sleeping with the fishes. I put my wetsuit in the car trunk this morning, but by the time I got to the boat launch, I was finishing up my internal dialogue.
“‘I might lose my CGM’ is the best excuse I can come up with to cover what’s actually, down deep, just a fear that I’m not going to do well? Really?”
Before getting out of the car, I applied another piece of tape to my sensor. Then I walked over to the water, made some pleasantries with some new people and with the regulars, walked into the rather warm water until it was up to my bare knees, watched a couple other swimmers head out for the half-mile swim, and decided to do it.
Here’s the thing about swimming in a wetsuit: the neoprene makes you very buoyant. That’s why wetsuits are great even when the water is really warm. It raises your hips, helping to keep you near the surface, which makes swimming easier. Their smoothness also makes swimming faster. Plus, with all that buoyancy, you really can’t drown. Run into trouble? Just roll over onto your back, collect yourself, catch your breath, and keep going.
A few minutes into what should be an eight or nine minute swim to a big rock on the opposite side of the lake (1/4 mile), I was feeling a bit tired. When I slowed my pace a bit and took some extra time to breathe more deeply, I started to hear the defeatist voices in my head. A few moments later, I breathed a bit of lake water and needed to take a break to collect myself. Treading water, I looked around and watched the people ahead of me swim away confidently.
Treading water. Not something I enjoy. Easy enough, but still work. Work that wasn’t getting me any closer to either shore. Should I swim on? That would be another five or six minutes (at best) to get there and then another nine or ten to get back. I wasn’t feeling 100% confident. Physically I’m sure I could (probably) do it, but the hesitation before starting meant I would be by myself the whole way. Should I turn back? There’s no harm in going back. Unlike during the triathlon, when I had a bit of a freak out at the beginning of the swim, there’s not much on the line if I cut it short . . . just my pride . . . and a regret bordering on shame that I know I’ll feel if I do. What to do? What to do?
The morning was beautiful. The water was beautiful. The feeling of moving through the water—that feeling I had been craving since the end of Wednesday morning’s swam—was beautiful. I swam on, heading toward the rock on the opposite shore. A minute later the sun shone over the trees, bathing my part of the lake in its golden light.
And I couldn’t see. Even though I’ve had this experience before, this morning it amplified the panic I was already feeling.
I turned around and swam back to the near shore. As I had suspected it would be, the swim back was easy. My muscles and breathing and posture in the water felt right. I sighted very well and held a straight(ish) course. It was, in short, a perfect swim—except for the voices in my head that I was trying to outswim. I won’t lie: I was relieved when my hand dug into the pebbly bottom of the shore.
I’ve had some time to think about it.  Turning back was the safest thing to do, given my mental state. No harm, no foul. But the disappointment afterward totally makes me want to try it again. Next time will be better.
1 — Gratuitous Patty Griffin reference. [back . . .]