I recently competed in my first race in over 2 years. Having had shoulder surgery after Ironman Boulder in 2015 and a hectic two years of both personal and professional changes, I was a bit overwhelmed on race morning. I hadn’t been able to train as much as I’d hoped and, like any race for me, I was consumed by the reality of race-day wildcards. Having forgotten my goggles, I was forced to wear an extra pair of Ashley’s and I was initially terrified by the prospect of swimming in the Pacific Ocean. In my brief triathlon experiences, however, I’ve always been able to find a sense of calm in the water. As we walked from the boardwalk to the beach, I returned to some comfortable mental exercises, envisioning myself executing smooth strokes, finding a comfortable rhythm…..turning the chaos into moving meditation.
We hit the water and the shock of the cold saltwater took my breath away. Fortunately, the waves weren’t too heavy and I was able to get past the surf in about 40-50 strokes while diving under when necessary. After getting into the relative calm of the ocean, I swam for about 30 seconds in breaststroke to calm my breath and heart rate a bit. I quickly found a comfortable pace, pushing myself in intervals while keeping an above average pace at minimum. Although the first mouth-full of salt water was brutal, I had anticipated this and knew more of it would be coming.
While I still consider myself a rookie when it comes to swimming, I often surprise myself with some speeds I can maintain and my comfort level in the water. I think it’s because my faculties are limited; you can’t see a whole lot and it hard to tell where you are in the course. I’m able to return to the training, striving for perpetual motion while remembering the various coaching cues that became second nature – that’s thanks to Dave! (that’s Dave Burgess of Podium Training Systems, a great coach and all-around cool dude!)
‘complete stroke to the hip’
In pondering my swim experiences a bit deeper and considering what I know about my brain / mindset, I think the swim comes with a level of comfort because there simply isn’t anywhere else to go. You either keep swimming or stop and take a DNF (did not finish). Along those lines, on an intellectual level, I know that my foray into triathlon is to push myself to get better and achieve something difficult that is beyond what I used to think were my capabilities. However, in the heat of the moment, the competitive spirit can take over and I often find myself getting discouraged with where I’m at in the race. During the swim portion, it is much easier to zone out and only focus on what I’m doing…..or control the controllables. When you can’t see anyone else it’s much easier to avoid being consumed with what they are doing and turn the attention inward!