So yesterday MK and I headed for a local lake. Her brother-in-law was nice enough to take us out on his boat and let us jump off the back. The day was beautiful, after a few rain showers in the morning the clouds parted and the sun came out. MK decided to best approach was to go down the ladder on the back of the boat; I decided to take the plunge. We just sorta hung out behind the boat for a little while, and I should point out that six months ago treading water was a challenge; not today.
We took off with no specific destination. MK had completed a 13.1 mile run earlier that morning, and while I rode with her on my bike, she was understandably more tired than I was, but she still managed to kick my butt in the lake. The water was a fantastic shade of green, think pea soup. I had some issues with my goggles fogging up, but it really didn’t matter, you couldn’t see anything anyway! I felt pretty good, relaxed and comfortable…until I looked back. Thanks to MK letting me use her fancy GPS watch I can tell you I was about 65 yards from the boat, really not that far, but mentally I could have been alone in the middle of the Atlantic. The fear I was expecting when I first jumped in hit me like a freight train!
My mind immediately started the “what-if” game. What if my heal starts to bother me, when if I get a cramp in my leg, what if a goose decides he doesn’t want me in his lake and attacks me, what if the sky falls? Looking back I think one mistake was not having a set destination, I didn’t really have anything in front of me to focus on. On that note I found that I cannot “sight” to save my life. Sighting is basically looking up occasionally to see where you’re going, to make sure you’re still headed in the right direction. I would be behind MK and a few strokes later I was headed 90 degrees away from her. OK, one more thing to work on, but for now I had to get past the more pressing issue of my sudden panic attack.
I have discussed my fear of open water with my best friend CK on several occasions and in that moment I remembered her excellent advice, just roll over and float on your back, this requires much less energy and lows time to breathe and calm down. MK was nice enough to come back for me. I felt I kept my mental malfunction pretty well under control. I did not go into full panic or flail around like a lunatic. I talked to her and talked to myself. My internal conversation went something like this “don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic, you’re fine, don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic, you’re fine!”
We both headed back to the boat mostly so I could mentally regroup. MK offered to swim with me while holding a kick board, basically she was my emergency backup, if I started to feel overly anxious I could just hold on to the kick board and regroup. This went pretty well. At one point we had a pretty humorous conversation. As we were both holding on the kick board I looked around, smiled and said “how the hell did we end up floating with a kick board in the middle of a damn lake?!” While I cannot comment on the decisions or reasons why MK was there, I know exactly how I ended up there! The easy answer was that I got the oil changed in my Jeep and had a conversation with MK last fall. The more complicated answer is she not only told me about her Ironman dreams, but told me I should look into doing a triathlon. Who knows why she said it, who knows why I said “that sounds like fun”, but I wasn’t wrong! While my heal/ankle injury may prevent me from doing a triathlon as soon as I’d like, the ride this far has been fun!
A little while later, while we were floating around with pool noodles, we had another great conversation. Goals are good, but it’s really about the journey, it’s about the daily victories and failures, both the good days and the bad ones. To focus solely on the end goal is to rob yourself of best part, you will learn more about yourself in the weeks, months or years it takes to reach your goals then you will in the short time that goal takes to complete.
Yesterday was another victory for me; I got in the water, open water, and did pretty well. While I only did about 350-400 yards, it’s 350-400 yards more than I did the day before and it brings me that much closer to my goal. Do your best to reach your goals, but don’t forget to enjoy the ride!