This is my best friend, Jess. She is amazing. In many many ways. I think everyone should have a best friend like her. We have been on a wild ride in the 11 (now 17) years we have been friends, and I have loved every moment of our friendship – the highs and the lows
However this weekend was one of the highs! Right about the time I was pretty sure I was going to disappear or die from all the pain I was having, my best friend went from causal person that exercised to a runner. I was so proud of her.
It starts with an idea
I knew how hard she was working to become a runner. She, like me, was a swimmer… for the most part, we just don’t run – as a group of people we just don’t like it! But my dear friend step by step and race by race BECAME a runner, and a triathlete. From 5k to 10K to marathon she kept increasing her stamina. While she was running miles and miles, I was recovering from surgery – my own marathon. I desperately wanted to join her in this new endeavor and celebrate with her, but we are states away from each other and well – like I said I am a swimmer and swimmers and THIS swimmer doesn’t run.
Early this spring I was really starting longing to be able to do something like this with her. So, her husband and I started to cook up a plan. He doesn’t really like to swim, but he LOVES to bike and neither of us run. What is we put together a team and did the TRI that way! Next thing you know, I’ve agreed, he signed us up and I had another goal to meet.
I had to start somewhere…so sort out the crazy
I would be lying through my teeth if I told you anything other than I was deeply afraid! Everyone around me kept saying I was going to rock this and I’d be fine. Inside, I was all kinds of crazy. I wanted to believe them and believe in my God-given talent. I am a good swimmer… but am I as good as the people I will be in the water with?! I had no idea.
Would swimming 400m in a lake be like swimming in a pool?! Somehow I doubted it. What if I was awful, what if I couldn’t live up to the standards I set for myself… it had been SO LONG since I had set a goal for competition I had no idea how to approach this mentally. I was pretty darn sure my body would be fine – I mean I was handling 2 miles in a practice, this was only 400m, a fraction of what I had been doing.
Find the thing that causes the fear
The big deal in my head was living up to my own standards. What a strange feeling. I had forgotten what it felt like to want something this bad. Even though this was the first time I had swam in open water, or in a TRI or attempted anything like this in a long time… I knew I had to try it!
It’s been just a few weeks shy of 20 years since I have competed. That’s a LONG time. I admit I am a competitive person, I like to win, I like to reach my goals, I like to try as hard as I can and know I gave it my all. I had no way to predict how this would go – it had been too long.
Then, step by step put in the work
When it came time for the race to start I was calm, but unsure. Everything about this was new, but I knew I had to relax and just do it. So I jumped and swam and did the best I could.
It was hard to see, the water was brown and you really couldn’t see the limbs of the person near you until you had a foot in your face! It was the strangest swim I have ever done.appreciate that it is a different skill set than swimming in a pool in a lane, with dividers, on your own.
You may surprise yourself, or even need to change course sometimes.
I felt good, strong; like I could have swam on and on. I wanted to put my head down and just GO. The flood of adrenaline was fueling me, the sound of the water and the feel of the water against my skin was a rush. Problem… if you put your head down and just swim – you have NO idea where you are going! When swimming in open water you have to keep looking forward to make sure you are heading in the direction of land and not off into the lake somewhere! I was NOT so good at this :).
At one point I had to come to a halt, look around, and change course a little. When I saw I was headed a little bit in the wrong direction I got frustrated. I wanted to finish strong, but I felt like I had no idea where I was going! I started kicking harder, pulling harder, and looking up more to check where I was headed.
Prepare for what you can
Then it came… the vegetation part….
Jess had warned me about this, the seaweed and other green things that grow in lakes – I was now swimming though it. EWWWWW!!!!!!!! I kept swimming, trying to stay calm, and NOT think about all the slimy things that were touching me.
I finally saw others again and realized no one was really swimming anymore – they were standing. SO I followed suit and waded into the finish. I was REALLY out of breath and had a bit of trouble getting up the stairs – a little afraid of falling on the slippery stairs.
I still had to get to Clay so he could start his bike race! I wish I could tell you I ran to him with grace and beauty – but I didn’t. Swimmers leave it all in the pool… and um… I did. So I REALLY don’t remember the hurried walk to our transition spot. Clay got the chip off my ankle and then busted a move on the bike. He came screaming back to the transition spot with an impressive time and passed the chip off to our last team-mate – his 8-year-old daughter Ashley. Ashley ran 3.1 miles like a CHAMP. I mean a real CHAMP.
Celebrate the moment
Our team finished the race in 1 hour and 20 minutes. we came in 149th out of 523! I finished my swim in 7 minutes and 23 seconds. I had no idea where that would put me or how it stacked up – and honestly I was a little worried I wasn’t going to meet my own standards….
The results came in and I did indeed stack up. 4th overall female swimmer and 1st in my age group!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And the bestie…. a new personal best and 3rd overall female for the WHOLE shebang! – how can you not be inspired by that!
It’s taken a long time to get here, for both of us, but the view from the mountain top is sweet…..
Sometimes, you just got to keep TRI-ing!
First published 9/12