I am a swimmer. I used to be a runner. And I was a Triathlete Tourist. And then a runner again. And keeping swimming close, but running was still closer. Until I fractured my food this summer. And while I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could become a runner again, I don’t want to.
When my husband, who is HIV positive, got sick in 2012, he helped himself get healthy by focusing on one thing – becoming a triathlete. I was still just a runner at this time, so I was excited about his decision. But was I going to become a triathlete? No way. I was not a swimmer. I was a splasher – you know, when you go to the neighborhood pool during summer vacation with your friends from junior high and grade school. That was me.
Because, basically, I failed my swim test to get my Minnow Badge at the YMCA in the 70’s. I would not jump of the diving board. So they threw me off. And my mom hauled ass from the observation area to yell at that instructor. But basically, after that, I never wanted to put my face in the water again. So I mostly didn’t. Every now and then, someone would dare me to go off the high dive at the neighborhood pool in the summer, and sometimes I did it but mostly I didn’t.
Fast forward to adulthood and you could get me to go near water or on water (boats) but not “in” water. Until Charles asked me to do a triathlon with him. And his conviction was so strong – and frankly, the idea that he would do running at ALL was inspirational to me. So I thought – if he can run, I can swim.
Charles is an AWESOME swimmer. He basically has gills, and I’m not kidding. Watching him swim just about makes me cry with pride and joy. It’s a beautiful thing. So I thought that learning from him would be a piece of cake. No such luck.
Have you ever tried to teach your spouse how to do something? Uh, yeah, it’s effing tough. There’s something about your spouse training you that makes you want to, I don’t know, not listen? Rebel? Joke and play around? Yeah, that was me all the way. I wanted to learn, but I didn’t want to learn from my hubby.
Which meant that my first triathlon was done with a modified breaststroke and with my face out of water. Thank GOD it was a reverse triathlon in a swimming pool! It was horrid and embarrassing, but I finished my reverse triathlon and got my medal. One more reverse triathlon and he finally brought up Olympic Distance and Open Water.
Honey, please tell me you are joking. I don’t think I can do it.
But he was not joking, and he really thought I could do it. But I was going to have to pay attention and learn and be strong and brave. I thought I could be strong…for a little while. I wasn’t sure yet that I could pay attention and be brave. But I did. And we moved forward. The first time I swam a full length of the piddly 20 meter lane pool at Pasadena Water Works, I thought I was going to cry. And so onward from there.
My first open water swim was on May 20th, I think, at Belmont Shores in Long Beach. The water was horrible and I had a couple small freakouts, but I did it. I swam a little over one mile that day, and could not believe that I did it. And that day, I really did cry.
I did two or three more open water swim practices with Charles and his triathlon club until we road tripped our way to Nashville for the Music City Triathlon. If you would like the full story on that triathlon experience, you can read it on my old personal blog HERE. I won’t provide any more details here other than to tell you that (a) I swam against current for 69 minutes; and (b) I got carted out of the water by a volunteer, “No Penalty.” I finished that race – barely – and thought that day, “I’m done with swimming. Yes I am. I’ll just be a runner.”
Why do I tell you all this stuff? For a couple reasons.
1. You CAN do the thing that scares you the most. You really can. You just need to tell yourself that you wanna do it, and get someone to support you in your quest. My hubby challenged me to compete in an Olympic Distance Triathlon. And he helped me all the way!
2. Don’t be afraid to change your attitude about who and what you think you are. Life changes happen to us all the time, and there are moments when we do need to consider, “am I being true to myself?” and “is this the person I want to be?” Well, I thought I was just a runner and could never be a swimmer. And now that I’ve conquered a fear of mine – putting my face in the water and actually being under water – it’s changed the way I look at myself.
I’m perfectly happy and content being a swimmer now. I miss running a little, but I receive a great amount of satisfaction and joy being in that pool.
You CAN do the thing that scares you most. You CAN change who you are.