Challenge Yourself

Not every race will be a good race and my triathlon in mid-June proved that.  I was going into it tired – and I knew that.  There was no taper, no time to rest, and I really didn’t care.  Or did I?  What I wanted out of the morning was a chance to swim 1500 metres in open water before the end of the month, and I got that.  But I got a lot that I didn’t expect too.

Despite the time in the pool through the winter and a few swims with LOST (Lake Ontario Swim Team) in the cold lake since the start of the month, my swim was awful.  I thought that I would be able to swim the 1500 metre distance in 45 minutes, slow for most but realistic for me.  I couldn’t.  In fact, I couldn’t even swim under 50 minutes.   It just wasn’t my day.

The 1500 metre swim at the Guelph Lake Triathlong was 2 laps with a sprint across the beach between laps.   This meant that the fastest swimmers were going to lap the slower swimmers like me.  I have gone through this before and thought I would be able to deal with the extra waves that they created.  But other issues from the start made this difficult to handle.  From the get-go, my sighting was off (or my swimming was veering in one direction in the same way that my run sometimes turns towards my right side) and I had trouble staying with the other swimmers.  Either way, it was frustrating.  When I got into deeper water, I started to notice the cold it (15C?) but I fortunately found warmer pockets on the way back to shore.  During the second lap, though, my hands got so cold that my right hand was feeling numb and the silicone rings on my left ring finger were sliding past the knuckle.  During transition, I noticed that I had open cuts on some of my knuckles because the skin opened in the cold water.

The combination of being cold and  lapped by a few hundred swimmers led to a generally bad headspace.  At times, I found myself slowing down to a near float so that I could see where I was going.  (A few days later, I realized that the difficulty sighting was from the bright sun, which is something that I need to work on.)   I misinterpreted my husband’s supportive voice (he was on the water as a rescuer) as tones of criticism.  I knew that I was one of the last swimmers, but not the very last like I was during the 1500m swim last August.  “Just finish the swim, Cynthia,” I told myself.  “You can do this.  You’ve done it before.  The bike and run will be easy.  You’ll catch up.”  And I did – got through transition fairly easily, caught up to many people on the hilly ride and even more during the run.  Despite the lousy swim, I managed to finish decently – in the middle of all women and second in my age group.

I am not one to quit anything and I have some big, fat, hairy goals that I am chasing.  In the past two weeks, I have kept reminding myself that I am only in my first year of triathlon, that I am coming from a limited swimming background, and I am decades older than most of the triathletes around me.  I am doing something right, but I want to do better.  So while I walked away from this race frustrated and worried about the 70.3 in Mont Tremblant, I also left with some take-aways:

1. Keep swimming.  I know that I have the endurance; I cover 2km regularly in the pool.  Every stop to look or refocus costs me precious time so I need to just keep swimming (like Dory).

2. Focus on my stroke.  When I think about things other than 1-2-3 or “reach and pull”, I fall apart both physically and mentally.  I am still new to swimming in open water.  I need to think about what I am doing.

3. Stay committed.  I swim with a masters group but it is hard to get the individual attention that I need during a workout.  Two weeks ago, I started private sessions with a coach to help with stroke improvement and my new mantra, Long and Strong, is already making a difference.  Open water swims with my triathlon group and practice time at the pool over the summer can only help me become a stronger swimmer.  I need to make sure that I keep showing up.

And that is exactly what I plan to do: keep showing up.  Put in the time.  Chase those dreams.

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