It's 3 weeks until race day. I just finished my last week of big training and now I'm in taper mode. I, however, did not finish strong today.
We made our way to DeGray Lake so I could do a 4250 yard swim in open water. I really wanted to do this swim. I mean really badly and I was ready. We pulled up to the marina to rent a kayak and were told that we could not remove the kayak from the park. This makes sense in retrospect, but totally deflated my excitement about doing such a long swim in open water. The anxiety started creeping in and doubt filled my head. Chris has a big pull behind buoy, but him being on shore with that wasn't going to help me at 600 yards out if I got a bad cramp. We were both tired from yesterday's workout. I tried to calm myself down inside my head. I may not be the fastest swimmer, but I'm a good swimmer. I've done all this training and I totally let my fear consume me.
A couple of other people showed up and we got in the water. We were to swim to an 'island' about 600 yards out and swim back. We were going to do this 3 1/2 times. I made it to the island and everything was fine. I checked in with Emily (Ed had turned around early) and we headed back to the shore. I sighted over to the right where the shore was the closest and felt like I was swimming crooked and toward it. I shifted to the left and sighted front to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Still fine. Now, I'm not sure how I did this, but this is what freaked me out. The next time I sighted front I saw the island again. I had swum in a circle and was headed in the wrong direction. I felt disoriented and it really scared me. All I had to do was turn around and simply swim to the shore. I started back - again - and I couldn't stop thinking about it. It totally threw me off and I couldn't pull myself back together. I finished that length and beat myself up sufficiently. I've had bad workouts, but there has NEVER been one that I haven't been able to talk myself down, sucked it up and got through it. I was due one of these workouts and I felt for the first time what true fear of possible failure is. I don't want to DNF and I refuse to DNF at the Ironman unless it is a physical problem (i.e. bleeding out of my eyeballs). I know I will get through the swim because I know that there are kayaks and buoys to sight. It makes all the difference in the world. I also know that 2.4 miles in the water is a very long way, so I will make peace with it now. I know I can do this and the swim is about 90% mental and 10% technique. If you can convince yourself that all you need to do is relax and stay on course, that's the ticket. It's the what-if's and the borrowing of trouble that will smack you down and (no pun intended) hold your head under water. This is burned in my brain now. You can say this stuff to yourself over and over again, but until you experience it you don't come close to understanding. I understand and I'm making peace with the fact that now my first 2.4 mile open water swim and full marathon with be at the Ironman. I will finish, it may not be pretty, but I will do it and most likely, I will do another.