If you've read much of my ramblings you've probably figured out that open water swimming and I are not the best of friends.
The thing about taking on something when you're older is that you never get to get used to the activity during those wonder years of complete ignorance of your own mortality. When my friend Allison and I decided to trick out my wagon to make it into Snoopy's Sopwith Camel with me in the Snoopy role wearing an old football helmet, we never thought it would be anything but really really cool to fire the wagon downhill on our quiet residential street because the street ended in a T where the wagon could, I don't know, just quietly disgorge the occupant into the grassy field at the end, having avoided any traffic on the cross street during the trip as well. Quite a few things could have gone wrong but the adventure never happened and I'm not sure if we were found out or if some inner adult spoke up to me and said it was a bad idea. i just know that when I first started triathlons I so wanted to be that girl in the wagon again - focused only on the adventure, relying on a grassy field to provide the safety net.
So, what have I done to take care of the swim anxiety.
1. Gave up caffeine - and yes, chocolate does contain caffeine and yes, I really freaking missed it.
2. 12 weeks of anti-anxiety therapy with attendant changes in relationships that were making me crazy
3. Total immersion swimming lessons, looking like a goof starting all pool workouts with bobbing. I LOVE BOBBING by the way, makes me feel like a kid again.
4. The latest, having needles stuck into me, by a professional who will read interesting things for me off Wikipedia to take my mind off the needles that are making me anxious, in the treatment for anxiety that involves needles.
My acupuncturist, as above, keeps asking me for any feedback on whether the treatment seems to be working for the anxiety. So far she's loosened up my back, my right ankle and hip flexors but, it was hard to gauge mental changes. Well, Kris, here's your mental change.
On Saturday, just for fun, I leap out of a moving boat into the mouth of a river and swam up it. And I didn't freak out a bit. My heart rate was elevated from the jump but I just had fun. I bilateral breathed in open water. For me that has been the holy grail. I have never been comfortable enough to keep my heart rate low enough to support that level of relaxed breathing.
I am so pumped for more open water adventures this summer. I have an island to swim around, that river to do again and again, and, perhaps this lovely lake that is the centre of a park that we visit to hike. No boats, calm, small enough to swim across. Open water swimming envisioned as trail running.
I'm going to kill those races this year.
Oh, and later that day I tried to climb up a cliff to grab a suspended rope that would catapult me into the lake. Couldn't quite make it but it's early days.
What strikes me is that there are two types of cyclist presented in media stories.
There is the urban cyclist who is seen as holy than thou, non polluting, an outlier of society - an old fashioned outlaw, someone outside of the protection or control of the law. Certainly the majority of urban cyclists I see on my daily walks to work obey the laws of the road, wear a helmet, and are generally considerate of both the potential dangers around as well as allowing cars to move efficiently on the road. But, and it's a big but, there is a very flamboyant, very noticeable minority that flouts the law, rides on sidewalks and seems to delight in giving drivers a heart attack as they run red lights and swerve in and out of traffic. They are generally called "couriers" regardless of whether they actually work as one.
The other kind is me - we're the ones on road bikes told to "get off the road". We're hassled for wearing spandex shorts for goodness sake. We ride in packs, which really upsets people for some reason, although not nearly as much as the spandex does. There is always some element of classism in the encounter - packs of triathletes (an elitist sport) having a run in with someone in a pick up - good honest working man who hasn't got the time for 100k rides in the sun.
For some reason it seems, the act of getting on a bike seems to be taken as an insult by those who aren't on a bike. When I'm out riding in the country I'm not making a statement about the ethics of driving a car, I drove a car to the country to ride. When I walk to work no one driving thinks I am making a statement that I am "greener" than they are. We drive to work every once in a while too.
Now, am I fitter - probably but I can't make a judgement that the overweight driver in the car that passed me isn't working hard to change their life. If they came within a foot of me I'm pretty sure they aren't but, tomorrow is another day and another start at things.
One thing I do know is that we have to get to the root of what's going on. People are dying.
I've come to believe that the very essence of our humanness is found with endurance sports. They are seemingly solitary, self absorbed pursuits but those of us who take that route to life know, perhaps more than others, that we are a team out there.
Please take your life and use it up, wear it out, get blisters, chafe and sunburns. If you choose triathlon, and I hope you do, I wish you well on that journey. You will take on a lifestyle that is unparalleled. Either way, drop me a line, tell me your story.