Sunday, May 24, 2015

Just Keep Swimming...

It has been months since my last post. Not for lack of swimming, but for lack of a good attitude about swimming and life. Winter training is boring, lonely, and truly embodies the phrase "nothing to write home about." Now that I have survived what proved to me a much more difficult winter training season than I expected, I feel the need to reflect on it and how it got me to a milestone.

In December, I registered for stages 2 (June 8) and 6 (June 13) of 8 Bridges. Stage 6, as you will recall, is the stage I came very close to completing last year. Stage 2 is a brand new challenge for me. Longer in distance and tougher as far as tidal assist. What drew me to stage 2 is its beauty and that I will get to swim past the Culinary Institute of America where my sister went to school (and maybe have croissants thrown at me as I swim by). 

I started off the winter as gung-ho as ever, but got bored very quickly, was plagued by a never ending series of colds and mystery illnesses, and "real life outside of swimming" stressors that made the pool the last place I wanted to spend my time. In fact, my ideal day was one spent under a blanket with a book and "Once Upon A Time" on Netflix than one swimming: NOT a feeling I am used to. These were all difficult to shake. Initially, I put immense pressure on myself to "snap out of it," or "swimming will take your mind off things." I quickly learned that just had to let things run their course, while trying my absolute best to get to the pool and work hard once I was there. It was a true lesson in that time and healthy outlets of emotion heals all. Yes, swimming is very therapeutic for me, but I had to learn how to deal with things when a solid 3,000 yards just won't cut it. Fortunately, due to an amazing support system and some time, things turned around.

Yesterday, I got up at 3:20 AM (before my alarm!), slapped on some sunscreen, kissed Francis goodbye, and headed out to the beach with Coach Bonnie and her fiance, Gray. We met Lori, and at 5:30, I was swimming towards a beautiful sunrise. It was COLD. The water was 56 degrees (nothing I can't handle), but the air was 49 degrees and the northwest wind was relentless. Every now and then, the beach resembled the desert with beautiful swirling sands. I have done plenty of cold dips and swims, but this was different. I've never swam with such a cold wind and air temperature. The water was warmer than the air, but the wind on my back was not making it feel that way. I kept diving down to try to get in the warmer water, but I sadly do not have gills. Even with all that pain, there was still something religious and wonderful about swimming into that sunrise and being one of maybe five people on the beach and the only one in the water. I usually hate the loneliness, but I reveled in it yesterday. I finally felt like I was an open water swimmer again. 

My initial goal was to swim for 3 hours, but it was simply too cold, and I stayed in for two hours. While it was short of the initial goal, I was thrilled that I stayed in as long as I did. Also, I was overjoyed to hear that my stroke rate remained steady up until the very end, a feat that is glorious considering how uncomfortable I was! It was an amazing swim! Getting dressed was a comedy of errors, but thanks to my No Flash Towel I was covered. The most embarrassing moment was asking Bonnie to put my shoes and socks on for me, since I had the dexterity of a four month-old baby. Thanks, mom ;)

Without the struggles of the winter training season, I may have not had the mental toughness to put up with the nagging and biting cold that overtook my body yesterday. While I wish this winter could have been filled with more meets and solid workouts and fewer tissues and stress dreams, the bad prepared me in its own way.

My swims are just around the corner! I am ready, excited, nervous, and finally ready to write about them. More to comes.

Hold Fast,