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Triathlete Blog

Swimming Scared

By February 19, 2009July 8th, 2015No Comments

Tuesday morning I walked into masters, scanned my lane choices and stood there.

“You can swim with me,”
someone said.

I look around. It’s Coach C. Talking to me. Me? Really? No, this can’t be. Hmmph. No one else behind me. Uh….um…..realization finally that oh shit he really is talking to me.

Problem is: C. is a swimmer. A real swimmer. Swam through college. Coaches a high school swim team. The kind of guy who I believe one year did the 100 x 100 on the 100 challenge holding close to a 1 minute pace. Just because.

I had no business swimming in his lane.

But I realized the other lane choices were not at my pace or on the wall. No thanks, I’ll pass on the wall. And besides, this week I was thinking a lot about releasing my fears. Time to step it up or stagnate. So today the fear would be released. Perhaps from my mind. Or my mouth. One way or another, I was letting something out today.

Big talk for someone so small. Trust me – I knew that. And also knew that my ability to finish the workout was uncertain at this point. Yet the one thing that was certain was that I would be swimming scrd.

That’s right, scrd. You might notice that even the word scared was so scrd that it got the vowels scared right out of it. In my case you might just swap the v for a b and get the same feeling. Scared shitless. It’s all the same.

What is swimming scared? It’s that feeling that you get at masters when you know you are in way over your head. Like last week at masters when the woman leading decided we would pull out our 75s in :53. Does the interval really matter? All that you need to know is that we had to do it over and over again. Scrd. Could I maintain it? How hard is hard before your blood pressure rises so high that your arms just detach and you find them floating in the deep well?

I’m getting better at swimming scared but still it’s like race morning. No matter how many races you’ve done you still show up with a little flutter in your belly. A few porta-potty visits to psyche yourself up. Or pray. Or wish you had just stayed in bed.

I jumped into Coach C.’s lane and stood there. Waiting for him to make a move. I’m for sure not leading the warm up. I’m not even putting my goggles on until I take the cue from him. I have worked years to get next to this lane and now that I’m finally in it – I am not screwing this up.

Alice whom I usually swim with walks into practice. She looks at our usual lane then looks at me in a different lane:

“What are you doing in that lane?”

I know, it’s ridiculous. The whole pool feels off, I’ve completely upset the balance here. But I had no choice. I tell her that when someone like C. tells you to swim in his lane you go with it. No questions asked.

Besides, C. said he was “going slow” today. I’m trying not to laugh. So, what you’re saying is your slow will be my all out max shit myself pace. True. It probably is. I’m guessing a 1:15 pace per 100 for him is a recovery swim.

I’m going to die today.

The best part – the reason why he was taking it slow today – because he was coming back in the evening to swim masters. Again. Distance free workout. For a total of probably 9,000 yards in one day.

Silly swimmers.

The masters coach walks up to our lane. She looks at me. I know I should explain. I tell her – he told me I could swim here. Perhaps she could read the fear in my eyes but she chose to ignore it. She said you’ll be fine. Will I? Will I really? Because I feel like I might want to leave my emergency contact information with you.

Before the warm up I decide one thing. My goal today would be simple: do not get lapped. Sounds simple but…I’m guessing this could be the biggest challenge I’ve seen in awhile. We warm up 500 and I think great there goes my goal. C. usually laps me twice in a 500. Usually I notice this from down the pool in my own special lane with bumpers on it. Lucky for me today I might get to experience the double-lapping first hand.

We start the warm up. Do not get lapped. Do not get lapped. 500 yards later – victory! He gets close but I swim like hell to stay ahead. So much for an easy warm up.

Next up we do some pulling. No problem. Put paddles on me and I can keep up in his easy pace draft. No. No I cannot. I did not get lapped but that is only because we did a 300.

Then we did 12 x 50. Finally! A distance I can stay within 10 seconds of him.

The mainset: 3 x 300 on the 5:00, 4 x 400 on the 6:30, 2 x 200 on the 3:15. For some reason it was mega rest interval day. But that was probably a good thing for me. Because I would need at least a minute to regather my thoughts after swimming this pace.

3 x 300. I tell myself on the first one just do whatever it takes. As soon as C. pushes off, I forget about putting 5 seconds between us and get right on his feet instead. They looked great! For the first 50 yards. Stay with him stay with him stay with him. The first 150 it works. I’m not too far off. But then he pulls away. It also doesn’t help that he is nearly on the pool floor pushing off about 5 yards past the flags with every wall push off.

We come in at a new best pace. Perfect! A new personal best. The only problem is we have 2600 yards more to go on this mainset.

Oh no.

I make it through the next 300s. I’m so fast! Next up 4 x 400. I’m so screwed! The first one is supposed to be easy. Easy!? Easy is not holding the same pace as the 300s. Easy is redline for me today. And then – just as I gather my thoughts and spit something out, C. says to me:

Are you ready for the 400 IM?

What the hell kind of question is that? Is anyone ever ready for 400 IM? No. Especially not me. Before I have time to respond or even think about everything that could possibly go wrong in 400 IM, he sends off. I push off knowing I will not be doing 400 IM. Instead I decide to do freestyle right behind him. Clearly I should be able to keep up with him.

Not the case! Boy can swim – doesn’t matter if it’s fly, back or breaststroke. I’m clipping along at a pretty decent pace while he is doing stroke for the first 300 yards. So I make it my goal to bolt with him at the last 100 free. Perhaps the other 300 yards of stroke will have tired him out and given me a fighting chance of staying with him?

Or perhaps not.

The good news – only 2 x 400 more to go! The bad news – I just blew out all I had in that last 100!

The next 400 I tell myself just 200 yards. Just hang with him for 200 yards and do the best you can. RELEASE YOUR FEARS! Oh my arms. Oh my delts. This hurts! I cannot breathe. Even when I can breathe there is water in my mouth. Try kicking more. Pushing off harder? None of it helps and I am trapped in this 400. I just want to get out! Maybe I’ll need to stop? Just quit at the half way point and gather myself? Bull shit. Who stops at a 400? Really. Get over yourself. So when something else gets hard you’re just going to stand at the wall and cry for mommy?

Sometimes I hate my head.

C. laughs at the clock. What. What’s so funny. He tells me that he has never seen himself so slow for a 400. It is nice to know that his “I can’t believe I’m so slow” pace is my “I might need to call for a ride home” pace.

But hey, I’ve only slowed down 2 seconds per 100 and there is only one more 400 to go. I moan. C. must have realized at this point I am a little over my head and tells me “just do your thing, you’re fine.”

Can I just insert crazy oxygen deprived laughter here?

So I do what any half crazy person does around 3900 yards into the swim:

How will I ever pass you if I can’t hang with you?

He looks at me. I have never seen a man with a more puzzled look on his face. The words “I” and “pass you” might as well have been like speaking in Spanish to him.

“What?” he asks

I said, pass you. How will I ever be able to pass you.

Now he laughs his own oxygen rich laughter at me. I know. I made a funny. But he says one thing:

“You’re right.”

I’m not doing my thing in my mediocre pace just yet. I’ve made it this far. I can’t hang with you but I can at least not get lapped. DO NOT GET LAPPED DO NOT GET LAPPED DO NOT GET LAPPED.

At the 300 mark I was lapped.


Redemption: 200s, pull with paddles. Oh it’s on. I can do this.

Correction: I can sort of do this coming in at a pace that last year I could not do. Does that still count?

Cool down complete. I survived. In 4200 yards, I got lapped – but only once. Once is not bad, eh? I would have liked a perfect record but along with releasing my fears I learned to let go of perfectionism a long time ago.

Thursday night Coach Dave told me to swim with him. Once again it will be a baptism into the fast lane by swimming scared. I actually cannot wait. I may not be able to hang on for 400s but I’ll tell you what – Thursday is sprint free night and I know I will not get lapped in 50 yards.

I think.

I hope.

We’ll see.