Don’t mind me if this post ends up making very little sense, because I have entered that part of race training known as the Complete and Utter Freak Out Stage. No joke. I can’t string together a coherent sentence in real life, so don’t expect me to have anything but crazy to say here on the blog.
The training day I had planned for Sunday went so very, very badly I almost can’t even tell you about it. On the plan was a preview of the 1.2 mile swim course and the entire 56 mile bike course. What I actually managed to do was 500 meters of FREAKED OUT “swimming” followed by two hours of hysterical crying and zero bike riding. I wish I was exaggerating. That swim shattered every single shred of confidence I have ever had in my life. I came home – still crying after an hour’s drive – and told my husband that I couldn’t do it, I was pulling out of the race or at least downgrading to the Sprint or maybe even the Mini. He listened patiently, because that’s what he does, and didn’t offer any opinions until I was mostly done with the freak out. Of course, his opinion was that I need to do more open water swimming.
OMG, how am I going to do this?
When I stopped crying, I went for a run. The next morning, I had a great bike ride and today I went for another lovely run and swam a mile in my still very cold pool. I’m starting to feel better, but that’s mostly because I have just pushed Sunday out of my mind as much as possible.
Did I mention that I’m freaking out?
Here’s the thing: I don’t feel like I’m afraid of swimming anymore. I actually really enjoy it even though I’m not especially good at it. I know I’m not fast, but getting into the pool is a workout I look forward to. I can swim way over race distance in a pool without feeling overworked, but going 100 meters in open water leaves me breathless and exhausted. WTF is wrong with my head in open water?? Every time I think I have it figured out, I go and freak out about something different the next time. Panic is so illogical and I don’t seem to have any coping mechanism to get past it.
I’m not pulling out of the race. I don’t want to downgrade, either. Both of those options just feel like giving up or failing and I can’t accept that. I suspect, though, that there’s going to be 1.2 miles of doggy-paddling on May 22nd.
Tell me your “I overcame panic and here’s how” stories, please!!
After my very first open water swim in 2008, I cried for 2 days straight. Seriously. I had people emailing me left and right, leaving messages on my voice mail….everyone trying to convince me it would all be ok. I did not believe them in the slightest. I probably only made it about 100 meters before being pulled in by the kayak support that day.
BUT…2 days later I tried again…and made myself go really slow and that seemed to help a little bit in accepting that the wetsuit wasn’t “REALLY” constricting my lungs. Then 2 days later, I did a little race and although I went out way too fast, it was a short enough swim that I survived. And then on my 4th open water swim the following week, it was as if it had never happened. The swim was my best leg in races that year.
So…you know that I still have poor experiences at the first open water swims each year, but now I know it is all in my head and that it WILL GET BETTER with each swim. We typically do about 16 open waters before race day. That is ALL kinds of time to get used to it. I second your husband’s advice…but jeez, do they know how to comfort us or what (sigh…)
You will be fine, too! Better than fine! I believe this to be very true!
track coach and adorable wife says
For some reason I am always afraid of what is at the bottom of a lake and so that freaks me out. I also can’t seem to put my head in the water because I am so claustrophobic! But I have almost never swam in a pool, only a lake, so on my first race day, with no real swimming practice, I just got in the water and did whatever felt comfortable at a pace that wouldn’t make me struggle.
That is a long ways, but you are in awesome shape. If you watch Friends, just think about Chandler! It worked for Phoebe. Then just relax and let your body take over! You are amazing and you’ve got this!
oh P! I have panicked for every open water swim I’ve done – and I only do sprints! I’ve always been afraid of water. When I get in, I’m convinced I can’t breath. I feel like the wetsuit is suffocating me. I feel like my head is freezing & I get dizzy. I hyperventilate.
I am constantly talking myself down while out there. The thing that gets me through it is to just break it down into little bits. I just tell myself, “I have to get through it, just once then I’m done. Just a few more crawl strokes then I can back stroke for a while, just a little further, I know I can do the distance, I just have to take my time and not worry about anyone else. Relax. You can do this.” and it just goes on and on. A total dialog where I’m teetering on the edge of freak out. I always manage to get through but not easily.
For you, you have trained SO MUCH. You just gotta remind yourself that you can do more than the distance. You can get through it. It’s going to be hard in open water, yes, but you can do it no question. It’s just a matter of taking the time, giving yourself the calm to get through it. You are one tough cookie, P! Think of all the miles you’ve swam this entire winter and keep that number in your head. Run through the numbers over and over.
The Green Girl says
You’ve got this. Seriously. You’ve been training for this, you are ready.
It’s like an exam, it’s not the cramming you do at the last minute, it’s everything you did up to that point.
::big big hugs::
Patrick Mahoney says
All good advice. Guess what? It’s just gonna click and it’s gonna click before the race. Just try again.
Suggestion: Focus on form, i.e. just swim, keep moving your arms and all the other parts in the order you’re supposed to.
Hypnotoad(tm) says,”Sunday never happened!” Brought to you by the first three (3) seasons of Futurama(tm).
No rock the race! B-)
I use tricks to take my mind off what I’m doing. One example, count your strokes. I used this for sighting too. You forget what you are doing since you are just focusing on getting to a number of strokes and then whammoo, it is done.
tri like mary says
I pulled out of my first sprint tri about 2 minutes in because I freaked out in the water. I was COMPLETELY unprepared for the reality of open water and the constrictions a wetsuit puts on you even though I had done some open water in the wetsuit prior to. My only advice is to keep at it as it does get better. You CAN do it!
Running Ricig says
Oh man, I don’t have any stories because I haven’t run any big races before. But you’ve totally got this! You’ve been training and being awesome! You’ve got it!
Do you have someone or a group that you can swim with in open water? It isn’t just you out there, is it? Can someone follow along you with a kayak?
I almost threw up on the beach just before my first Olympic tri. But I didn’t. Even thought I could make the distance in the pool, I got in the lake and it was a slow combination of doggy paddle, front crawl, breast stroke and back stroke but I made it. Just don’t quit!! It doesn’t matter what it looks like, just get out there and do it…because you CAN!! 🙂
when i did my first triathlon in an ocean last summer, I had a panic attack in the water. I NEVER quit and I almost quit. Between the waves and my new wetsuit I felt like I wasn’t moving anywhere. But I started doing a few breaststrokes to rest and calm myself down, focused on getting my breathing right and worked myself into a steady swim. It was the slowest swim of my life but I DID it. My advice is to do the same type of thing-whatever kind of stroke you need to get yourself mentally okay in the water and then work on developing a rhythm to get through it. You can do it!
Big Daddy Diesel says
I suggest swim along the shoreline, where, if you freak out, you can stand up and touch bottom, keep practicing that till your ready for the race
Matthew Smith says
I’m sorry you had a rough time. I always panic just a little bit at the beginning of each open water swim. It’s hard to chill out and swim. I think BDD has a great suggestion of swimming along the shoreline. Good luck to you as you train.
I get really freaked out swimming in the open water. I have found that it helps if I find something to focus on – either counting my strokes and focusing on my form. Anytime I feel even remotly panicky I stop and breastroke a bit, which always helps calm me down. Keep it up – you are a champ and you can do it!
First, so sorry you are feeling this way! Let’s get you over it…
Open water is nothing other than murky pool water. You can do this. Worst case scenario, flip onto your back and backstroke a few strokes. Also, when you first get in the water, stick your head under it…this helps get the “panic” response going so that you can get it out others. You can do this!!
Oh..I’m so sorry you had a total freak out! But, believe me, it is sooo common! I’ve had so many freak outs I’ve lost count.
Please don’t feel like you have to pull out of the race. You CAN do this!! Do you have someone you can swim with? Maybe the next time you go out there again you can ask someone there to swim with you to help you through it? You have gotten so much good advice already! Just keep at it and it WILL get easier!!
I haven’t had mine yet. It will be in June with my first duathlon. But I have faith you can totally do it. (Not panic attack – the race!)
I can’t really relate on the swimming front…but this kind of reminds me of skiing. Sometimes the boys drag me down stuff I don’t enjoy. I have to make sure not to stop for too long or I start to feel stuck. And I can’t let myself look too far ahead or I get overwhelmed. Maybe this kind of applies?? I actually give myself pep talks out loud…that might not work swimming… They sound kind of like, “Great job Laura. You’ve got this. Just plant your pole, jump, turn. There you go. You can do this.” So, you know, that might help if you have to swim moguls.
freaking out makes life fun!