The crashing, foamy waves ebbing and flowing a melody of longing. The descending sun sprinkling the perfect trail of glimmer to guide you, like fairy dust dancing on the water. The cool, fine sand meandering gently through your toes…completely engrossed in the moment surrounding you when….
“Ok Everyone! Time to get in the water!”
I shook my head back to reality! Open Water swim class was upon me yet again, and this time, we were venturing out into Lake Ontario. Up until now, we’ve been fairly protected in one of the calm Finger Lakes destinations for our swims. But tonight, our coach threw down a challenge for us.
Lake Ontario. “Lake of Shining Waters.” One of the Great Lakes.
Having lived in Rochester for the past 20 years, I have spent countless times running along the lake or just relaxing by the water. But swim in it?? No. Unless you count my toes in the water…which it does not.
“C’mon! Get in there! I want you to swim out past the buoy, swimmers!” (There is one, round orange ball buoy…that’s it.)
It was wavy…and windy….the complete opposite of calm and peaceful. It looked rough. Coming from a girl from Long Island, who grew up on the ocean…trust me, it looked rough.
So…I waded in for a few feet and then dove into the wave coming at me. Then I made the mistake of opening my eyes! It looked like something from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’s Triwizard Tournament! Green…cloudy…zero visibility! I wasn’t sure if a grindylow was going to reach up and drag me under! #amidatingmyselfhere
But just like the tournament said, “It is meant to test your daring. Courage in the face of the unknown in an important quality in a
wizard...I mean, swimmer!” Eternal glory awaits.
Ok, I know that’s being a bit dramatic, but the need to pump myself up in this situation was necessary.
My mind was telling me to get into a rhythm. Find the music in the movement. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, breathe…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, breathe…
Rise. Be Brave. Repeat.
Remembering to drop my head a bit lower, like the bow of a boat, I glided through the waves. The thing about true open water…water without buoys to mark your distance and keep you wrangled in, is that it tests your level of sighting ability. You’re forced to rely on instincts, in conjunction with skills. The training wheels are removed, and your swim is dependent on your own independence now!
Once I reached the destination past the buoys, we were giving our route…swim to the 4th set of stairs (coming down from beach houses) and back to the orange buoy.
Waves crashing…wind blowing…and on “Go!” I went for it! 1,2, 3, 4, 5, breathe….1, 2, 3, 4, 5, breathe…
Rise. Be brave. Repeat.
I didn’t think…I just swam. And swam. And swam! 1st set of stairs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, breathe…
2nd set of stairs…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, breathe..then 3rd set of stairs…and before I knew it, I had reached the 4th set of stairs! (Ok Jen…turn around and head back, I whispered to myself.)
You know that moment, that exact moment, when you realize the capacity of your strength? When you suddenly discover that you actually CAN achieve “your impossible?” Your “holy- $#@%-I-can-do-this” moment??
That moment, for me, was when I touched that round, orange buoy after swimming back! I had done it! Without stopping to catch my breath. Without panicking about the unknown or the grindylows, or the waves thrashing on me. I did it!
I felt amazing! Full of energy, like I could swim forever. This was my element. The rougher waters, testing my abilities…it was just like home. Like a mini-version of the ocean. I LOVED it! The waves, the sun glistening on the water, the rhythm of the swim. Loved.every.minute.
When I reached the buoy, our coach called out my time…15 minutes for just about 1/2 mile!
What?! For me, a beginner swimmer, a beginner triathlete-in-training?? YES!! My personal best…pure joy and a little pride as well. ( I may have even slammed my hands down on the water a few times like the Olympic swimmers do. Hey, a victory is a victory, no matter how big or small! )
Finally, I had learned how to relax while swimming in open water.
My first sprint triathlon is 22 days away. #butwhoscounting Last night was a good night. An important point on this path I am walking. I remained for some solitary moments after class, to reflect in gratitude for the day. I had been blessed again with another opportunity to “rise, be brave, repeat.”
This has been a journey of courage and limit-breakers. I am anxiously waiting to see what my path has in store for me in the future, but until then…it is time for a few more bike-run bricking and a mock transition dress rehearsal. (Yea I know, that’s the retired dancer in me speaking.) And I still need to figure out my nutrition plan for the race, and I have so much more to learn about triathlons in general…but I am moving forward with renewed energy and determination!
Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of the process, it is challenging for us to trust the process. Like Steve Jobs said:
Trust in the dots. Rise. Be Brave. Repeat…often.
Swimming to freedom,