Almost 2 years ago, I signed up for my first swimming class. I couldn’t make it one pool length. I couldn’t put my face in the water. And I’m pretty sure those sharing a lane with me wanted to throw themselves off a bridge. I swayed in my lane from side to side; I was the last one to finish and I looked like a fucking mess. Up until this class; I had never swam before. I had an experience in the water when I was 8 that created a fear of water so deep; I made my mother obtain a doctor’s note for me so I wouldn’t have to swim in high school. As an adult, I learned to surf and I loved it. I could prevent myself from drowning but that’s about it. Truly, it’s a miracle I’m alive. I had no business being out there. However, knowing I was strapped to a giant floaty board, did offer a lot of peace. I have always gravitated towards the spiritual qualities of water. I’ve said this a million times but our relationship is like a giant metaphor. If you fight it; it fights back twice as hard. You need to embrace the energy and synergy of each wave; each movement and marry yourself to it. And respect is paramount. Always respect the force of water and it won’t do you wrong.
The reason I even entertained the idea of swimming was watching those around me complete triathlons. While in the midst of a serious running/life funk; it seemed like the perfect anecdote. Three sports as a opposed to one sort of guarantees you’ll never get bored. But it took too more years of banging my head against a wall with running. A handful of shitty, horrible, no good races, two bad falls on my knee, a cracked patella and a doctor saying “try a new sport,” to finally decide to pull the trigger. (Oh and some encouragement from a friend, of course) So I signed up for the Olympic distance in September and the Sebago Lake Triathlon (just the sprint distance) which I completed Sunday with like 3 weeks of training behind me.
3 weeks of training. Not the best idea. But when do I ever do things in a sensible manner?? PSSSHHHHH. Come on now.
I knew I could cover all the distances. I knew I could handle the open water. I had done the distance twice on my bike up the hardest hills I could find in Windham. And 3.3 miles of running, I mean, come on. No bigs. Even still, come Sunday, I was nervous as all fuck. SO NERVOUS. Because it was new and fresh and unexpected. But you know what, once it started, I just made my way through the motions and something really glorious happened…..I smiled at everything around me. Every single solitary step of the way. I had a fucking smile on my face.
After the swim (which was a little horrifying by the way with all the people and one very lost swimmer next to me), I ran out of the water, smiling. I got on my bike, a little confused, but smiling. I huffed my way along the bike course, while primarily alone, smiling. It was hot. It was hard. The hills were unforgiving and unrelenting. But can I tell you, while coasting down a few of the downhills, I was just so enamored with how things looked on the bike, breeze blowing through me like a gift. It was spectacular. The run, was super challenging because I’ve never experienced that kind of fatigue at the start of a run but after walk/running the first mile; I caught my groove. I even managed to pull out a sprint at the finish. Still, smiling.
I haven’t felt this way after a race since early 2014.
I know some people have doubts about my ability to stick to things but these people also haven’t been privy to the demons I’ve been working through from 2014-2016. Yes, I may talk a lot but I’m quiet about the real struggles. And I have struggled, badly, the last two years. It’s easy to say that running is the thing that pulled me under but running really has nothing to do with it. I’ve suffered losses that are inconceivable, overwhelmed myself with a giant pile of things to do and continued to try and fake it for two years. Little did I realize, everything was spilling out everywhere. When you break down and cry hysterically after each race; it’s just easier to lie to people and tell them it’s because I missed my time goal. No, I don’t really give that much of a shit about time. It was mental exhaustion and emotional turmoil emerging from each broken seam as I struggled to just hide everything.
2017 is different. I feel like my old self. I feel mentally tough again. I’ve worked through the layers of grief. I understand what I need from myself and others. And, I have a new vice. A new outlet. I loved Sunday and I plan on continuing with swimming, biking and running. With no expectations. With no time goals. I just want to be out there, smiling as I coast down a hill and emerge from the water. I want to enjoy. That’s what life is all about isn’t it? Finding happiness, in whatever form works for you specifically.