Sink or Swim?

I am a self-proclaimed athlete. I don’t have any credentials, like a college athletic career or prize $$ from winning races (slash, being in the top 30% of the field). But I choose to get out there on a close to daily basis to run, swim, bike or otherwise cross-train. My infatuation with training all started back in 2010 when I decided to learn how to swim.

First, let’s dial it back 20+ years. When I was a kid, my parents enrolled me in swim lessons with the local superstar swim coach – Mrs. Bee. This lady was known in our community for not only teaching kids to swim (and to love it) but to be successful, medal wearing swim team members through high school and college.

So, around age 4, I pulled on my leopard print one-piece suit, deflated my arm floaties and sat my little behind on the edge of the pool. I can’t say I was thrilled to be there. Something about Mrs. Bee turned me off from the beginning. Perhaps it was her plastic headband and scrunchie (oh please, in 1989 I coveted those). No, I think it was the way she picked me up off the edge of the pool and dropped me in the deep end.

I learned at a young age the concept of sink or swim.

Back then, I sank. Even with the adorable suit. I was terrified of this lady, who YELLED (in all caps) and more or less verbally abused her students. My mom would sit in the yard, holding back tears as she recognized the fear on my face. Mrs. Bee once told her to suck it up or wait in the car. HA – we laugh about that now, but Mrs. Bee’s psychological damage could only go so far before we cried uncle. I only made it through one summer. I never joined a swim team. I never swam another lap.

Now, back to 2010. I was at the beach with my family, feeling like I needed a goal, a dream, a purpose. I thought about what I’d always wanted to do, but been afraid to try. I landed on swimming competitively (I was in fact sitting next to a pool when I made this proclamation). The next week, I signed up for my first triathlon.

Registering for the race, paying the $$ and telling anyone who would listen about my goal pretty much sealed the deal that I needed to learn how to swim. Admittedly, I wasn’t starting from scratch, but I hadn’t been in a lap pool, let alone swam freestyle with my head under water, for about 20 years. I was facing a pretty steep learning curve.

A few weeks later, I walked into my neighborhood pool, paid the 5 bucks, changed into my new suit (goggles, swim cap, and all) and headed out to the pool deck. I was surrounded by people that were fit, attractive and more importantly, fast. I quickly found my way to the slow lane and dipped my toes in. As an adult, I didn’t allow myself the butterflies and nervousness I had as a kid. I jumped right in. Frankly, it felt pretty good to get dunked in the deep end by choice instead of by shove.

I started off swimming one length at a time (25 meters). I cut myself some slack for holding, desperately, on to the side of the pool while my lane-mate whipped circles around me. After a time or two, I started swimming a lap and stopping for 30 seconds or so between go’s. About 3 weeks later, I graduated to swimming 3-5 laps in a row. Then, 4 weeks before my race, I was swimming my race distance non-stop in about 26 minutes. It took me 5 months, but I did it.

I did it on my own – my own schedule, my own comfort level, my own dedication. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was satisfying. What are you afraid of? Get out there and dominate.

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