The only way to get over a fear is to go after it. I have completed two 1/2 Ironman distances and the biggest challenge for me has always been the swim. I have been around water all my life, my family owned a boat I grew up loving all water sports you. You would think I would be comfortable in the water but to be honest it’s not the water, it’s all the people around you… I instantly go in to anxiety panic mode, I can’t breathe my wet-suits feels so tight…I just want out! This fear lasts for about 500 meters but until then, it feels like the longest swim of my life and all I want to do is find a way to get out.
After I did the Penticton challenge 1/2 Ironman distance I told myself I would never do it again, even though the dream of an official Ironman was in the back of my head. When my girlfriends registered for Iroman this summer, they kept asking me to come along for their training swims and rides. They asked me if I was going to register with them but I kept saying no, I was happy to just train with them. Then, my friend Karen changed things for me. She asked me why I don’t practice what I preach? Why I am always encouraging others to be fearless, and to try new things and step out of their comfort zones.. but I never do myself. That was all I needed to hear.. that evening I registered for Ironman Whistler 70.3 and started working towards loosing my fear so I could cross that finish line! Here is how I did it.
Step 1: Have fun
The most important part of completing any goal is having a support team, and training partners to keep you on accountable…but above all, you have to keep it fun!
· Give yourselves a cool team training name… we called ourselves the “halfiton hotties “.
· Design matching RLAG tri-suits…if you look good you will feel good.
· Remake scenes from Bay Watch as much as possible before starting your open water training swims.
Step 2: Invest in a swim buoy.
This is the best piece of gear I have ever bought myself for so many reasons:
-it’s visible in the water
-If you get tired or are in any danger you can stop and float.
-you can carry your cell phone and keys because it has a dry bag
*note* it isn’t 100% water proof if you don’t have a life proof case so please put your phone in a plastic bag.
The number one reason why I loved it so much was before each swim we would video us running in slow mode … like bay watch babes in our wet-suits and goggles. It was so awesome to have a laugh before we swam shake out any fears.
Step 3: join a swim club
I was intimidated to start swimming with the club since, most have been competitive swimmers their whole lives. After I got the first swim out of the way and found my lane of swimmers I was fine.
Each night we had a coach workout and tons of support.
Special thanks to my friend Karen that introduced me to the club.
Step 4: open water swimming practice.
I am not going to lie… the first open water swim practice was a nightmare and exactly how I remembered it.
My wet-suit felt tight I couldn’t breathe my asthma was acting up and I was in full panic mode for about 500 meters.
But like with anything, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will feel doing so. Once the initial fears have gone away, you can focus on your training and feeling comfortable in the water.
For me, I have learned some tricks that help me calm my breathing down.
-I take a allergy pill, I have allergies to pollen and when I go swimming the pollen is on the lake it then riggers my asthma. I find if I take a pill along with my inhaler if helps me relax, and get into a normal breathing pattern.
-Get in to the water and wet your wet suit, pull out the arms cuffs let water in. Once the wet-suit is had a bit of water in it, it will loosen and not feel so tight.
-Change your stroke, my friend Patty taught me to do one sided stroke until my breathing settles. It’s a game changer! I now start every swim that way.
So, with enough open water practice through out the year, I felt ready to tackle my fears again.
The race didn’t start till 9am…which was nice to sleep in, but I honestly didn’t really sleep that night. I was awake often, dreading the swim. We arrived at the lake 1:30 early to watch the full Ironman start! It was also a good chance for me to visualize the start of the swim. My nerves settled as I watched people enter the water according to their predicted finishing times. It wasn’t mass chaos of everyone in the water at once. I felt so much better about the swim and started getting excited!
But then, of course, something had to happen! During our Pre – swim, the wind picked up and there were white caps on the water. I was terrified! As I went to line up under the 45-55 minute sign all I could think about was leaving. I started to feel panicked…I needed to get to air and get away from all of the people. I made my way to the sides of the line up and thankfully saw my husband! It was a nice boost of reassurance before entering the water!
As I walked down the mat into the water I must of tried to talk myself out 1000 times but then I just kept repeating to myself…don’t quit, don’t stop, keep going and you’re going to finish. The waves were so big I had to do one sided stroke the whole way. Every time I tried to change my stroke I would swallow water. The last 100 meters was the worst.. I was so far behind and I thought I was cut off for sure. The waves felt like they were getting bigger and I was really struggling. The paddle board volunteers saw me struggling and asked if I was okay… all I cared about was how much time was left before cut off! Was I going to make it? The told me I had 6 minutes! I then put my head down and went as hard as I could and made it! I couldn’t believe it! I cheered so loud it was like the beach was the finish line.
I was so proud I conquer my fear and battled the worst water I have ever been in. After that, the rest of the day was so perfect! The cycling route was beautiful and the run was amazing! I don’t like running road but there was beautiful trail sections and even the road parts were so scenic! The best part was being able to see so many people I knew! My best friends Amanda, Penny, Patty Chris, Kyle and Tanja were all there. And to top it off, my husband Robin walked 26km that day to make sure I saw him as much as possible!
I will be forever thankful to my Half iron ladies: Karen, Jane, Scarlet, Kristina and Patty for never giving up on me and pushing me to overcome my fear of open water. And the best part of all? We are all registering to do it again next year!! Join us!