A few days ago I went open water swimming, as I often do. For a few moments I was convinced something terrible was going to happen…
It started normally. The tide was low, the sea so very calm and even though it was 6am the sun was already burning bright in the still morning sky. I entered the water initially with a couple of fellow swimmers, they were planning a short swim whereas I wanted to do a longer distance so we went our seperate ways.
I headed out deeper and deeper so that I could avoid the seaweed beds that I hate so much. On the way out I felt comfortable and strong. I got into a steady rhythm and my mind drifted off as it tends to do. I started thinking about my family, my new job and other things disconnected with swimming.
It was when I turned and started to make my way back that I started to get nervous. Firstly, I spotted the first jellyfish of the season. Then I saw a bright neon white flash of ropes deep down on the seabed. I spooked myself when I swam over the top of a bed of seaweed and, as a unilateral breather I could only see out to sea which made me lose touch with land. I then started to wonder if it was warm enough for sharks!! Basically I was starting to freak out for a hundred unnecessary and very irrational reasons.
I swam for the next few minutes like I was swatting flies. It was clumsy, panicky and wasn’t helping me to move anywhere. I knew that I had to gather my thoughts. Slowly and surely I started to think straight again. I had a proper word with myself and managed to get my stroke back together. My technique never properly recovered but it was composed and strong enough to get me back to shore.
Upon reflection this was actually a very good experience. It taught me that in order to overcome fears and obstacles one must firstly ensure that there will be fears and obstacles to overcome. I suppose it’s going out of your way to get into your uncomfortable zone, getting out of your depth and putting yourself in a situation where your heart races and your brain and body have to work quickly and calmly to get you to focus.
This theory is at the core of the #7days7irons challenge. In order to be able to complete a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile cycle and a marathon every day for 7 days it will be the ability to escape from panic mode when things get tough, return to a calm state and refocus on whatever time or distance goal I need to hit. One thing’s for sure, I’m in this. deep now and the only way out is to keep going until I get back to shore.
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