Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Overcoming Fears

Ideally, this post would have been posted before the “I finished!” a triathlon post, but you know…

As I explained in my “Triath…uhhh…what?” post, my sister, husband and I began training for a triathlon. We started training about mid-April and had a lot of firsts. First time I had ever run further than a mile, first time I had ever gone on a 5, 10, 15 and 20 mile bike ride, first time my booty had ever hurt so bad from riding a bike, first time I had ever ridden on a street bike, first time I had ever swam laps in the pool, first time I had ever worn one of those silly looking swim caps and goggles, first time I had ever swam “for real” in the ocean, and lots of others. My first time swimming in the ocean was also my first time to deal with a fear that I could not explain.

We got wetsuits, trekked our way to the beach and got started. Now mind you, we were not experienced enough to have the forethought to actually check a surf report prior to our trip over to the ocean. So, when we first arrived the three of us observed the waves, wide-eyed and glanced at each other. “Are we really going to do this?” we asked each other simultaneously. “Well, we really need to start practicing in open water…”

We got moving… Well, ok, it wasn’t a quick start. For those of you who don’t know, wetsuits are extremely difficult to get on! Especially for the first time! So, several minutes later when we finally yanked, stretched, tugged and squirmed our way into our wetsuits we made our way to the lifeguard stand. We decided we should inform the lifeguard that we were about to “try” swimming in the ocean and that it was our first time, so he could keep an eye on us. Or as my sister explained to her husband, “I figure I might as well introduce myself to the person who’s going to be giving me mouth-to-mouth soon, when he saves me from drowning!” We got to the lifeguard stand and informed the lifeguard, who had a very nice Australian accent, I might add. :) Oh, don’t worry, even my husband admits the lifeguard’s accent was nice! Anyway, Mr. Australia, told us the waves were pretty high (uh, duh! My husband looked that up after the fact and they were between 5 and 6 ft high at the time we went that day!), there was some type of pull from south to north, and some other ocean-talk details none of us understood. Then he said, but you are all pretty good swimmers, right? Uh – sure, we all thought, in a pool.

We eased our way in, and slowly started making our way out further away from the shore; all the while getting slammed over and over again by one big wave after another. I didn’t exactly have a specific technique because I didn’t really know what I was doing. My sister and my husband seemed to be thinking this was quite fun, while I kept getting slammed and receiving mouthfuls of salt water because I had to keep fussing with my goggles while trying to fight against the big waves. We moved out a bit past where the waves were breaking and then it was on our way back in that I started struggling. When we got to a point still somewhat far out where I could stand, I was really starting to wear out fast. Did I mention my husband and I had done a 20 mile bike ride earlier that day? Oh, yeah, so I was already a quite bit tired and the pull produced when the waves were coming was so strong that with each wave my feet would drag across the sand backwards out towards the ocean, not the shore. Then the big wave would come crashing into me, I’d stand up and the process would start all over again. I was making no headway and getting more exhausted and frustrated. My sister and husband were actually making it closer to shore, while I was just staying in the same place and I honestly could not move. I wasn’t sure how much more energy I could expend trying to get back to shore when I wasn’t able to make it any closer to shore minute after minute. I think due to a combination of being tired and feeling stuck, feelings of anxiety and panic began to overtake me.

There are many different types of fear and anxiety and I’m not sure exactly where mine stemmed from. It may have just been because my body was really tired from a 20 mile bike ride and from swimming (for the first time) out into a pretty rough ocean. It was also wearing me down because I felt like I was fighting and fighting to move forward, but just kept staying in pretty much the same place. My sweet husband could tell I was in a bit of distress and moved back to get me and helped pull me out from where I was stuck. I have never had something get to me quite like that experience did and both my husband and my sister said, “We love you, but you have to go back out there one more time today because we don’t want you to go home with negative thoughts or fear.” So, I let myself take a break and then we went back in, not very far, for a few minutes. All I could think was – there was no way I was going to be able to do a triathlon, if I couldn’t even go for the tiny little swim we just tried.

My husband looked up the surf report that evening and saw that the time we went was the worst the waves were going to be all week long. We pretty much picked the worst time to go for our first time out. The advantage and positive to that is that all other times seemed easy compared to the first time out there. I gained my confidence and lost my fear our second time trekking into the ocean. The waves we were competing against were only about 3 to 4 feet high and my sister had a great idea of slowly easing in and just diving under each wave over and over, until I felt more comfortable. For some reason that worked wonders and after that swim – I couldn’t even actually remember what had spooked me so much to begin with!

I apologize for this being such a long post – If you are still reading Thanks! I just wanted to share my experiences of fear and anxiety and demonstrate how sometimes you just need to push through obstacles, even if they produce unexplained anxiety or fear. Also, in addition to powering through by yourself, it’s unbelievable what you can do with the strength of loved ones backing you up.

I am so blessed to have my loving husband and family! Thanks so much to my husband and sister for helping me overcome a fear and not giving up on me or allowing me to give up on myself.

Until next time, here’s to overcoming fears, supportive loved ones and successfully swimming silicone! :)


  1. I don't know if I would have been able to go out again! When I was younger I was swimming in the ocean with my older sister and her friends and we went out pretty far and I remember getting super tired and not wanting to go in. When I realized how hard it was to get back in I started panicking, which made me even more tired! Since then, I've never swam very far in the ocean because I'm afraid I'll get to tired. Good idea to go back out though for a better experience. Congrats!

  2. Steff - That must have been so scary! That's exactly how I felt - I was so tired and wasn't sure if I could make it and then started to panic and then it was just a vicious circle! Thanks for always reading and giving your support! :)

  3. Good for you for getting back out there!! I can only imagine how scary that must have been. You are one brave woman!!