Monday, February 09, 2009

What do you think about while swimming?

Usually I'm too busy counting laps or watching my splits to think about much during my swims. However, today my thoughts reflected back upon my Ironman Wisconsin race last year. Specifically the start of the swim.

During a race pace interval of 400 yards I thought about how winded I was becoming and the need for more air was quite urgent. My arms were pulling hard through the water and needed more oxygen. At this point I start to breath three times on a side before switching to the opposite side.

For some reason the feeling or desire for more oxygen made me think about the dangers of swimming, and more directly how terrible it would be to drown. That single thought took me back to the start of my Ironman swim in Lake Monona.

The first two minutes of the swim was the most frightening moments I have ever had. I can't recall any other moment in my life when I thought I would, or could, die. Something happened to me during the beginning moments of the swim that completely freaked me out. I had a hard time controlling my feelings of anxiety and fear. I honestly thought there was a possibility that I would drown.

Despite many swim starts during races, open water swims, countless yards in the pool I felt completely unprepared. Somehow I managed to pull myself together and start swimming again.
When faced with danger people often have a fight or flight reaction. Does one fight back or flee from the danger?

I managed to do both. I had to fight my way across the path of other swimmers and I fled towards the open water away from the maelstrom of the 2000+ athletes. Once I reached the relative safety of the outer edge of the swim course I managed to settle into my race pace and the rest of the swim was uneventful. But those opening minutes that morning felt like the end of my world.

I find it curious how these types of memories pop up in my head often triggered by random thoughts. Maybe my mind was ready to deal with the memory and provide some revelation about myself. I'm glad though. The events and memories of an Ironman triathlon are hard to remember exactly due to the long day involved. But each one helps define the day and the person.

I finished the 400 yards at race pace. I felt like I was about to puke as I was sucking in air standing at the wall. But I will tell you felt good.

Game On.


Big Daddy Diesel said...

Thanks for sharing, even though swimming is the only leg I have actually years of experience in, but with no experience in mass starts, I still have butterflies about it.

Eric said...

Each race is different too. You never know what you will be getting into. Confidence in training and ability is key. Most sports are 90% mental.

Tony said...

When I'm swimming, I like sing a song in my mind. When I'm done singing it, I start back over to the beginning. haha