A few weeks ago I decided to join some members of my running club at their Tuesday afternoon swim. The location was a little beach very close to the entrance to Ventura Harbor. Here, you are protected from the ocean waves, but still have a bit of small swell and the occasional boat wake. Also, the water is cold. I don’t know the temperature, just that it is cold, and I didn’t have a wetsuit.
It being the middle of summer I thought, “I can try to swim without a wetsuit. Surely once I get warmed up I’ll be just fine.” So I went, and much to my surprise took no time at all getting into the water. It was cold!
The swim consists of laps around the line of buoys that designate the beach as a boat free swim area. Most of the group swam 3-4 laps around these buoys. I got halfway through the first lap and then experienced something new… I couldn’t get any air. I was breathing but feeling like nothing was coming in. Being the stubborn person that I am, I chose to finish the lap before heading to shore. It was difficult and consisted mostly of breast stroke and back stroke as I just didn’t have enough air for freestyle.
When I made it to shore I started to cough and cough and cough. “Maybe I inhaled some water?” I thought. After everyone else came to shore some of us had planned to follow the swim with a run. For me, 5 miles was the assigned distance for the day. So while continuing to cough I changed into my running clothes, while also thinking that if I had inhaled some water at least the heavy breathing of running would help me to get it out of my lungs.
Once I started running I again felt like I couldn’t get any air… and this was at an incredibly slow pace! So my 5 miles turned into 2 miles of run-cough-walk, run-cough-walk. In retrospect I don’t believe I inhaled any water. Instead my lungs were reacting to being cold. What a completely horrible experience that turned out to be! I think that many people would have vowed to never do that again.
The next day my chest was still sore (but better as the day progressed) and I had a 5k to run. I ran and at about the halfway point felt like I wasn’t getting air again. But I finished the race through force of will only.
So what is a logical next step after such a bad physical experience with open (and cold) water swimming? To try again of course! Two days later. This time I borrowed a wetsuit. It was kind of small and it was quite the workout to get it on and zipped, but I did it. My running coach told me to start by just floating and relaxing in the water for 5 minutes. I did this and then swam two laps around the buoys. It felt great.
It felt so great that the following Monday I splurged and bought my very own wetsuit. The first swim in this suit was 3 laps. Five days later I went 4 laps. Then the following Thursday was 5 laps. Then yesterday I pushed to 7. I’m hooked! Now if I can learn ride a bike (other than my beach cruiser) I’d be ready for a triathlon…HaHa one goal at a time and trying to qualify for Boston is it for now.
But I learned an important lesson. Sometimes when we fail or struggle with things it is not because we are not capable but rather that we don’t have the right equipment.So the next time you struggle, before giving up, think about whether you really have everything you need to succeed.