I remember going to pick up my packet and dropping off my bike at my first 70.3, the wind was brutal, there were large white caps on the water, and the bikes were sliding all over the place in the transition racks from the wind. The next morning they tested the water temperatures and the temperature was 55 degrees. I remember being relieved that there was no wind, but had never swam in water that cold. I was scared shitless.
That morning I remember meeting Coach Sam for the first time in transition (She was not my coach at that time). She gave me a pep talk and I remember thinking I needed this, again I didn’t know her – but she probably saw the fear in my eyes and body language. Let’s just say I survived this swim, it was brutally hard and I cramped up terribly swimming. Despite being miserable that day on the swim, I still had that feeling taking it all in and realizing I was doing this race no matter how hard it was.
Prior to Evolve I HATED every F&*^ing swim at every race. I absolutely hated swimming and fought it every step of the way. The conversation to myself would often be why am I doing this? This is supposed to be fun. I would have massive anxiety weeks prior to races. I said to myself I have to learn to swim better. But I wasn’t sure how to get there.
I remember Sam talking about swim camps and I KNEW the camp was what I needed. But the fear in me, said there is no F^*%ing way that I will ever go to one of those swim camps. The excuses I made up where pretty good. I just made sure they never worked with my schedule. The reality and the fear of going into an environment where I thought everyone would be swimming like Katie Ledecky and I would be the one holding up the camp sounded miserable.
So at some point, Sam said I really want to see you come to swim camp. I reluctantly agreed and I signed up for my first swim camp. I quickly was teamed up with two other athletes that were of similar ability and we shared a lane. I remember listening to every word trying to learn. The reality was that weekend I swam more than I had ever swam in a weekend. I knew I would be sore for a few days. But I survived!
So this is where things got interesting, I remember going back to swim and suddenly I would look at my lap average pace and I realized I was swimming faster. Those magic thresholds you place on yourself and pace. I suddenly realized I was swimming at an average pace that I dreamed of before. This same year, I went back and repeated a 70.3 from the year before. This time I shaved 7 minutes off my swim time and my previous swim time at this race was really good for me.
So something happened after this race. I continued swimming by myself. But I found myself starting to enjoy swimming. I was racing better and my swim was setting me up to have some pretty great races. I was also craving swimming in a group of focused athletes, Evolve has Friday workouts, but it does not work with my schedule, so after a discussion with Sam I decided to join a masters swim group closer to my home. This was so outside my comfort zone. Masters along with swim camp have raised my confidence level in triathlon so much higher; I almost forget how hard it used to be for me.
The ironic part is today people come up to me and say, well you don’t understand because you are a really good swimmer. I laugh and say, I probably understand more than you think. They ask how do you get better. I said two things, went to swim camp and joined a Masters swim group.
Ultimately I realized swimming is all about consistency, being pushed and good advice. So my advice is face your fear and eventually it becomes a distant memory.