Some honest reflections here today.
I spent the entire past week hoping for bad weather so they would have to cancel Big Shoulders. Completely and utterly horrible of me, but I honestly knew unless they cancelled or enforced a wet suit, I would get in not because I wanted to but because I have an ego, I have said it before, I may move like molasses but I will try to swim through most things unless I am stopped. I hoped for a stoppage So that I didn’t have to make the decision.
Second truth, we turned up and I used a friends (Robin’s) thermometer to check the water temp, 61.5f was the reading at the shore, this temp doesn’t bother me, it’s not going to be pleasant but it also wont be brain freeze for 100 mins. On the beach, talking I said, well maybe I might just get out at half way. This is not the best mental state, to already be giving myself a way out. “Who will getting out matter to? You don’t have to prove anything? You do this for you? “ My mental game has not been good since we cancelled July’s swim – “it’s a question of how much you are prepared to suffer, until your feet touch dry land”- and apparently right now my mind is being a baby. So we may have some fights in next 6 months.
At this stage we have about 45 mins to my swim wave start and this year me and Mr “Bobby Ess” are in the same age bracket, which is nice. But anyway as usual I have to pee having knocked some Red Bull (it’s 6am and I don’t drink coffee) and waters back on the drive, normally I would say don’t get in 61f water before a swim but my choices are this or a “porta potty” I am going in the lake. For “swimstory” friends there is a series of “peegate” photos on line courtesy of “Mr Ess”. But anyway I get wet, I get out, I am not aware of any consequence to the getting wet and then standing on the beach for 40 mins.
In a nice touch at least a dozen people cone up to introduce themselves during this period, courtesy of the swim group myself and “swimstory” Sam set up 5 years ago. It’s nice to think the group gives even a little back and helps encourage others to try things. But I digress.
Ok I am going to digress again, let me start with I have no issues with wet suits, if you need a wet suit to do a swim, go for it, whatever gets you in the water,. However, I remember when I first signed up for Big Shoulders in 2013 and as I did more and more reading on big shoulders and how it presented itself in the past, it gave a very “macho” representation of itself as a true swim/swimmers test, people throwing themselves in to whatever conditions the lake threw at them and doing their best to finish, human vs nature. On a personal level when roughly only 1/3rd of swimmers are not wearing wet suits at water that is above 60f, it becomes much less of that “pure test” that I at least, perceived it projected itself as, when I first took part, a short 6 years ago.
Anyway so there we are, myself and some of the closest “special” people I know, standing on a beach in swimsuit and hat and goggles along with a bunch of neoprene clad smarter people waiting for start time. Finally, pink hats go time so myself and “Mr Ess” wander to the start leaving Robin and Tommy on the beach.
We enter the water, it stings a tiny bit but nothing that won’t pass pretty quick, “Mr Ess” agrees it’s chilly and we suggest following some directions from mails received this week,to roll in a ball and pee on yourself (I do not do this and neither does “Mr Ess”). Then the buzzer goes and off we go. I have previously admitted, I hate the first hour of any swim, I think too much, I focus on whether I am uncomfortable, I start debating in my head if it’s colder than I think, are my extremities numb, is it healthy and smart to do a sport in which my face feels numb. We swim towards the break wall, there is some swell and chop coming towards but nothing of any real consequence I.e. I don’t swallow any water all day. I am having a pleasant swim, I am not pushing myself, I am not chasing anyone, I stick to a two beat kick and I just swim around. As I head towards the buoy to turn back towards the beach, I know the course is long, the buoy is too close to the break wall and we will be swimming a little extra today 🙂 I swim towards the beach.
The turn buoy, for the 2nd lap is near the beach, I reach it, my time is slow but I am being lazy, I round the buoy, I STOP, I tread water, I turn to the beach, I seriously consider it, “ I don’t need to do this”, “ no one else cares”, “most people in your life don’t understand this sport anyway, so there is no consequence”. I take a stroke, I consider getting out again. My ego kicks in, “this is a fucking 5km, if you can’t finish a 5km you don’t deserve to be in the water” (this is no offense to anyone doing shorter distances, this is purely about me and my ego and you would kick my ass on a sprint), “John you will be pulled out before you walk out yourself that’s the be all and end all”. I am not very good at many things and like us all I am deeply flawed, but one attribute I believe I have is perseverance, I can take a beating and stay standing and come back for more and if I quit, I give that up.
Left arm, right arm, two beat kick
For the first time in months my mind went blank, I swam to the buoy, I swam to the next buoy, I looked at my watch and knew my time would suck and will bother me until I swim a race again in a years time, but time I can fix, mental collapse would be harder. I have been contemplating this for 24 hours and it’s obviously hard to know because it didn’t happen but the consequences of quitting may have had repercussions to future swims. Instead I continue a perseverance streak, I have had some shit swims, I have had some great swims but I have never quit any one of them. It will, without doubt happen sometime but I want to be counted out on my feet not walking out for no reason other than being weak and lazy.
I swam to the beach, I as usual took my time, I don’t run out of swims, cause that 15 secs of running to cross the finish line ain’t my event and to the neoprone gods sprinting past me up the beach, well good for you. I found my friends on the beach, I whined as I do after every event, I don’t remember many times I have got out and given a woot, usually I focus on what went wrong (apologies to my swim family). I could say I will work on that but fuck it, that’s just me. We hung on the beach, people ate “breakfast ribs”. I took some photos and video. I got to introduce myself in person to the fire dept. chief of marine and air rescue who I harassed all summer by mail and now we know each other’s faces 🙂 as I plan again for next year. I am also seriously contemplating joining a masters swim team, I can push myself all day to swim distance, I can get in a pool or lake and just press go, but I am not pushing myself on any speed and I need to fix that, I don’t like being told what to do when swimming but I may need to swallow that and let someone shout at me to sprint and you can try harder and yes you can swim the backstroke set (I already can imagine the fuck you clearly in my head). I don’t see an alternative to it right now where I will enforce timed sets on myself versus getting in and swimming 5km straight cause I enjoy that.
Anyway, another one down, another poor performance, another I didn’t quit. Oh yes the long course was 5.5km. I probably won’t do another Big Shoulders or at least right now can’t envision it, not because it’s not a great event but as someone pointed out to me yesterday, some of my interests and desires in swimming have changed since 2013 and I need to find stuff that excites me, so that I want to get in the water and see how far I can push me.
Yours- A somewhat adequate swimmer