If you entertain something long enough, you will find yourself dancing with the opportunity. This happens to be my testament to most things over the course of five years. Just a few weeks ago, I laid out the laundry list of bat shit adventures that I've participated in just because I wanted to face a fear. Well, fuck me because I find myself going hard in the wet paint this time: I want to face my fear of swimming by training for my first triathlon. And you know what...I am creating a dedicated space to document my six month journey from being a half dead goldfish who would drown in water (SHUT UP...don't correct me) to becoming a shark in my first triathlon.
Before You Start Questioning My Thoughts, Lemme Explain
I'm going to put out the following disclaimers:
Again, How Did You Sign Up for a Triathlon?
Taking it back to my previous blog post under my Ramblings with the Running Fat Chef, I tend to tackle my fears in the most extreme ways. For a few years, completing a triathlon has been on my bucket list; my ultimate goal is to complete a Half Ironman. Unfortunately I share the same fear like many of the black people that I know and it's my inability to swim. The thought of drowning makes me think that sitting in a snake pit is a much better idea--I'm lying my ass off.
Being sick and tired of the doubts and frustrations, I shared my desires to sign up for the New Jersey State Triathlon with my personal Facebook page. Being frank, I told my friends, family members and followers that my pockets are malnourished and in turn, I probably wouldn't. My friend Shelly became my first unsolicited donor and next thing I knew, she gave me the brave pill that I needed.
My pride will probably put a bullet in the back of my head because I don't like to ask for help but I'm trying to be a bit more vulnerable in the areas that I need help. In turn, I made a post on Facebook asking for well wishes and if possible, a financial contribution to my zany cause. Surprisingly, people responded with an amazing amount of love, support and even a handful of donors. By 9pm, my race was funded. After I hit the button, I questioned what the fuck was I thinking.
What's Your Plan, Jack?
I don't want to wait for Rose to tell me she'll never let go of my hand if I'm in a tragic Titanic scene. In turn, I took my first set of beginner swimming lessons. Honestly, the easiest part of this triathlon will be the running and cycling. If you haven't been following my journey, I am a two time ultra marathoner with eight marathons under my belt, several dozens of road races and done several long distance cycling events, one of which was the Century (100-mile ride).
As with any event, it will require discipline, consistency, dedication and passion. My race was well over 150.00 and for a broke Brooklyn woman with a family, that's a steep penny. In turn, I invested 75.00 into a half year membership to gain access to indoor pools at several locations and thanks to my fellow enabler, Mirna Valerio, I am signed up for a 50K with The North Face Challenge in DC just to keep my feet in check. I'm looking into a cycling event that will push my endurance and when I'm done with this blog, I'll be typing out my own intensive plan to make this all happen while balancing my life as a parent, wife, friend, freelance chef and contributing writer.
Most times, people burn out because they don't have a solid plan or find themselves drowning in a pity party. I want to make sure that I not only get myself physically in shape for this July adventure but to mentally preserve my marbles. As with marathon and ultra marathon training, I tend to engulf myself so much into my craft that I can lose people near me. I've been working hard on my balance of duties for a few years. Surely I'm not perfect but I'm so much better at it these days.
Fairly Early But How's It Going?
Wait, what...no introduction?
Yup. That was the introduction above. I'm on day two of this adventure. Whilst I don't plan on blurbing everyday (aha, see...BALANCE), I plan on being proactive about my nutty adventures so here's what my last two days were like:
Mantra: Do It Scared
I considered backing out of my first swimming meet yesterday. My husband, the non-gambling poker player, looked at me and wished me luck. Days before, he noted that my body type will probably change and he knows that I pride my plus-size frame. I assured him that I'm not fearful of losing a few pounds; if anything, I want to keep my muscle. Losing some body fat percentage is not a bad look or feel in my book. On a vain note, I do want to keep my booty meat, my chicken nuggets tender breasts and my club bouncer frame. I love having muscle while dancing between a size 10 - 14, depending on the day of the month.
If there was any advice that I can lend to my fellow scared fitness enthusiast, come to your classes or sessions ahead of time. If you're on time, you're late (and I'm a fucking legendary procrastinator). I made it almost 45 minutes before time to gather my thoughts and try to reduce my anxiety. Once my two piece swimsuit went on, the nerves kicked in bad. One of the ladies enrolled in class talked my head off and while she came from a good place, I wanted her to put a muzzle on her lips for five minutes. Anxiety makes me quiet and tense, something that you don't want if entering the water.
I met my swim instructor, Ms. Sharon and remembered her from the last time I enrolled in swim courses; I bailed out a year or two ago after one lesson. She remembered my tattoos and I remember her stern but calming demeanor. Her petite but strong frame made me feel confident despite immediately acknowledging that I am the weakest pupil in a group of approximately 12. I'm no stranger to being dead fucking last so being a slow learner wasn't my worry.
"If you are tense, you will not be able to keep yourself afloat. Hum your favorite song and blow the bubbles out of your nose. Now hum..." she instructed.
I was nervous and it was apparent to the other students. She swam in my direction, suggesting me to relax and as she did the countdown, I cried. Thankfully she allowed me to release while reassuring me that I was safe. Ms. Sharon reminded me that I was still standing and I was only in a maximum of 4 feet.
"Do it scared ladies and gentleman. DO IT SCARED."
Somehow, this made sense after 15 minutes. I have a paralyzing fear dating back to over a decade. I recall my Spartan Supers and Beast events where I've locked arms with strangers or friends just to complete the course. Any amount of water hitting my eyes, ears or nose induces a paralyzing fear reminiscent of the two times I almost drowned. Ms. Sharon reminded me through our lesson that our mind is strong and it translates into the body.
As I relaxed, I was able to absorb in the lesson. After 45 minutes, I was able to keep my face in the water for five seconds before panic set in. My eyes were able to stay open with the goggles on, as I struggled last time to look at the pool floor without freaking out. The ear plugs truly helped reduce the fear of water going into my ears and my Dreadscapes swim cap was efficient at holding in my dreadlocks. When class was over, one of the students next to me whispered "great work today." She held my hand a few times as I dunk my head and attempted floating. Like a chain reaction, others sent me their well wishes too. As the locker room cleared, I cried a bit more; it was a necessary relief cry.
This time, I know I'll learn. I feel eerily confident about it. I cannot see myself swimming a 500 meter yet in my vision nor completing my triathlon as of yet but I feel like I will in a few months. Baby steps, grasshopper. I already took the leap of faith to embark on this journey and I am committing to putting in the work.
This morning, I went to the pool on my own, determined to get acclimated to the water. I stayed there for 45 minutes. This time, I was the only person in the pool and while it felt strange, it gave me time to gather my thoughts. After changing, I hit the track to give myself a sense of comfort with a familiar territory. Knocked out a 5K in less than 35 minutes, something that I didn't think I'd be able to do because of my time off the pavement.
I'm doing it scared. Incredibly afraid. Nonetheless, strangely clairvoyant. I don't want to say that I will not complete my triathlon. No buts included in that statement. No contingency plan. So many people swam great distances just for their liberation or a brand new start in this country; I should be able to do this to free myself from my self-created mental prison. This journey is going to be grueling but I'm looking forward to serenading my fears with success, just as I did years ago on my first half marathon. It's been years since I've been this scared and it's so exciting.