My morning bike ride where I suffered an annoying flat tire (see yesterday’s post) actually began with a false start. As I was leaving the parking lot, a train barrel down the tracks blocking access to the start of my route for a good five minutes.
Perhaps it was an omen that the day would be filled with false starts and less than ideal conditions.
The plan was to salvage my training day with a solid open water swim. An afternoon of malaise and procrastination led me to check the marine forecast. “Small craft advisory. Waves 2-4 feet subsiding to 1-2 feet.”
Excellent, the sarcastic part of my brain shouted.
My body offered a big sigh and an overwhelming urge to cry.
My friends turned into a bunch of Yodas with text-messaging technology:
One stroke at a time. Easy and breathe. You don’t have to worry about being fast.
Whenever you finally decide you can do something, you do it. So just know you can do it.
“I just don’t want to be scared,” I thought. And then the wise part of my brain emerged for a rare appearance and asked me, “Well, what are you scared of?”
Good question wise self. What am I scared of? Fighting the waves. Being unable to get back to the ladder and land. Of getting in the water and not swimming. Of failing. And the fear of failure was clearly not just in my open water swimming ability, I told my wise self, but in other areas of my life where my vision seemed too far-fetched or not in sync with others in my life. The fear of failure morphed into doubt that my desires, my dreams, my intentions and the actions which flowed through them, were pointless at best.
“What do you want?” my wise self asked me.
“To not be scared,” was my child-like reply.
“Well, then,” my wise self responded. “Don’t be scared.”
It really is as simple as that. We make choices every day about how we feel, about our attitude, about our approach to a million little situations. Which brings me back to Yoda and a different interpretation of “Do or do not. There is no try.”
In her book “As Good as Gold” triathlete and cyclist Kathryn Bertine writes:
There is no “try” because trying is doing … to do is to do. Yoda’s not saying “do” means win and “do not” means lose. He means get off your butt, take a chance and do something.
So the choice for open water wasn’t about trying to swim. I either get in the water or I don’t. Either I swim or I don’t.
I chose to swim.
Lake Erie was bumpy and the pier swim site was full of washing-machine like waves as the water bounced off the three walls of the old commercial slip. Others decided against getting in the water — some for good reasons, some convincing themselves they had good reasons. I put on my wetsuit, eased into the water and bobbed for first few minutes. My plan was to swim 50 meters out, 50 meters back. I rode the waves, felt the water lift my body then bring it down. Instead of fighting the waves, I played with the waves. Mouth full of water? Stop and regroup. A strong batch of waves coming at me? Breaststroke!
By the end of half an hour I had swum 600 meters and had gained confidence in swimming in choppy water.
More importantly, I decided to not be scared. I decided to do not try.
And that will make all the difference.