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Fearlessness/Abhaya (Ironman Canada Swim)

If you know me, the furthest thing you would ever hear come out of my mouth is, “Hey, I want to go swim 2.4 miles!”

When I did my very first triathlon about 8 years ago, I was petrified.  I remember wondering if there was any way I was going to make it out of the water.  At the turn around, I honestly felt like I was going to have to stop and have them pull me out.  This was a ¼ mile swim.  It took me almost 11 minutes.

Fast-forward a few years to 2010.  My first Ironman.  Same thing.  Even though I had put in the training for the swim, I was terrified!  I knew I had the endurance to make the swim, but competitive, open water swimming has been a source of constant fear for me.  Well…in lake water!  (I am MUCH more at ease, and feel in my element in the ocean)  I just couldn’t get over the murky-ness, the evil looking weeds that promise to grab me by the ankle and pull me under, the pollen, the darkness of the very deep and the fact that it was WAY over my head.  I know this is completely laughable to some, but its how I felt.  Even in the lakes here in Coeur d’Alene, which are clean, gorgeous and crystal clear, I could still feel myself getting anxious during every swim.  My first real open water lake swim in 2010 happened in a tiny man-made lake.  I could stand the whole way, but I was scared out of my mind.


No more fear.  My swimming this year has come a log way, and I have grown to LOVE the lake swims.  Meeting my friends at the beach in the early morning, as the sun is rising, is one of my favorite things to do now.  I adore starting my day off this way.  It’s relaxing.  It calms me.  Brings me so much peace.

Ironman Canada!

Coming down and looking at the lake the morning of the race brought tears to my eyes.  Not out of fear.  Not out of dread.  Out of the sheer fact that for some reason, I knew..this swim was going to be incredible!  The lake on the morning of August 26,2012 was glass!  Temperature was 72 degrees.  A tad warm, but very comfortable.  There was not an ounce of wind blowing.  It was truly the perfect morning.

In transition, I went to my bike, filling bottles, and combing over things with a fine-toothed comb.  My bike seemed light, and that gave me a little nervous feeling in my stomach.  Light because of the fact that 2 years ago, my bike was weighted down with all sorts of gels, chomps, chews, pills, water, liquid nutrition, gas-ex, Tums, and some snacks.  I looked like I was going on a years expedition.  This year….3 bottles on the bike and powder in my Bento.  Badda-Bing!  Traveling light.  Which appeals to me so much better.  In all of my life, really.

I did a quick potty stop, and walked over to the dry bag area, pulling on my wetsuit.  Fumbling with goggles, I hadn’t quite made the decision on wearing one pair or two.  I ultimately decided on two. One on my face, under my cap, and one pair inside my wetsuit.

With my cap on we wandered down to the water.  I was so calm.

The plan was to wade in and to the right of the beach.  Plan diverted…

As soon as my feet hit the water, I went straight in.  And not towards the back!!

“I am your strength and your shield” (Prov 28:7)

“See My face and feel my strength” (Prov 105:4)

“Do not fear, I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10)

“Feel My peace” (Prov 29:11)

“You’ve got this Paula, and I’ve got you” ~Love God.

No fear!  This is what I felt.  None!

I stood with my friend, and saw her anxious face.  She was breathing heavy with tears threatening to spill over as they welled up in her eyes.  I grabbed her face with my hands, and said, “Look at me!!  You have done this swim.  This distance.  You are ready, and will do great!  Find your own path in the water and go for it, and I will see you at the finish!” (I wonder now, if she remembers that moment)  10 seconds after saying that, the horn blew, and I dove in.

My swim was amazing.  The water in Canada is so clear.  Much like Coeur d’Alene.  I swam hard, but at a pace I felt very comfortable with.  A pace that I could’ve swam for miles.  I was not worried about being kicked, punched, swam over.  The thought crossed my mind, but I swam fearlessly!  I stayed in a tight pack the whole way.  Elbow to elbow on both sides of me, head to feet, feet to head, yet I still, had no fear.  Heading around the first buoy, I looked down, and there were divers underneath us.  That was cool to see.  I SMILED AND WAVED as I thought, we are at the first buoy ALREADY!

It’s a one-loop swim, in a sort of triangle!  I was elated!  A few hundred yards, and we would pass the last buoy for the home stretch.  Bam!

The last buoy was far in the distance, and I was starting to hear the announcer.  I am sure I had a stupid smile on my face.  Even in the water.

I kept thinking and reminding myself to NOT stand up in that water towards the beach.  This lake….you can literally wade out for probably 100 yards.  I have watched this race for the past 2 years, and see people wading as soon as they can touch.  Then they try running through the water at chest/waist deep.  I figured as soon as my feet could touch, I would want to do the same.  After all, my foot on land makes me feel secure.  Don’t do it, Paula!!

I could see people ahead of me starting to stand up.  I touched my feet to the bottom, and stood….ish!  And dove right back under.  No way was I going to use up energy running through the water.  And truly, I almost had the feeling of not wanting to exit the water.  My swim felt so good.  I kept swimming until my fingers almost touched the sand, and up I stood.  Running in with a group of athletes, peeling my wetsuit off, the goggles I had inside my suit fell out and into the water.  BRAND new pair of Blue Seventy’s.  Never worn.  I turned for a split second to see them start to sink….the guy behind me was running and closing in on me….that cannot happen!

I could hear them announcing times as athletes crossed over the timing mat.  The beeps were growing louder as water was draining out of my ears.  I hear a 1:25-something.  My mouth turned up into the biggest smile.  (I know for speedy swimmers this seems like a time not to be celebrated, but for a slow swimming mermaid like myself this was extraordinary)

Yanking off my cap and goggles I reached the timing mat, heard my name called and flew into transition feeling on top of the World!  This day….I knew was going to be magical.

Swim time: 1:26:15

***A few years ago, the Hubs bought me this amazing necklace.  It speaks to my true nature and is how I conduct my life, my family, my past and my future and I wear it every day.  I know I am not in control.  I know there is no “putting my life at risk” My days are numbered, as are the hairs on my head.  My life is in the hands of my Creator.

~Being FEARLESS isn’t being 100% Not FEARFUL, it’s being terrified but you jump anyway…

My necklace: Me and Row

Here We Go!

Ironman Canada Swim 

Swim Exit!

Feeling On Top of the World

2 thoughts on “Fearlessness/Abhaya (Ironman Canada Swim)

  1. Wow . . . I am utterly amazed–two things, the fact that you did this–where you were 8 years ago, and how far you had to go to get to this place. And the second thing? Your writing–your recount of this is so easy to see in my mind.
    I loved seeing the Bible verses in here, and how these must have gone through your mind, giving you strength.
    I was surprised when you said you felt more comfortable in the ocean!! Do you know how much harder it is for me to swim in the ocean? I LOVE the ocean, but to swim competitively there would not be my choice. I live inland, so I’m much more comfortable with the much calmer waters of the lake. 🙂
    Question: do you have anywhere on this blog the story of how you got from being a person who did what I assume was a sprint triathlon, to a person who did an Ironman? I am curious as to the progression in your mind to think that you might want to accomplish some thing like that. I’ve done three sprint triathlons, and now I’m about to finish my first marathon. But the Ironman seems like a whole different beast. 🙂 There’s something in me that wants to take on something like this, but I feel it’s kind of insane. 🙂 Like, crazy insane. But in a good way. How did you get from there to here in your mind? If you haven’t already written about it, would you consider writing about it?
    My goal for next year, btw, is to complete two Olympic level triathlons. There’s part of me that thinks doing this is just bringing me one step closer.

  2. Thank you again for the kind words! I agree about IM being a crazy, insane sport. I think there is something inside certain people that is a bit “off” when they perfectly ok with the time, abuse to the body, living in the “pain cave” and being able to embrace everything about an Ironman. It is a mental fortitude that I think alot of people don’t think they have, but really deep down, they do.
    I haven’t written about going from a sprint to IM, and will consider that. I did one Sprint tri and then Ironman. Nothing in between, but time. I did several duathlons. IM has been something that I have wanted to do since I was a kid, of about 13-14. I love challenging myself, love seeing what I am capable of, and then reaching my goal!
    Where is your marathon? That in itself is a HUGE accomplishment! A marathon is not easy, by any means. And you should be so proud of yourself! I ask, because I am running the Chicago Marathon next week. (Maybe we will be at the same one)
    I cannot wait to follow you through the journey of your Oly’s. You seem methodical about your training, bumping up your distances. I am a throw caution to the wind, girl. HAHA!

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