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.

2012.

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

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Magical Beach (Ironman Canada)

The calm continued for me as the days led up to Ironman.  The complete sense of well being I was feeling was something I have never experienced before a race.  I am not sure where this feeling was coming from.  Maybe my new vitamin “cocktail” that I have been on, maybe because this wasn’t my first Ironman or maybe just the fact that everyday, as I wake up and prayed about this race, I had the over whelming feeling of God saying, “Paula…do not fear.  I have you.”

 

Race morning as I sat in the quiet of a 4am kitchen eating my Elvis bagel (I have to have this before every race) I felt some nerves creeping in.  It’s a big day out there.  Was I ready?  What was I doing?  Hubs turned to me as we sat in utter silence and said, “you doing alright babe?” And as small tears leaked from the corner of my eyes, I shook my head.  No.

 

I went down stairs and started gathering my bags to leave the house.  Body marking started at 5am.  I wanted to leave our friends house on the West Bench at 5:30am sharp.  I was in no rush to get down there and stand around.  It only makes me more nervous.

We left on time, and I was again feeling at ease.  The morning was stunning!! The day before the race with its wind and clouds had made me wonder how our race day would be.  It’s always unpredictable, and those passes are known for their weather changes.  I guess that’s what happens when you climb into the mountains…different weather patterns.  But Sunday, race day, it was phenomenal!  I couldn’t have ordered up a better day.

I went through body marking in the sea of athletes making small talk, but mostly walking in the quiet of anxiousness.

 

I met up with some of my friends also racing that day.  We chitchatted quietly.  Talked about what a fabulous day it was looking like, gave hugs, had some small moments of tears, held hands and gave one another a lot of encouragement.

Ironman and triathlon is such an amazing sport.  I love that it is such an individual sport and not so much a competition between athletes.  It is of course, at the pro level, but us AG’ers are generally out there to beat our own clock.  We are racing ourselves, our past IM times, outrunning injuries, sickness, aging, past mistakes, bad habits.  We only have the weight of our old self, our pre-IM, pre training self on our backs chasing us down.  The encouragement you receive from others is true.  Oftentimes competitors are not looking at you like apiece of meat.  So the well wishes are honest and from the heart.  I truly want all of my friends and other athletes to have the race of their lives.  You make some great friends when training this long for a race.  And the friends you have that are other athletes…that bond just thickens.  You see and know what one another is going through out there, and you appreciate their struggles, and hold them up on their bad days, as they will hold you up on yours.

 

There is something so magical standing on the beach with 2600 other athletes ready to dive into the water, which is really diving into what, may become a 17-hour day for some.  It’s quite.  Calm.  Muscles are being warmed up, but not a lot of words are being spoken.  Only, “good luck,” “have a great day out there,” “be safe,” “have a great race,” and “see you at the finish” You congratulate others around you that you don’t even know, or give them that nod that says, “you rock! you’ve come this far, you are going to conquer this beast!”

When you are standing on that beach, knowing you have prepared for this entire day, you feel a sense of accomplishment, as well as a sense of trepidation.  No one can honestly predict how his or her day will go.  You can only have faith in your training, and faith that God will hold you up out there, bringing you home to the finish.  And if not…this wasn’t your day, not your race, but you have to keep moving forward and not give in or give up.

Race Morning! Can you see me? I am the one in the black wetsuit and pink cap!!

#2505 Ready to Rock!

Bike/Gear checkin.

Race Morning. A little excited, a little nervous, VERY thankful for good friends!