I woke up seven minutes before the alarm. I hate that.
“I’ll just treat it like my ‘snooze’ button,” I thought to myself, and tried to go back to sleep.
My mind had other plans. It started revving up, zooming ahead with thoughts of all of the worries that lay ahead of me for the day. Namely, that morning’s swim class, or the anxiety I felt with wanting to be a good swimmer, but feeling like I just couldn’t get adjusted to the breathing.
Last class, I really struggled for breath, especially during faster laps. At the end of every lap I would be gasping for air, heart thudding, body heat radiating off of me. Even though I knew that I could make it all the way across the pool without taking a breath, I still felt panicked, like I could never get enough air in my lungs to make it through.
It’s been cooling down here after a late summer heatwave, so the air was a bit chillier than I was used to as I stripped down to my bathing suit at the Santa Monica Swim Center. The water felt tepid, at best, when I first got in. Four warm-up laps in, I toasted up, and I noticed the work was a teensy bit easier and that I was a teensy bit faster than I had been in the first two weeks.
We practiced freestyle lap after freestyle lap, and I focused on breathing. Mikey, my coach, told me to alternate five fast strokes with five slow strokes to learn to adjust my breathing for faster work. While I got a few mouthfuls of water at first, I tried to focus more on relaxing, keeping my head down, and letting the water support me, and everything started to come together.
After that, Mikey made me swim 200 meters nonstop, which was an intimidating prospect, but, I thought, if I was going to work up to doing 2.4 miles, I was going to have to start somewhere. 200 meters is nothing for experienced swimmers, but for someone who has only been swimming for two weeks, it seems a bit out of a person’s comfort zone. I decided to take it easy, to let the water support me, to keep my head down, and breathe deeply and calmly. Back and forth I went, steadily slicing through the water. When I was finished, Mikey said, “You’re done already? That was fast!” Not only did I not die, but I also got a little bit faster!
Swimming is major proof that big changes come when you push yourself out of your comfort zone. I feel 200 percent better about my chances of finishing this Ironman thing. I just have to keep calm, and swim on!