I’ve never worn a swim cap before. I’ve never done laps in a 25m pool. I’ve never kept my head down for a few strokes then pushed my ear against the water to take a breath on the side. I don’t do these things because I’m afraid they will result in my death. Jump out of an airplane? Sure. Propel myself through water? Not so much.
I admitted all of these things in an email to the head swim coach a few days before my first practice. I wanted to introduce myself and make it clear that I’m very inexperienced and very scared. He was super positive in his response and nice when he met me. He set me up with the beginners coach who was beyond kind.
Oh it was bad. My hips sunk. I couldn’t keep my face down. I kicked too much or not enough. I was gulping for air in every direction, my hands slapping the water instead of gliding gently through it. Three laps in I needed a break but the beginners coach pushed me to keep going. The whole time I was in the water she gave me helpful pointers on my technique (as if I had any) and I held back my overwhelmingly strong urge to scream, “Coach K! How can I give a shit about rotating my shoulders when all I can think about is drowning?!!”
Somehow her patience and universally respectful approach got me through the hour. And though I was starting to put together how absurd this idea about me completing an open water swim triathlon is, I did feel satisfied with my tiny step forward.
It was afterwards, after I tried my best, that the head swim coach singled me out and made me feel like a fool. What he said wasn’t harsh. I mean he’s right; I need to take what I learned from Coach K and practice. It was his snarky tone of voice, his lack of eye contact and the fact that he actually scoffed while throwing his arms up in the air that made it clear he has absolutely no faith in me. He was shaking his head in disbelief, loudly emphasizing YOU YOU YOU what YOU need to do… as if his suggestion that I practice and get better was somehow starkly different than the advice he gave everyone else that night.
It was a complete 180 from my cycling experience where the coaches were skeptical at first but changed their tone after I showed my commitment and spirit. Instead he was hopeful at first and dismissive later, completely missing the fact that I showed up and tried.
Feeling scared stupid and embarrassed is bad enough, but to then have a coach drive that point home for you when you’re already feeling vulnerable, and as if there was any way in hell you could have possibly not noticed how far behind everyone else you are…
As I was walking to my car from the pool I started bawling. I don’t know how I got myself home. I literally could not stop crying until I was showered and lying down in bed. It took me forever to fall asleep. Seventy-five meters in the pool without stopping exhausted me. But the unshakable worry over how in the world I’m going to swim 1500 in the open ocean kept me awake all night.
As always, thanks for following my progress. Please click here to view my fundraising page and help save lives