Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Conquer and Fail, But More Conquer than Fail...

So, this weekend I squeezed on my wetsuit (until now, I have only ever worn this in my own backyard pool - don't ask...), neoprene booties and a beanie cap, and, yes, special gloves, got up at 6:00 am and trekked off to join up with a group of water-loving strangers to do my first-ever "open-water" swim despite talk of mating horseshoe crabs, and water temperatures that hovered easily below sixty.

I didn't chicken out which was huge; and I swam over a mile in much harder conditions than I am used to in my, and the local "Y," pool.

The fact that I did it made me feel good. Although, I was admittedly frustrated with my performance as well. I did not, on Day One, make it as far as the rest of the group, all the way out to the buoy. I had trouble breathing -- getting the pace of my breath -- in the cold with all the tight straps around my neck. I had to keep stopping to catch my breath and, at one point, I ended up separated from the group and my anxiety got the best of me. I turned back probably an eighth of a mile short of that buoy. All the way back, I asked, "Is this a metaphor? Will I stop short in my life of where I want to go?"

I came back half proud, and half defeated.

Day Two I showed up, knowing this is half the battle. My hope was slightly restored. Out I went with the group; quickly I fell behind. Still, this time, I made it all the way out to the buoy, still struggling with both my speed and my breath. Still disappointed, but happier.
On the way back, a large swan started following me, a little too closely for comfort. I know, I know: Cool! pretty!, you're thinking. But those things are viscious, I tell you.

At first I thought maybe the swan was a good omen, but the faster I tried to swim, the faster he/she followed, leaving me only more exhausted and breathless. I decided I could do without the symbolism, and was relieved when he/she finally turned away. I'll swim on my own, thank you.


  1. As you know from following the Mets, if you focus on winning each series against your opponents instead of each and every game, you'll come out ahead.

    Then again, as a Mets fan, this metaphor may be too far removed from reality to be of any practical use.

    No matter. Keep conquering.

  2. Ya gotta watch out for them swans. They're wicked.

    As for the photo top left, I can't decide whether to say "Ew" or "WTF"? I wish it would go away. :)

  3. Yes.

    Ok, no.

    But let's pretend it is. Mine looks just like that anyway.

  4. I think its rather a nice butt...

    As for that visceral fear -- I've felt that heart-pounding breathlessness in the water. It's so disorienting when you're used to the water being your friend. And when I tackled a 3k hike straight up a mountain in BC, I spent the first 1/2 almost in a state of panic that I wouldn't make it (sort of hyperventilating) -- and there's no fear of drowning on a mountain!

    I bet you'll only get stronger and more confident every day you go out. I am SOOO impressed with you!!! Keep at it, swans or no, metaphors or no.

    xo Barbara

  5. They say swans mate for life, but I guess the sight if Gae in a wetsuit was enough to drive that one towards infidelity. Maybe it was Zeus!

  6. Well done! This sounds like a pretty fucking tough endeavor, and so, QED, anyone who can do it is pretty fucking tough. Speaking for myself, I often feel like a hard physical effort somehow lowers the pressure of difficult intellectual or psychological efforts. Endorphins, runner's high, whatever. I just works. I hope you swim all the way to a bestseller.

    (Sidebar: Yes, you guilted me into coming here. You were waaaay down in the Google Reader queue!)

  7. I am entering my 3rd year conquering the open-water swims, and I always get a little freaked at first. It is a good group that you are swimming with and NO ONE EVER GETS LEFT BEHIND. Keep it up!

  8. Mike,

    the Swan was back this morning. I said, "What up, Swan?" when I saw him which seemed to be enough for him. He quickly departed. Easy come, easy go, I guess.

    Christopher, I am not above guilting people into things, did you think I was? But always nice to see you here, even if not on your own volition.

    Anonymous, it's a great group. I already feel blessed... and I was only a few minutes behind to the buoy today, but I'm guessing a few of you swam slow for me... ;)

  9. Good job for getting back there! I think it's actually a GREAT metaphor... especially when you consider KEEPING AT IT. It will always be work, but it should get easier, and eventually you will be WITH the pack, then pass many of them... then there will be newbies and YOU will be the veteran ahead.

    I think the swan is apt too--there will always be someone flashy biting at your butt that is just the motivation you need to hurry.

  10. I'm hearing Jaws music as I see a pretty white swan chasing you and it makes me crack up, but seriously I think your accomplishments are awesome. Even though I can swim quite fine I go into freak out mode any time I am in water over my head with no walls or buoyant objects within grabbing distance. Ask my mom about the time we went snorkeling in Bermuda.