If you had said to me almost 5 years ago that I would have taken part in 4 marathons and 6 half’s, I wouldn’t have believed you, but I would be more shocked to accept that I’d have taken part in any triathlons. My fear of swimming in dark, deep cold water easily eclipses that of pounding the streets of London for 26miles. With swimming I’m quite literally out of my depth! Throw in a mix of ‘deadly’ fish, leeches, upturned shopping trolleys and general muck and I’m bricking it.
Last year I decided that I had to practice what I preach. I had been to the Blenheim Triathlon several times and spoken to many fundraisers. Each time they would ask "are you doing it", "have you done one before?". Every time my answer would be "no" quickly followed by "I’m thinking of doing one though". The swim was the mental block for me but I knew that I couldn’t keep avoiding it. The irrational fear of swimming draws from memories of swimming in my High School open air pool. Having an outdoor pool would wrongly give you the illusion that I went to a posh school but I can assure you this was far from the case. Many a mental scar has come from swimming in that pool. For one, the chlorine content was so high it would remove a layer from your skin and burn your eyes. Secondly, as the pool had no roof (despite a never-ending fundraising mission to build one) it was littered with dead flies, wasps and dog excrement (don't ask). Suffice to say that you had to be extremely careful when taking in a mouthful of air. Happy days swimming at Castle Donington Community College.
This year my Daniel has inspired me to take on more triathlons and we’ve thrown in some friendly rivalry too. At the age of 35 (long) gone are the days when I used to lead him in a race, but I’m always up for a challenge. So in our first joint triathlon at the Eton Supersprints, I’ll be racing Dan for that all important title of ’25 Luna Road Triathlete Champion’. At some 20 years my younger, the odds are heavily stacked against me. That does not deter me, bring it on! Watch this space for a 'Pledge it' challenge where they'll be some sort of sizeable forfeit if I loose.
We both did Blenheim last year and Dan (as he does) took everything in his stride. His confidence and attitude is infectious and he had no fear when faced with the impending swim through the freezing cold dark lake. Myself on the other hand was petrified, terror stricken by the 400m swim that lay ahead. Will I be the last one? Will I make it? Will I get pulled out by the safety crew in front of the crowds of jeering onlookers?
As we made our way down the jetty towards the water I was now paralysed by fear. I turned to look at Dan who had a broad smile on his face. The innocence of youth and fearless approach that he had (and still has) is admirable and enviable. The other triathletes jumped into the water and their shrieks of pain told me all I needed to know; it’s bloody freezing. In hindsight I probably should of gone straight in but instead I went for the gradual easing myself into the water approach. The temperature literally took my breath away. Every expletive that I’d ever learnt was now spouting from my blue lips in constant repetition. I looked around for Dan and he was happily doing practice strokes. To him it was just a ‘walk in the park’ or in this case, ‘a swim in the lake’. The starter commanded us to get ready for the klaxon which was my cue to tread water towards the back of the group. I was just aiming to get through the swim in one piece.
As the race started, Dan was long gone. Trying to keep up with his pace was pointless. This was just a straight battle between me and the lake. After 100m or so of realising that I wasn’t going to drown I’d finally found some sort of rhythm and more importantly, I wasn’t last! The final swim towards the jetty seemed to go on forever. Eventually I was hoisted onto the platform by the officials in a most unflattering manner. 1st part done, just the cycle and run left to go....
The cycle was tough, very tough but in comparison to the swim it was an opportunity to recover and catch my breath. I knew that after this I would be onto my strongest component, the run. What I hadn’t accounted for was the ‘jelly-leg syndrome’ that you get when you dismount the bike and head out onto the run. Your legs are still cycling but you’re telling them to run. It was at this point where I had miraculously managed to catch up with Daniel. I should point out that this was because he was competing on an £80 mountain bike so any pleasure derived from closing the 10 minute gap was tempered by the fact that my bike was far better!
After briefly exchanging a few words in transition, Dan was off and out of sight. He ended beating me comfortably. Dan now has a specialist triathlon bike so beating me again shouldn’t be a problem for him this year. My competitive nature tells me that I have a chance albeit a very slim one.....
I guess that the moral of the blog is if you’re thinking of taking on something new then do it. Face that fear and you might just enjoy it.....
As the great Yoda once said “Do. Or do not. For there is no try.” He also said “Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing. How embarrassing.”