Listen to your fears, then Ignore them

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Three days before I walked into Lake Tahoe to embark on a 10.5 mile swim (my first official open water long distance swim ever!) I got an email that pretty much terrified me. I was literally driving to the airport when I opened and read this email from a person I admired, respected, and trusted, someone who knows more about open water distance swimming than anyone I know, someone who’s advice I had been seeking since starting this quest two months earlier. And someone who decided that that was the moment to tell me I wasn’t ready. Seriously the most amazingly right time to divulge this information, don’t you think?

I was horrified, mortified, terrified (seems to be a theme in my life).

In hindsight I realize this was this person’s way of expressing care, support, and concern for my safety and well being, but boy did they have bad timing, and unfortunately the message just came across very negative and unsupportive. Nothing I could use to help me get across Lake Tahoe.

Quite the opposite.

This email threw my already petrified brain into a tail spin that made the obstacles of getting emotionally and physically ready for the biggest challenge of my life that much more difficult (and I only had two days!).

I kept thinking what if they’re right? They’re the expert, not me. What do I know? This peon who’s never done anything like this before. What if I’m not ready? So much could happen; go wrong. What made me think I could do this? Why am I doing this?

I must be crazy.

I had a lot of difficulty sleeping (stress nightmares riddled those 3 nights) and I had to force myself to eat (my stomach was just not having it).

I guarantee you, two things you need before any endurance event: sleep and food.

Three days of self doubt hell.

Except there was this little nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that said

“They’re wrong.”

Over and over and over, every minute, every hour, every waking moment, while I was shopping, while I was testing the lake water, while I was writing postcards

“They’re wrong.”

It was this feeling and this feeling alone (amidst the unrelenting whirlwind hurricane tornado of doubt in my head) that kept me going. Kept me swimming each morning to become one with the lake. Kept me going to every sports store in Tahoe in search of the right water bottles. Kept me getting into bed at 10pm and up at 6am. Kept me ordering breakfast, lunch, and dinner and keeping it all down. Kept me solidifying plans with my boat captain and crew. Kept me moving forward towards race day.

Friday morning 2am came.

I got up. I got ready.

Friday morning 3:30am came.

I clicked “Go” on my watch and started swimming.

And I was so ready.

I was so prepared.

My fears had seen to that.

But once I started, I didn’t need them anymore. I was calm, cool, collected, swimming strong and having fun.

And so open water swimming had taught me a very valuable life lesson

Listen to your fears, then ignore them.

I had an amazingly successful swim. My boat captain and crew said I was one of the most prepared and easiest to work with swimmers they had seen. I crossed an hour faster than I thought I would, and felt good the whole way.

But most importantly I knew I could do it. I had prepared, I had done my homework, I had trained hard.

I was ready.

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