Once again, it’s been awhile since I’ve written. It’s been a busy summer. But, truth be told, I’ve been reluctant to write about my goals because well… I’ve been having doubts about whether I can accomplish them. Doubts, tickling my toes, like little baby waves lapping at the edge of a lake. lap lap lap. slap slap slap. death by a thousand kitten licks.
Still, I’ve soldiered on with my triathlon training, hoping that continued activity will resolve the uncertainty. And, in so many ways, it’s been great. I’ve scored a wealth of amazing, perfect moments over these past few months. Feeling, as always, so lucky to live in this beautiful place where the opportunities to be inspired occur daily.
And, without a doubt, I’ve gotten stronger. It’s cool to hardly notice hills on my bike that I labored to get up a few months ago. I like the feeling of just itching to get outside and exercise and knowing it will be fun and satisfying because I’m in better shape.
Yet, there remain a few elephants in the room. The running — still slow. But, more significantly, the lake swim. Around mid-July I began to think seriously about the lake swim. I knew I had to practice. But this was easier said than done. There’s a small local lake that I jumped into a few times, but you can only swim in the roped off area, not further out into the lake so, although it gave me a small taste of swimming in the cold, somewhat murky water without lane lines to follow, it was still a far cry from the big lake swim that’s part of the triathlon.
Finally, last week, I asked a friend to go to the triathlon site at Watauga Lake to swim with me. He had done the triathlon before and was planning to do it this year, and was also interested in practicing the swim. We got up early and drove 45 minutes to the lake. I was excited and not sure what to expect. Other than a little trepidation about crossing past the “Private Property” signs, everything was perfect — beautiful summer morning, lovely peaceful setting, no boats or activity of any sort in sight… And, the kicker… the water was incredibly warm! We started swimming and it felt great, very easy and relaxed, in a “Look, Ma, no hands!” kind of way. But then something weird happened. At a certain point, I suddenly felt like I was way too far out in the lake and I started to get scared. I decided to swim back to shore. Feeling a bit anxious, I even flipped over on my back for awhile to relax. Everything was fine, and we were both glad we had done the swim. But those few minutes of fear have made me think seriously about whether I’m up for the .6 mile open water swim. I’m sure it will feel more secure with lots of support kayaks in the water, and I think I probably would have been fine if I had stayed closer to shore, but… Is this an obstacle I can overcome in the next week and a half?
For some people, I’m sure the answer would be an easy yes: conquer fear, gut it out, push through the obstacles. But I’m not one of those people. Earlier in the spring, I started to write, but never finished, a blog post titled, “How Hard Should a Hard Goal Be?” The answer to that question is probably different for everyone. There’s a thin line between “enough” (enough to be different and exciting and truly challenging) and “too much” (too hard, too scary, maybe just not feasible). My aim in all this, after all, is to feel celebratory and accomplished, not demoralized.
The upshot…? I’m hoping to swim in the big lake one more time in the next few days to see if the second time’s a charm. But the weather is not looking good, and it may not happen. Either way, I need to make a decision. In the meantime, I’ve been looking for other triathlons that are coming up soon. I found one scheduled for the same weekend as the Watauga Lake Triathlon. It’s near Asheville — still Western North Carolina, still mountainous biking and a scenic running route, but with the swim in a pool. Back-up plan? Check. One way or the other, I’m going to get to the celebrating part!