I Love That Dirty Water

Ok, so we all know that I’ve been stressing the swim part of this triathlon. And it’s definitely no surprise that the stress grew after the first open water swim last month. Since then I have been swimming a ton in the pool – usually before work. I feel great there, but every time I swim there is a nagging voice inside my head that reminds me the pool isn’t the Hudson River. Sure you can swim here, it tells me, but what about when you add in the current? Or the other people? The murkiness of the water? The temperature difference? What if you freeze up and make yourself panic again like you did in the ocean? What if…

Yeah. Sometimes those nagging voices are mean SOBs. But seriously – what about all that stuff? Those things had potential to totally ruin my whole triathlon experience. I knew that, even though there is no doubt in my mind that I will finish the tri and cross the finish line with a smile on my face, I would remember it with an asterisk that would always remind me that I could have done better if there was some kind of swim-related snag.  (I know, I know – just completing it should be enough, but I also know myself and am way too stubborn and competitive with myself be happy with “just” finishing.)

Since this is my first triathlon there will be bumps along the way – I get that – but if there is a way to begin to smooth them out now, I’ll do it. And really – what better way to tackle the fear than to face it head on, right? So last Saturday I didn’t go to the pool. I didn’t go to Coney Island. I went straight to the mighty Hudson itself, zipped up my wetsuit and took the plunge. I’d never felt more like Kramer from Seinfeld.

The bottom of the Hudson is a strange consistency of cushion-y sand and slime.  Super slimy. Soft muddy quicksand. It’s gross. But I think it’s the murkiness of the water that makes it seem much worse than it actually is. I hate water where I can’t see my feet because I always imagine the creepy creatures that are seconds away from gnawing on my toes and legs, but I think if I were in the Mediterranean somewhere with crystal clear water, then that sand would be super soothing – like something suckers at the spa would pay lots of money to get slathered all over their bodies.


Anyway…. my pal Susie – a woman who is no stranger to swimming in the Hudson – took me on this adventure. Just the two of us alone in the river with onlookers staring at us like we were complete whackos. (Maybe we are?) I took the first 3 minutes to really get comfortable. I knew that I was on the brink of making this a great experience or working myself up for Coney Island 2.0 and totally freaking out, and so I loosened up, did a little warm-up and then started my freestyle. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Easy, right?

After a minute or so I settled into the rhythm, let my mind roam, and just swam. Calmly, carefully, confidently. We were only in there for about 30 minutes because I had to get home to wash the Hudson off of me and head up to Yankee stadium to see my Red Sox, but that half hour calmed my nerves much more than I expected and now I feel an entirely new sense of motivation.  We did about half a mile, I think, and I felt good and like I could keep going for another 30 minutes. I have another open water swim coming up in Coney Island on July 19, and then a swim challenge in Montauk on the 24th (although I haven’t decided if I should do the 1/2 mile or full mile challenge yet).  After those, along with more pool swimming, I should be totally ready for my date with the Hudson on August 3!!


Also – don’t forget that there is still time to donate to my triathlon charity, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I wouldn’t be doing this without them!  Check out my fundraising page at http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri14/meredith !!


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