‘Empathy is about finding echos of another person in yourself’ Mohsin Hamid
I’ve rewritten this post more times than I care to remember before publishing. For various reasons – including being too wordy! September was a very busy month – three out of five weekends saw me travelling to the Lake District, all because of some link to the Tri Club, so not all bad.
So, why was I back in the Lakes?
The last Bank Holiday in August, a group of us went open water swimming. Not an usual event considering we’re triathletes, but this time, one of my friends – who doesn’t like swimming at the best of times, had a mini panic attack in the water. This led to a conversation about the fact that she had signed up to Triathlon X half and how she felt she couldn’t do it anymore. Two of us offered to do it for her if she could do it in relay. That turned out to be me. I had planned to come up anyway to cheer her on as I had nothing else on. So a couple of emails back and forth later and I was entered into Triathlon X half to do the swim! Now, TriX has a reputation. It is possibly the hardest triathlon (half and full) in the world. I definitely had the easy part. To put it in perspective, I was done with the swim by 8.44 – she was only finishing at 5pm – and she is an Age-group standard athlete for duathlon. If you want to see the elevation involved, I would just go search it if I were you.
Back to the race planning – after a few conversations back and forth, I booked my own accommodation. It’s the first time I’ve stayed in a YHA on my own in a dorm room. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was actually ok. It is nicer having your own room but for £27 and to be located right next to the start line, I wasn’t going to complain. I hadn’t booked breakfast knowing that I would be swimming and up early (6am to be precise). I also didn’t check out when I left for the swim. Knowing I’d be finished before 9am, I decided to wait so after swimming I could go get a shower. This turned out to be the best plan ever – who doesn’t want a warm shower after swimming in a cold lake?!
Drinking coffee and eating some oaty breakfast bar I heading over to transition and met my friends. Dressing in neoprene – literally head to toe – hat, gloves, booties as well as wetsuit was more than novel compared to normal. I had been feeling ok about the swim until the night before. Then nerves started to kick in. Although I’ve been swimming again more regularly, this was going to be my longest continuous swim since Leeds Tri in June (1500m) and the water was a lot colder than I normally like to swim in.
The actual Swim
I can now say I have a far better understanding of what my mate feels about OW swimming.
Not that I am not empathetic – just that I have a better understanding and wish there was more I could do to help her.
Water temperature was 13.3 degrees. Coldest I’ve been swimming in for a long time, especially any distance! It was definitely warmer than it was in April though. It was a deep water start and there was about 135 of us but there wasn’t too much of a washing machine effect as normal – although I started near the back. I spent the first 3/400m wondering what on earth I was doing? Debated getting out, decided I hated OW swimming, wondered how I was going to make it all the way round etc etc. It was awful. I’m not usually negative when I’m swimming but the first part was just awful. If this is even a fraction of how those who dislike/hate swimming feel – wow. This was bad enough and I am a fairly confident swimmer and love being in the water normally.
I finally found some sort of rhythm after I got past the first triangular buoy at about 800m and started to enjoy it. I was surprisingly warm (thank you neoprene!) and took it steady – to try and save my shoulder. The last 200m were cold and long but I was apparently smiling when I got out. Was a bit annoyed with myself as my time was 44.17 and I know full well I could have done a sub 40. My mini stress at the beginning and have to physically stop a couple of times to sight properly and get my bearings definitely didn’t help. My shoulder still isn’t perfect either but it’s only twinging a bit at the moment. I really need to rest it up I think and make sure I keep stretching it out.
I will point out though, that I was smiling when I got out – and dare I say it, I finally managed to enjoy it!
Racing in relay
Racing in relay was new, but the nature of the race (see comments about about elevation), meant I was actually quite glad I’d finished. I definitely feel I had the easiest part of the race. There was a picture of my friends stood watching the swim looking so worried. It turns out they actually were. A few got out during the swim and DNF’d – that worried them. The temperature worried them. My mates nerves got to her. The picture in question is worthy of a caption competition to be fair!
I got out of the water and hung around long enough to see my friend disappear up the road on her bike and I went and got a shower and changed. It was going to be quite a long day. I wasn’t completely on my own though. My day consisted of eating and drinking and generally wandering about until about 5pm when my friend finished. I do not know how she did it, and I am in genuine awe of her achievements. She is so unassuming, quiet and quite shy – I don’t think she realises her own strength, stubbornness and determination. I suppose that’s why I love her, and was more than happy to jump in a cold lake for her. I’d do it again too!