I had entered this race just to confront the FEAR. Sea swimming and myself don't get on at all. It makes me feel sick, I get caught out on waves with my breathing and I haven't actually swam further than 200 m in one go. It was time to sort this out especially with 2 Olympic tris looming both with sea swims. I had read a quote by Christopher Columbus which had said "you will never cross the ocean if you are afraid to lose sight of the coast" and this had stuck in my head.
I had a new tight hat, new earplugs and had been trying to use positive visualisation. My secret weapon however was sea sickness pills, I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before. I had a last ditch attempt on bank holiday Monday to sea swim which was just disastrous due to a very choppy sea.
So I had 2 lots of silicone earplugs in, I spent ages on the beach making sure they were stuck right in. We all stood on the beach during the safety brief and it was a real surreal moment. Everything slowed down and I could see peoples mouths moving but I couldn't hear what they were saying. I was totally gripped with fear, every sea swim had not been a good experience at all.I looked out across at the island and I felt more scared than I did before Ironman 70.3. Friends were hugging me, wishing me luck, patting me on the back and trying to give me advice but I was glued to the spot.
Starters orders and we were off... 65 wetsuit clad people and myself all waded into the sea. I stayed at the back and walked out until I couldn't touch the sea bottom any more. I started to swim head above water and feeling quite frightened I just kept going. I stopped a couple of times to get my bearings. Everyone just moved away from me very quickly and it was just me and one other swimmer. I made it to the first buoy in some strange fashion and then set my target on the next buoy. The waves started to subside and very slowly I got into a rhythm. I realised that I had actually swam the furthest I ever had in the sea and it gave me confidence. I don't know what happened or how it clicked but I realised that I was actually WASN'T feeling dizzy and sick and i started to enjoy the the flow and the motion of the waves. My body seemed to be able to react to the ebb and flow of the ocean and I felt at one. BINGO... this was what I needed. Apart from slightly drifting with the tide I managed to get to the island in a time of 29 mins well under the 45 mins restriction time. I was on such a high that I had actually swam 1250 m that I was happy to turn around and make the journey back.
The return journey wasn't as good, I found it very difficult to sight as each time I looked there was a swell in front of me and I couldn't see anything. I was redirected quite a few times by the canoe staff and lifeguards. I made the mistake of getting into the stroke and losing any sense of direction. As I was one of the last swimmers, a lady in a canoe accompanied for the last three buoys home. Each time I looked up to sight she was on a different side. I did stop and ask her if it was me moving or her, she told me it was me, I was being pushed by the current all over the place. She kept me in a straight line by keeping the boat next to me and I used her as my sight. I finished in a time of 58.42, twice as long as the winner but you know I was so glad to get out and to have finally confronted and beaten my fear of sea swimming. All open water swimming has been such a challenge for me but I have never given up. The sea sickness pills worked well enough for me and I was left with just the fear and not the sickness and dizziness. The sea triathlon god had seen me sacrificing my soul and granted a smoothish sea. I am now brimming with confidence for next weekends Olympic tri with the sea swim in the same sea.
"Its the moments that challenge us, that define us"