The potential for panic began the moment I entered the pool. The lights were terrible low. In fact only a few choice lights were turned on, yet the lifeguard sat at the desk and my fellow swimmers were turning laps.
“Mood lighting?” I asked the lifeguard as I handed over my facility identification card.
“I thought I’d keep it mellow this morning,” he replied. I tried to laugh. But I was nervous. My goggles were tinted. This was going to be like swimming in the dark.
The early morning hour and the dimness of the pool deck allowed my brain to conjure up thoughts of the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 in Galveston, Texas on April 25. It was creeping closer. Much closer. All that time in the world to prepare had vanished quicker than, well, I’m too nervous to even create a good let alone witty analogy.
Letting out a big exhale I eased into the water, strapped my tinted goggles on and pushed off the wall for the warmup.
I paddled myself back to the wall, hung on the edge for a minute then pushed off again and gently started my first lap. On the turn back, I took in water, gagged, stopped and hugged the lane line.
This hasn’t happened since last season. I haven’t had a panic attack in the water in a long time.
But this morning, my brain had gone into fully nutty mode.
For the record, my definition of “having a nutty” involves a series of irrational, catastrophic thoughts which often induce crying. And crying while you’re swimming is pretty difficult to do what with the emphasis on breathing and all.
To avoid going deeper into 70.3 panic mode, I tried to think of something else. Only my mind is a crafty little devil and started thinking about other topics in my life which produce anxiety. Ah yes. The downward spiral. I have been here before.
But I was not going to let it continue.
I was going to finish my workout – all 2900 yards. They’d be painful yards if need be or ridiculously slow yards if that’s what my being called for.
The nuttiness didn’t go away. There were times when my exhales under water were more about stifling a cry than about really good swim form. But I tried to bring my focus back to where I was at in that moment. Tried to think of happy things. Heck, I just repeated the words “happy” and “love” and anything else I could think of to get me through that swim.
And here’s the thing – I got through the swim.
In past years, I would have crawled out of the pool. I would have completed half the workout and said that’s good enough for today.
But I didn’t need to do that anymore.
Oh, I still had the mental breakdown. I was affected by my own negative thoughts. I need to work on mental toughness before the trip to Texas for sure.
But this was an important step. I may not have turned the negative into the positive, but I didn’t let the negative stop me completely.