The Ottawa Triathlon Club held a swim meet two weeks ago. I signed up for it and then I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. I was scared of sucking so much in front of all those people that I don't really know. I spent the day coming up with excuses not to go and then telling myself to shut up, that I would get a baseline of what I am capable of, that I would get to swim under pressure like I will in a race, etc.
I had signed up for the 50m, 100m, 200m and relay "fun race". We started with a fun relay, where we had to swim 25m carrying an object - the first person carried one thing, the second one carried two, etc. I was the third one. I'm glad we did this first as it broke the ice in a fun way.
We then did the 50m. I pushed as hard as I could and came in at 1:01.8. Because I had never done a timed 50m, I had no idea what I was capable for. I'm glad I now have a baseline. I went way too hard on the 100m and by the time I reached 75m, I was done and had to slow down. I barely made it to 100m without puking. I definitely think I could not have done better on that day: 2.25.8
Before the 200m, I was asking some people who swim in my lane or near (the slower folks) if they had signed up for the 200m and none of them had. They said I was courageous to have signed up and it worried me. I thought: "well, it's just 200m - we can all swim that, so why would I be courageous to have signed up?". I understood when we got started. Everyone was so fast and I was soon left behind. I had to swim 8 laps and after 3, The Mental started telling me how I should not have signed up for that distance, how bad I looked in front of all those people, how I should just stop when I reach the wall, etc. It almost convinced me I could not do it, who did I think I was signing up for a 200m competition? My only answer to those thoughts was "just keep going, one stroke at a time". The Mental was very loud though and it didn't care for my positive and reassuring thoughts. It was the most awful battle I have ever had with The Mental. If I hadn't been in the water, I would have started crying. And then something happened with 3 laps to go.. All the others were done and I hit rock bottom thinking of how much I sucked. Suddenly, everyone started to cheer me on as if I was about to win an Olympic medal or something. At first, I was ashamed that it meant they were all looking at me and thinking how much I sucked, but then I told The Mental to shut the fuck up and take this for what it was: encouragement from people who have been there too. They too have been slower - most were not born a fast swimmer. Their cheers meant that they supported me in my efforts and admired me for signing up for this distance and continuing on even when everyone else was done. The Mental tried to tell me I sucked, but I did not listen to it for the last few laps of my 200m swim. I finished in 5:30.8.
I had a great time at the swim meet and I believe I broke some mental barriers I had about swimming in a competitive environment. There will be another swim meet in the fall and I'm pretty sure I'll sign up for the 200m again, just to see how far I have come.