Facing fears, whether real or irrational, is definitely one of the hardest things to do to try to grow as a person. This week I had the opportunity to face some of my most irrational fears. The only reason I want to do this is so that I can overcome them and be able to do new things. I mean, how will I ever casually run into and have a witty exchange with Andy Potts at the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon if I can’t get over my fear of swimming with sea monsters in the open water?
I have done 3 open water swims in the last week. All of them have been in freshwater lakes with no overly large marine life. On Wednesday, I swam in a new lake closer to town with Trainer Guy. There were some lake trout and you could see the bottom of this lake. I am not sure why being able to see the bottom makes it worse for me, but it does. This lake was filled with blooms of “plants” that come close to the surface of the water. As I swam over each plant, I expected to have a catfish, eel, or sea monster come to bite my face off. Why do I have this bizarre fear? I have never had a bad experience with open water, and I have been a good swimmer my whole life. Needless to say, I freaked myself out by about 30 minutes into the whole event. It almost seemed like a waste of time, but I know that open water training is harder than the pool and essential if I want to see any more improvement in my swim times.
My other great irrational fear in life is birds. Yes, birds. Unpredictable, flighty, harbingers of disease, birds are my #1 irrational fear. I am pretty sure I know where this fear originated. Unfortunately, Alfred Hitchcock thought it would be a great idea to make a “thrilling” movie with birds as the main subject, and even more unfortunately, my 8th grade teacher thought it would be a good learning activity for us to watch it.
On Friday, I had an unexpected encounter on my road ride. I was almost home, dog tired, when I heard a noise that sounded like it was coming from my wheel. I looked down, only to realize the noise was a bird. And the bird noise was not getting farther away as a I rode. It stayed with me. Then, I saw something out of the corner of my eye and felt a poke on my back. BIRD! I shrieked like I had just had my leg ripped from my body and waved wildly at the bird. If someone had been witness to the situation, they would have surely assumed I was having some kind of outer-body experience on my bike. It was an act of God that I did not take a huge digger at this point.
One method of getting over fears is to have repeated exposure to them, which I am willing to accept with swimming, but not so much with birds. I think I am ready to give the lake a try again, and this weekend, I will be racing in Steamboat Lake, so I will get some more exposure. However, I just don’t think it’s so unreasonable to hate and fear birds.
If anyone has any open water swimming tips to get over my fear of sea monsters, I would love to hear them! Let me know!