Monday, November 5, 2012

What The Heck Did I Sign Up For?

Standing in full wetsuit, goggles in hand, I looked out into a very angry Gulf of Mexico.  The breaking waves were rough and the sea beyond was not much better.

All that went through my head on this, the Wednesday afternoon before Ironman Florida 2012, was that I had made a horrible mistake.  A horrible horrible mistake.

I had signed up for an Ironman that I was too afraid to start. Not afraid due to doubt of myself.  No, this was different.  I am afraid of the ocean, so yes it is quite remarkable that I signed up for an ocean based Ironman.

The Gulf was choppy and I just knew that some creature lay in wait ready to strike out at me when I got in.  I kept saying to myself that if this was Wisconsin or Lake Placid that I would not even be worried, because I would not be, but something about the ocean scares me.  I new this before I signed up. The very last hurdle that I would have to pass was I had to conquer my fear of the ocean.  After all that I have done in preparation for this day, I refuse to let the ocean win. 

It was quite literally now or never. 

*takes a deep breath*

I get in with the rest of the Fraser crowd, and with total FAKE confidence I started walking out with them through the break.  One crashing wave after another, each one making me get tougher mentally and to prepare for the days ahead of me.  

Well Jenn, you signed up fully knowing that you had to swim in the ocean.  If you get eaten, stung or bitten you asked for it, but do not let this fear rule you.   Look around you.  No one has been eaten in IMFL, and you are not special enough to be the first. 

I started swimming with the group and was surprised by how murky the ocean was.  Typically in the Gulf the water is crystal clear.  The winds and chop really stirred up the sea bed and made it impossible to see below us.  That was both good and bad.

Good because I cannot scream about what I cannot see, but bad because I can imagine what is under the murk awaiting to eat me.  *insert Jaws theme*

I made it all of two strokes before a blue blob appeared directly in my face.  JELLY!  I screamed and tried to jump over it.  Yes, while swimming.   As soon as I was sure that I had passed over it without angering it too much, I looked up out of the water to make sure than no one saw the ridiculousness of my reaction to the jellyfish, and no one did.  Or at the very least no one admitted to me that they did. 

We swam out a bit however we only really swam maybe 5 minutes in total.  The rest was more of an up and down ondulating motion which made me feel a little sea sick.   This was going to be an epic race swim for sure.  If not a rollercoaster of waves ala Muncie Endurathon 2009, it would be one of me being on red alert for Sea life.  No matter which way it would go, come Saturday I was diving in with 2500 of my closest friends and I was going to be an Ironman.

I have become determined

We turned around and I swam over yet another jellyfish, this time I refrained from screaming and just kept on swimming like the song says to.

Jenn, this is totally just like Lake Erie.  Nothing is going to eat you here.  It is just a more briney Great Lake, with a random plastic bag that will not hurt you
Just a briney Lake Erie.  

After the swim, Annelise and I went out for a short hour bike plus a ~20 minute or so brick run.  The bike showed me that the winds would be in play in my ride on Saturday (assuming that I did in fact survive the swim without being eaten) and the run made me smile. 

Holy crap, am I really going to do an Ironman?  Yes!  Yes I am!  The day is coming near!  I am so ready and so excited for the day!!!  Nothing is going to stop me now. 

I have become limitless. 

The following morning before I left Florida for 'Bama to pick up my husband from the airport,  we went back out and swam again this time in better waters. Still murky, but not nearly as violent.  I remembered to bring my wetsuit right off the bat this time as well as remembered my sea bands to aid in sea sickness prevention, and after the uneventful swim (I only saw 1 jellyfish this time) I hung in the water for a good bit with Yvette and got over some of the fears that I had of sea creatures.   It was a huge moment for me to just chill in the ocean with my feet dangling like tempting carrots to passing sea creatures.  I did not freak out.  I did not even think of it.  I just let my body become comfortable with the motion of the water and the thought of being vulnerable actually made me relax a bit.

By Friday I was swimming with Trish in amazingly calm waters for a good 15 minutes doing a portion of the course so that we could get a feel for sighting in the sun-soaked water and was all but convinced that I looked like a baby seal in distress while swimming compared to he very fluid and efficient movements.  The major gain for me was that I was now certain that I would not be eaten.   Well, fairly certain.


As I sat on the dock of Pineapple Willy's later that afternoon, after having packed all of my special needs and gear bags and checking in Lady for race day fun times, I smiled as I spoke with Mike about my race day plans all while internally asking myself the question of "What the heck did I sign up for?"   I did not ask it in a doubtful way, I asked it in a more confident light.  I was no longer fearing what was ahead of me.  I was now looking forward to the day that I was blessed to be able to start.  I earned this day.  It was my victory lap. 

What was in store for me?  How was the day going to unfold?  I am so totally ready for this both mentally and physically, and I am going to beat down all of my fears tomorrow.  So yes, what did I sign up for?  

31 hours later that question would be answered.  

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