May 16, 2019 - The story of a girl, convinced her wetsuit was out to murder her, and her heroic yet ultimately doomed plan to hulk-rip said wetsuit from her body mid-swim.
The Freedom Swim across the Choptank River in Maryland was a GREAT event...just not for me. After cancelling due to water quality issues last year (its first) the event had perfect conditions-partly cloudy, not much breeze/chop, comfortable air temperature, 67 degree water.
Athletes gathered at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge Maryland for packet pickup, body-marking, and pre-race instructions and then were bused over the river to start in Queen Anne's County. The 1.7 mile swim took place between the two spans of the bridge-one for motor traffic, the other for pedestrians, so spectators had much more view time than is usually the case.
My swim started well. I didn't mind the rolling start and the thrashing about that comes as people find their place and rhythm. I felt good as I made my way between the spans, appreciating the easy sighting and the abundance of safety boats on the course. I recognized people I train with. I passed some. Some passed me. Just a swim across a river on a pretty day.
And then...the anxiety set in. Is it possible to be anxious becasue you don't feel as anxious as you ordinarily do? In any case, the tightness in the chest, the difficulty breathing. I backstroked, I tread water, I floated, I swam some more. Lather, rinse repeat. And then a perfectly happy seeming woman swam by without a wetsuit. GENIUS! Clearly MY wetsuit is killing me, so the logical decision is to get rid of it. Right now. In the middle of the river. And much to the surprise of the young man in the kayak nearby I did just that. Don't ask me how-I don't know. But at that moment getting that thing off of me seemed like the most important thing in the world.
Even as I handed the wetsuit to the man in the kayak and asked him politely to bring it to the finish I realized that the problem was not the wetsuit. I swam a few hundred yards. Stopped to gather my wits. Swam some more. Stopped to swear at myself and try to get it togther. Over, and over. And each time I paused, I got colder...and colder. It became painfully obvious at about the halfway point that I was not going to finish. So my race ended with a (really cold) jetski ride back to shore and a lot of mylar sheets and sweatshirts and warm things to drink and humiliation.
I wasn't sure I'd write a race recap of my failure, but all things considered it seemed like the right thing to do. I train with too many new athletes who are ashamed of their fears or inexpeience or vulnerabilities. Many have expressed shock that I didn't finish. And a few have thanked me for being open with them about it.
After warming up I got on the bike for 40 miles, and got my butt in the pool for swim practice as usual the next morning. The race didn't go the way I had hoped, but the world didn't end. I still love my family and they still love me. The dog still barks when she shouldn't and the alarm still goes off at 4:30 to train. Next time will be different.