Face down in it.

Woke up before the alarm at 5:27am, shut the dogs in the bedroom so they won’t bug me for the early walk, sucked down coffee, applesauce, and two tablespoons of peanut butter. Checked email while waiting for that first morning poop signaling the real start of the day. 6am – pulled on my new, first pair of Speedos, grabbed the gym bag and wetsuit and left for the ocean.

I haven’t slept well the last few Tuesdays; I’ve been dreading the ocean swim. Even though I’ve resigned myself to coming in DFL (Dead Fucking Last) every week, and every week I seem to do better, the night before is still filled with anxiety. I’m not scared of the water or the things in it, I’m not afraid of the big waves or diving under and through them. I know to to shove my face down in the water and use the form I practice in the swimming pool. And yet charging into the surf, diving through the water, my heart rate spikes, my form goes to hell, and I get passed by everyone.

As I make the first turn around the buoy things start to feel better. I guess that’s the secret to the slow twitch – it takes me a long time to find that sweet spot. At that first turn my heart rate finally settles, my body relaxes into the right form, and I can push out the fear, the dissatisfaction with where I am, and the zillion other things floating around my mind like the churned up sand at the bottom of the ocean floor. So what if I’m last? I’m actually doing it – I got up before dawn, I showed up, I got in the water, and I’m putting in the laps. This is why the word “try” is implicit in the sport’s name. You won’t know until you try it. Try it, you’ll like it. Try harder. Try again next time. Try it on for size. Do or do not, there is no try. Wait, that one sucks. Screw Yoda. That little bastard can’t do a 5K with Frank Oz’s hand up his ass, so he doesn’t count.

Three laps later and I realize I’m out there alone. Others have finished their laps and have moved on with their day. I have no idea how many laps anyone else is doing and it doesn’t really matter. Everyone is on their own path, their own schedule, their own pace, and has their own goals. I decide that three laps is enough and it’s not safe to be out in open water alone (having been lapped twice by the pros). Just before I put in that final effort to swim back to shore, with the sun a giant beacon between two buildings guiding me back in, I find the joy. Everything comes together – the thrill of knowing I have the biggest race of my life in three weeks, that I’m less and less afraid of it because I’m there, in the water, face down in it and trying like hell.

Notes: 3 laps ~250 yards ea.: 45 min, 4 mile run (Venice Pier and back) 40 min.


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