Courage Is Never To Let Your Actions Be Influenced By Your Fears

“Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.”
— Arthur Koestler, Hungarian-British author and journalist (1905-1983)

I really wanted to get long training swims in this weekend and it just didn’t happen for one reason or another. I haven’t done a long swim since my last 8 KM in Aquatic Park on Sunday, 22 June. Part of me is seriously afraid of falling short of being adequately physically and mentally prepared for my swim. A large part of me. It doesn’t help to know that other people who are doing similar swims around the same time have gone much further distances. I feel like I’m falling behind them. I shouldn’t compare myself but I can’t help it either. It’s easy to tell someone “you’ll do FINE” and “you have a long time still!” when you’re not on the receiving end. One line isn’t going to make me magically go “yeah you’re right, and magically I’m no longer worrying that I’m going to f*** this up.” I can’t control the weather, conditions, temperature, etc. The only thing I can control is myself and that’s what I’m worried about. Having never done anything like this in my entire life, I feel like I’m still going blind into this. Other people were lucky on having coaches guide them through their first big swim as that’s a great mental crutch, if anything, every step of the way knowing who you are as an athlete and person.

I’m not about to let the nay-sayers get their day though and be able to say “I told you that you couldn’t handle this and weren’t ready for this” either. It’s funny when I can look at a situation and see that it’s just like junior high except sad that we’re all supposed to be adults. There are cliques and favortism and gossiping and backstabbing and really needing to be careful on who you trust. Some will chant waves of support..provided that you’re not doing anything remotely close to as hard (or harder) than what they’re doing in which case then they change their tunes. Unfortunately I trust everyone initially and that leads me to getting hurt and burned a lot.

I’m afraid that if I fail the swim, I’d have wasted everyone’s love, effort, and time..not just my crew’s time but also the love, effort, and time of everyone who supported me during this journey. I don’t want to squander what they’ve given me as already I could never repay them for their kindness. Some of them I’ve known for years, others a short while and still others for only a handful of weeks. It’s unconditional from them too which blows my mind.

However it does show who my real friends and supporters are since they’re the ones who continue to stick by me. Amazes me too on how some friends I’ve only known for a matter of weeks are more supportive than other people in my life that I’ve known longer. My friend Simon has been sending me notes of encouragement which has helped keep me going. I think he can just sense that I need something thrown my way as I’ll get a text or message from him randomly at the right moment. He leaves on Saturday for Dover to rock the English Channel. I’m sad that I probably won’t be able to see him before he leaves and am looking forward to celebrating with him after he gets back (with plans of course to celebrate both of our swims after I finish mine). And it’s weird that like Miranda on Sex and the City, I don’t like huge boisterous cheering of “YOU CAN DO IT!” like a cheerleader on crack. I’ve been relatively quiet about my swimming stuff where I haven’t talked about it much in person (and generally not at all unless someone brings it up first). I’ve only mentioned it in person to people that I’ve needed to talk to about something on my mind in regards to my swim. I guess because for me this is just personal for me and not something that I’m doing so other people can recognize me.

One of my favorite motivational images that my friend Simon sent me.

A friend asked the other day what was my ultimate goal in swimming, wondering if Anacapa was just one step towards something bigger that I’m working towards. I just want to get through this one. There are other swims afterwards that I want to do in the future though. Would I go on bigger, harder, longer swims? Heck if I know. Each one is different. You never know the magnitude of a swim either until you get there. On a much smaller scale, it’s like how I don’t know hard or easy a swim at Shaw’s Cove is going to be until I show up there and see what the water and current looks like. 8 KM in flat water is easier than 2 KM in 4 foot swells.

Actually I get a little embarrassed when other people talk about my swimming in front of me. I don’t think of myself as anything special or particularly crazy for doing things like shoving myself into Aquatic Park when the water is 50 F (especially if I’m not even wearing a swimsuit). I swim with people who have swam the English Channel, MIMS, SCAR Challenge, Catalina, etc and feel so small by comparison yet thankful that they’re just normal people. Truth be told, I freakin’ hate people that go around boasting about how much of a badass swimmer they are on a nearly daily basis. Yeah, we get it; move on already and please talk about something, anything else. Mention my swimming in front of me though and I’ll clam up a little. Maybe because I’m not as impressed with what I’m doing as other people are? I’m doing this for myself, not because I want other people to admire me. I’ve posted the swims and photos on my Facebook page more for the social aspect of being with friends than trying to win any bragging rights. I’ve been more proud and happier the two times my pod member Owen swam to Seal Rock and back without his fins than any swim I’ve ever done with or without the group.

The only thing I’ve wanted to brag about all year in regards to swimming was winning my age group for the non-wetsuit divsion for the Golden Gate Sharkfest simply because I’d never won my swim event ever my entire life. The closest had been a varsity relay against Carlmont High School which only happened because they didn’t have a varsity relay team. I’m not competitive. After Anacapa I seriously doubt that I’ll be walking around thinking “Yeah I just swam the 12+ miles from Anacapa Island to the Mainland bitches!” People say they admire my drive and dedication that I go down to Laguna Beach 3 – 5 times a week just to swim and/or wake up at 4 AM to do said drive and I really don’t think anything of it.

Anacapa Island

Why do I want to swim from Anacapa to the Mainland? Really..just because. It was an opportunity given to me and sure, why not? A coworker asked me the other day what keeps me going and motivated. The first thing that pops to mind is going back to my surgeries. I still feel very fortunate that I’m able to have the option to be able to physically move on my own. I wonder sometimes if I’m running away from the person who was recovering from a surgically broken pelvis begging to do anything on her own, even walk. Every time I don’t feel like swimming, I have to reach deep down and remember that I have a choice to swim or not swim whereas there was a time that I didn’t have a choice and there are many people who don’t either. I have an opportunity to swim Anacapa so I’m going to take it because I can.

Another “Simon Says” and quite typical of how I commit to do things without having a clue on the means.

This weekend I had to deal with the one thing that I really really hate dealing with in open water swimming more than anything else : big surge. Mentally I’m still dealing with that La Jolla trauma. I sprout mental feathers every time I see a wave coming right at me and gathering height. I don’t know how to deal with it. At least lately it’s been happening in shallow water though. Coming back in on Saturday’s swim, I thought I had waited out the entire set of 4-foot waves and started swimming in. Missed one. I was swimming and almost in when I felt myself get picked up and was unintentionally body surfing at that point. F***. I came down with the wave and at least I was in only 2 feet of water at that point so I knew I was relatively safe. Instinct still told me to grab my goggles though as I wasn’t losing another pair of goggles to getting tossed around in the water. Yesterday I was watching my friend Peter skip into the water and go right through a set of 5 foot waves like they were nothing. He just disappeared under them, popped back up, and kept going. I want to learn what his secret is. He seemed so calm and collected. I’d be freaking out and dead if I was in the same place that he was with those waves. Every time I go through getting maytaged, I try and tell myself that this is good training to get over my fear of these waves. I still hit about a 15 on the panic level when that happens though. If it’s that hard for me getting in, I know it’s also going to be hard for me getting out of the water too. I can deal with the thoughts of wildlife, cold water, wind chop, current, etc. while in the water. I don’t know how to deal with getting over my fear of big surge hurting me and/or making me drown. I think I’ll ask Peter for help.

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2 Responses to Courage Is Never To Let Your Actions Be Influenced By Your Fears

  1. I think fears like this are all part of the process and in themselves healthy. As you say, courage is about facing up to and facing down those fears and it will just make the achievement even sweeter when you have done it.
    I didn’t want a coach for the reason that you outline. I wanted to know that it had all been down to me – mentally as well as physically.
    And as for your crew, if you have chosen well you will never let them down. If you need to get out (for whatever reason) they will know that you have given it everything just to get in and that you’ll only get if you need to. They won’t judge or question you, they will just be proud of how far you did make.
    Good luck for the next weeks and then for the swim itself.

  2. Bruco Royers says:

    No, this isn’t a “Go Team! Rah, rah, rah!” post. As you said, you are doing this just because it sounds interesting. So just do it. No matter how far you get or even if you make or don’t landfall. This is something for yourself and no one else. As someone far wiser than you or I once said “Never compare yourself to others for there will always be those better than yourself . . . and less adequate then yourself.” Just do it.

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