When I turned my “about me” packet into my coach regarding triathlons and what I hope to accomplish, I distinctively wrote that there was no way he would get me into a lake in Florida where gators (specifically), but also water moccasins and other scaly creatures lurk. Unfortunately, that does not that leave many options for triathlons unless you want to take on salt water, waves and sharks. Growing up my family lived in Hawaii and swimming in the ocean was second nature. Florida however, is the shark bite capital of the world and you need to be a bit more cautious. As I started looking at race options, I knew something local was the right move and so I’d need to conquer this fear of swimming in Florida lakes.
For me, one of the things over the years that I’ve attempted to do more of is being braver and conquering fears. Fears both in my head and justified. Unfortunately, anxiety can sometimes make those fears paralysing and it’s breaking through that paralysis that creates the feeling of accomplishment and love towards myself, knowing that I did that, that I conquered that fear.
My first triathlon a few weeks ago was also the first time I swam in a lake in Florida. It was panicky and nerve-wracking, but I did it and it’s probably the part of the race I’m most proud of for that reason. The chances of a gator actually attacking a human are very slim. According to this article from BBC, the math indicates that there are actually only 0.06 attacks per year per 100,000 people. In other words, you’re more likely to get in a car accident while driving than attacked by a gator.
So when an open water swim showed up on my Training Peaks for the week before my second triathlon, I knew it was really time to conquer this fear. I enlisted the company of a friend (because baby steps) and we headed out to Lake Minneola to swim. This is the same lake the race is held in, they actually have a buoyed off swim area and people are in the water everyday. From start buoy to end buoy was about 200 yards and so for approximately 55 minutes we did an open water workout. The warm up was hyperventilating induced, yet I never stopped and as we swam my heart rate slowed and everything became more relaxed. By the time we got to doing some sprints with 30 seconds rest, I felt like the swimmer I know and like I can conquer the swim next Saturday in my second race.