Daring Greatly (guest post)by Jane Bridges


image                                      Celeste, Jane, and Laura Hawksnest Finish line 2013

I was so excited to return to St. John, VI for my third weeklong Total Immersion/Triathlon Skill camp with coaches Celeste St.Pierre and Laura Tiedge. This TI week preceded the Beach to Beach Power Swim, so we were encouraged to sign up for the swim as a final challenge. For some reason, I signed up for the 3.5 mile swim. I recalled from previous TI camps that by Friday we would do a long swim of over 3 miles, so I felt that the 3.5 mile swim would be doable after one week of training. What was I thinking?
Prior to the TI camp, I discovered that most people were doing either the 1 or 2.2 mile course. Therein lies for first layer of doubt about my ability to do the swim. After our first day of training and reviewing our videos, I quickly learned that my TI stroke once again needed to be reconstructed and refined. So, another layer of doubt and concern about finishing the 3.5 mile swim creeps in. By Tuesday morning, many of us had significant sunburns, which created a big layer of concern. How could I swim 3.5 miles without totally destroying the already burned skin on my back? Prior to camp I had had extensive surgery to remove a melanoma from my back, so I knew I had another physical challenge to work through for this race. This girl had to figure out how to make positives out of negative thoughts and how to face those challenges that crept in throughout the week. I remember my first TI camp when Celeste, while floating in the kayak, politely yelled, “Jane, you have the ability, you just lack the confidence.” Amazing how those words from coach stuck with me all this time.
All week at camp, we worked on the technical skills of the TI stroke. Finally, I started to understand what these drills are all about and how they translate to a more efficient and effortless stroke. I started to get Celeste’s method and intent of instruction. If I got the stroke right, I could go the distance. Get that stroke right, Jane, and you’ll finish the distance. I started to visualize what I needed to do to complete the swim. I focused on finishing with ease and being at peace in the water. I didn’t focus on time, although I hoped to finish in 2 hours. I focused on swimming my own swim. I reminded myself that if I can finish the Alcatraz, a very chilly swim in San Francisco, which I did earlier in 2012, then I can finish the 3.5 mile swim. And finally, it’s Bullfrog (sunscreen) to the rescue! Someone mentioned Bullfrog to help protect my skin. Sure enough, I found it and used it liberally, even putting it on the night before the swim. What seemed like problems earlier where now being solved. Did I mention how much I hated my brand new goggles? Fortunately, Sarah, a fellow swimmer, had an extra pair of very comfortable goggles that I was able to use. Doubts and obstacles are diminishing; confidence on the rise.
The orientation meeting the evening prior to the swim was helpful in understanding what we needed to sight upon. I started to get excited and nervous.
In the morning, we were there in plenty of time to get comfortable and ready. My group, 3.5 long course, started first. I just moved into the water and started to swim my own swim. I followed Celeste’s instructions which included setting my tempo trainer to 1.4 and taking water and a gel after 2 miles. Knowing I was in this for the endurance and not speed, I really had to put aside my ego. I stayed focused on my stroke and sighting, while allowing most people to pass. I waved at Celeste, she was in the 2.2 mile swim which started a few minutes after my group, as she was flying (swimming) by. Sarah was in that group too, we stopped for a little chat.
So, now it was me, the water, and the challenge of finishing. There was a lot of time to work on focus points of the stroke: triangles, patient arm, catch, hips, sighting. I didn’t have to worry about staying with the group or wondering where my swim buddy was at as we did during camp. It was just me with lots of time to talk to myself: “I am swimming this swim”, “I am doing it”, “I will finish!” I also told myself I am not alone, feeling the presence of God, and my Dad helping to carry me through. Although I couldn’t quiet my mind as much as I wanted to, I certainly listened and filled my head with only positive thoughts.
After 2.2 miles, I did hydrate and fuel and got back to swimming. I paid more close attention to hitting the marks and even asked for directions as I rounded the final choppy or sporty area of water before entering the final leg to the finish line. As the water settled down, I really got back to the best form I could muster. I soon discovered that I had plenty of energy and felt fine as I neared the finish line. So, I hit it. I started passing some of the other swimmers because I wanted to get to that finish line. I heard people yelling my name. How cool is that! I got up out of the water and ran to the finish line, without falling. It meant so much that all of my camp mates were there to greet me at the finish! I felt great and had no recovery issues at all. I was so grateful for the experience and so elated to get my medal. After 2 ½ hours, I worked hard for that medal and will cherish it forever.
After the swim, I was just all smiles, totally grateful and very proud. I think my coaches were proud of me, too. Although I told myself that I’m not doing another 3.5 mile swim, I bet I’ll do it again, working on reducing my time in the future. I did what I set out to do, which was finish. But the fact that it took me 2 ½ hours to finish has got me motivated to do it better.
What’s next? I’ve already signed up for the Huntington Mile and I plan to do the 2 mile Coral Reef Swim at St. Croix in October 2013! Onward, always daring greatly.



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