The Truth In Trying

It’s important to me that my blog isn’t all rainbows and sunshine.

Far too often I read blogs that are nothing but dancing unicorns and it’s easy to find yourself falsely comparing your life to these seemingly perfect lives. But in reality, the blogger just chooses not to post their struggles, thus creating a fake perception of reality.

I don’t want my blog to be pathetic rants or any sort of pity party, but I do want it to be an honest reflection of my athletic endeavors – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I think it’s important for anyone who is reading about my journey to know that it is not seamless. I also know that my “struggles” pale in comparison to serious hardships, but they are still part of the process and I want to be honest with you guys and myself. Plus, putting it down in writing is my version of therapy.

This morning I went back to the open water, dragging my mom along for the ride as she was in town for mother’s day. Last week, I made small progress in the open water by staying in the lane lines and only swimming short distances at a time. Sticking with my motto of “baby steps,” I decided that I would once again swim before the rest of the group arrived and swim the longer swim lanes (150 meters each way), but not outside of the lane lines.


I zipped up my wetsuit, moaned “Mooooooooom!” when she insisted on snapping photos, and was anxious to see what today would have in store. I made my way out to the swim lanes with the intention of not necessarily getting a workout in, but rather working on my open water comfort. I once again spent some time blowing bubbles in the water before starting the swim and trying to get comfortable.


This is the “my wetsuit is choking me” look.

I started swimming and felt good; same feeling as last week and thought I was making progress. But as I got into the 100 meter marker of each lap, my heart would start to race. The water got deeper, a little foggier, different plants underneath, and even my first fish sighting. My mental freak out makes absolutely no sense as there is no reason for it. I would flap around for a few more meters until I reached the end and had to take two  minutes at the end of each lap just to calm down.

Absolutely nothing went wrong except for my mind doubting everything. I thought I was done with doubt?! Apparently not because once again my wetsuit was seemingly “choking me and trying to kill me” and the negative thoughts of, “Why am I doing this? My triathlon next week is going to be an embarrassing disaster. I can swim in the pool just fine, but I am deplorable in the open water. Just give up. I can’t F-ing swim. I hate this. Why is this happening?!” raced through my head. It was pathetic.

I promised myself I would do eight laps (1,200 meters) and the good news is that I did it. I don’t even want to tell you how long it took me. As I walked way out of the water, I made my way past the group and tried to avoid any eye contact or conversation with anyone. This was the same time that my mom and aunt came back from their run around the neighboring trails and met me at my stuff. Still avoiding eye contact, they asked how it was and I just replied, “Fine.” and nervously gathered my stuff.

I stripped my wetsuit off stupidly back down in the water, my coach came to tell me there was a shower, and I forced a smile and loaned out my swim cap to a fellow swimmer. As I made my way to the shower, my mom and aunt followed me to a hidden corner, away from the view of everyone else and I lost it.

For the first time in Ironman training I cried.

I cried because I felt like a failure at something that should be easy. Something that I know takes time, but I should at least be able to swim the swim lanes. My self-esteem plummeted.

In perfect timing, my mom and aunt were there to do the things that moms do best: comfort me.

I know that I’m far too hard on myself and that things like this will take time. They assured me that come November I will look back at this and laugh, but I just have to keep at it. I know they’re right, but for a confirmed type-A, it’s a hard pill to swallow.

Am I back to my “I can do anything!” mentality? Not at the moment. But it’s almost as if it was supposed to happen today, Mother’s Day, when my mom was in town and it was her first glimpse of my training. I got knocked down and she was there to pick me back up. Love you, mom.


Tomorrow, we try again.

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23 Responses to The Truth In Trying

  1. Meggie says:

    You’ll get there – one day, open water swimming will be NBD. As long as you keep trying, that’s success.

    Sounds like me and a tempo run — my heart rate will sky rocket because I’m freaking out about what the freaking Garmin says. Even if its fine, I have a heart rate spike. I need to go to tempo run therapy or something.

    Thanks for being honest – I really enjoy following your training!

  2. Laura says:

    I think everyone gets to that moment and, honestly, I believe self doubt becomes a part of the training itself- when it starts to become hard, you start to worry… but that worry always seems to fall away while the talent always stays… visualize failing but know you’re wrong. Visualize success and you WILL achieve your goals.

  3. Turi says:

    You’re an inspiration. In your training as well as your honesty. Keep it up.

  4. Monika says:

    I met Michellie Jones at a Girls on the Run even a few years ago and didn’t know who she was (omg badass!!) and talked running and triathlons with her. I hadn’t done a tri yet at the time and she asked me why not. I said I hated swimming and especially didn’t want to swim in the ocean. She said oh yeah, no one really likes the swim you know. We all just try to get through it! I think about that conversation a lot when I’m suffering through my swim. I have met a few swimmers (minority) who dont mind the swim, but I feel like triathletes are mostly runners and bikers looking for a new challenge. Anyways, I know you’re having a hard time with these open water swims, but just think about how rewarding it will be one day when they are no big deal to you! Isn’t that why we do this? :)

    And for the record.. I would rather go to the dentist than do an open water swim. Its the most awful experience I’ve had in my life.. yet I keep signing up to do it again. Getting past something feeling more powerful than you (even if you hate it.. but can still do it) is really empowering. Rawr! ;o) xoxo

  5. RoseRunner says:

    In Real Person Training Fail news (as opposed to Perfect Blogger news), I ran 14 miles at an average 10:00 min/mile pace today. I walked at least 4 of those miles. Some days are just like that….they feel defeating.

    But then just as often, if not much MORE often, you will have days where you can do ANYTHING. Your triathlon next week will be one of those days. DO NOT forget that post after the Oakland Half about how you tend to doubt yourself — you WILL do better than you expect. I know right now you are thinking this is one of those times where that really isn’t true, and you might fail, or swim poorly. But I’m telling you, I have no doubts at all that you will impress us all.

  6. Megan says:

    I appreciate your honesty so much. It does get tiring reading about only fabulous runs and races and starts to make you think you’re doing something wrong in your own training if it isn’t all roses and sunshine. I’m also working on my swim fears and convincing myself that triathlons are not a horrible idea and you’re right, it’s hard. Really hard. But I just keep telling myself it’s the new challenges that keep me coming back for more. I will say, this swimming thing is by far the scariest though (even though I thought running a half marathon was super crazy back in the day!). But you’re not giving up and that’s what’s going to give you the strength to tackle this Ironman in the end – go get ’em!

  7. Claire says:

    If you didn’t have at least one good cry during Ironman training I’d think you were weird!

    When I was training for my first marathon, it was the first big race I’d ever done so every long run was a new personal distance record for me. They were all more or less peachy at the beginning, and then my training buddy and I ran 14 for the first time. We were running a new route and I was feeling slow and tired and getting increasingly frustrated until maybe mile 9 or 10 when I finally just burst into tears, shouting that I’d NEVER run a marathon because I couldn’t even finish 14 miles and I was too tired and I was such a loser and I was just going to give up. Needless to say, he didn’t let me, and we both conquered 14 and on and on until we did our first 26.2 together.

    The happy memories and the confidence may come from the training days where you surprise yourself and go further or faster than you thought you could, but the strength comes from the frustrated days when you burst into tears, pick yourself up, and decide to big fat do it anyway.

  8. XLMIC says:

    Your mom sounds pretty awesome… so glad she was there for you :)

    You will get it.

  9. Martha aka your mom says:

    My dear Page,
    I love you so very much. I stand very tall and very proud to have you as a daughter.
    Just step back enjoy the moment and the process and everything will fall into place. Maybe the struggle just sweetens the victory. Next time you start to stress out on a swim roll over on your back and float breath deep and enjoy the moment. And remember it ain’t cancer and keep laughing.

  10. Sarah says:

    Hey…….. I feel you here. I still do this from time to time on the swim even with over a year of tri’s under my belt. Mine is less about the open water and more about the swimming with all of those other racers. They freak me out and make my heart race so fast that I too have had to stop to gain composure.

    It’s ok. We all have our moments. And yes, take a minute, catch your breath and try, try again. Good luck and stick with it. You’ll get there. Best of luck!

  11. Aw, Page. My heart swelled for you reading this post. I think that you’re making amazing progress, honestly — and that’s not just me saying that because I actually can’t swim! I also thought twice about your sentence here: “My mental freak out makes absolutely no sense as there is no reason for it.”

    I don’t know if I agree — I think that it’s completely normal. It makes sense to me because I would otherwise be horrified of the murky, darker, deeper waters, even if I know in my right mind that I know how to swim well. I think it’s totally okay! I’m also inspired that you finished regardless of those feelings, and I’m impressed that you share so well with us.

    Keep at it, you’re amazing, and will continue to be. Sending smiles.

  12. Travel Spot says:

    Sometimes we all need a good cry! Thank goodness you had Mom there! I think that we really pressure ourselves to do well and it’s hard when we think we have failed. We are our worst critics! You need to just take it easy on yourself and remember that you’ve got this! We often experience moments of cold feet, but in reality, you are strong and you are ready and you will rock this tri!

  13. Mandi says:

    I love this Page, thanks for sharing!

    You will get it don’t worry. Open water is SCARY! BUT I KNOW YOU WILL DO GREAT IN TIME! :)))

  14. Nelly says:

    That is too bad to hear about the water woes. But I guess the more you do it, the easier it will become over time I bet. Easier said than done though. Only comparison I can think of is that when I was swimming as part of my rehab last summer, I would have to force myself to go to the pool – I just didn’t want to go. I was scared of what others would think of me since I wasn’t a good swimmer and just didn’t feel comfortable. Just keep forcing yourself to swim in open water and I bet it will get easier.

    And thanks a ton for those posts about coaching!!! Those are dynamite! Not sure yet whether I will get a coach like Paul yet, but I really appreciate all the info!

  15. Kristi says:

    From my own experience, there IS crying in Ironman training, sometimes A LOT. I think that’s just fine (probably because I’ve done it, more than once). You know when else you’ll cry? When you cross the finish line and hear Mike Reilly say “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN’. But that time, they’ll be tears of joy. I’m not all “rainbows and unicorns”, but just as you know, if you keep at it, you WILL get more comfortable (and faster) in open water. I promise! Have fun with it – it’s quite a journey!

  16. That’s an awesome poster and saying to remember.
    You will get through it. I’m so impressed you swam that far even though you felt panicked. It is huge to push through sessions like that! Keep trying!

  17. I was a competitive swimmer for 11 years but still freak out during open water swims. I always feel so embarrassed that it freaks me out so much even though I am supposed to be a swimmer. You still have so much time before your Ironman. Just keep trying and soon it will get easier. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, it will help tremendously.

  18. marlene says:

    I give you tons of credit for being so open and honest. I guarantee you are FAR from the only one who has or is dealing with this. Try, try again. And Yay Mom for being at the right place at the right time.

  19. J says:

    Sometimes I get freaked out by open water too – never know what is around or under you. I am sure at the race hopefully the adrenaline will take over and you will just go because you will be with people. Are you doing these open swims with others in the water? Maybe that would help?

  20. Jennifer S says:

    You didn’t quit and you could have! I give you so much credit for keepin on when this is bothering you so much not to mention you are training for an IRONMAN! Keep up your hard work it WILL pay off!

  21. katie says:

    I don’t do happiness and rainbows. I do puppy pics and say “fuck” a lot (can I say that here? sorry). Just keep on keeping on – the OWS will come.

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  23. Naomi says:

    Having experienced panic and anxiety attacks during my runs over the past several weeks, I empathize with your experience. It is a horrible feeling that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I appreciate the honesty of this post – I think it captures the true spirit of blogging.

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