I wanted to address a lot of concerns people have had with swimming in the ocean and the recent shark attack in Solana Beach here in San Diego. I've received a lot of emails/comments about ocean swimming and people worried about me, etc. What happened in Solana Beach to one of our triathlon club members was shocking and very sad for everyone involved. It's something that many of us never expected to happen, and from people who swim/surf often, had been told the chances were so slim of shark attacks.
I knew when I heard the news I would know someone swimming with him or people who knew Dave Martin---and/or people who would have helped him ashore. I don't know these people directly, but I know people who socialize with them, and knowing the caliber of our triathlon club, how very affected all of them would be by such an event. It's almost unfathomable and i'm sure many of you have asked questions to yourselvs how you would react in such a situation. How the other swimmers reacted in the moment---is nothing short of heroic. We all say we would be "first on the scene," but would we? Would you swim over to assist someone who was blatantly being attacked by something so violent? I can't imagine what his family must be going through and obviously all the media hype makes it a little difficult to cope privately. I hope that they find support in one another.
I had someone ask me last night if it affected me--and of course it does. Let me preface my thoughts by saying ocean swimming is not something that I do regularly, I don't surf, I don't do Friday night Cove swims in La Jolla--The only ocean swimming I typically do is occasionally with my friend Julia and for the Aquathlons (swim/run) and races that involve ocean swimming.
I can safely say, I dread ocean swimming. It doesn't hold as much water as it did before the shark attack, but I remember I showed up at my first ocean swim practice and I introduced myself as "Hi, i'm Meredith and i'm petrified of sharks," and people just looked at me like I was stupid. The truth was: I had just hung up the phone with my mom and I was scared-out-of-my-wits, heart pounding, palms sweaty to go swimming in the ocean. My mom said "Meri, you don't *have* to do this to prove anything," and I said, "I know mom, but to learn how to race in the ocean, I have to practice." I knew I was letting an irrational fear of sharks and the "what lies beneath," get the better of me, and I was determined to prove that, like everyone else, I could find the "beauty" in ocean swimming.
And I did, last year--I did a few open water swims with my friend Julia who is a surfer and she was the *only* person I would swim with, because as confident as she is in the water, she knew I absolutely dreaded swimming. I would swim faster and I didn't want to "stop," for long at the booey's because I felt if my legs were dangling, I would be a target.
Sounds irrational right? Well, that leads me to my next thought which is: it is irrational, but I don't think my fear is unfounded. If I truly loved ocean swimming and it was important to me to surf and spend time in the waves, then yes, i'm letting fear rule the best of me. I've never been one to "be one with the waves, enjoy the beauty of it." No thanks, i'd rather do that from the shore----or a boat. Or better yet, a hike in the mountains or skiing through trees. There are a lot of ways to enjoy nature, I don't need to enjoy ocean swimming to do it.
The truth is: very bluntly-I don't like ocean swimming, I never have and honestly, triathlon is a hobby for me and quite honestly, I don't see the need in trying to prove to other people that "i'm not afraid," when really, I am. I would much rather bang out a few thousand yards in the boring pool then have my wetsuit slip out of my hands because i'm so nervous and sweaty out of fear to pull it up.
It's hard for me to post this because i'm sure most people reading thinking "sure, now she's afraid," but the truth is, if you ask Julia, she'll tell you how nervous I was. I would find ANY excuse not to swim in open water. And the funny thing is, i'm actually really good at it--I can sight pretty well, i'm good at staying on target with booey's in the water----so, i'm confident that even if I don't practice in the ocean, I can still hang with people in a race.
Will I stop racing in the ocean? No-I will still sign up for ocean swim races, i'm willing to take that brief chance =0....but, i'm not willing to spend extra time "practicing," in an arena that i'm just not comfortable with. I'll suck it up for a race, but please, don't roll your eyes at me when I don't want to join you for that 5:00 Friday Cove swim, it's just not really my thing and i'd rather meet up with you for a ride or a run just about anywhere at any elevation, than I would for an ocean swim.
If this makes me a weak person in other people's eyes---then so be it, they're entitled to an opinion, but i'm not so convinced swimming in the ocean makes you a faster or more efficient swimmer, so unless you can prove to me there are extreme benefits, you can catch me at a master's swim.
I admit this post is written in a certain frustrated tone and that's because i'm tired of defending myself to other people saying "get back on the horse," when really, there wasn't ever a horse to begin with!
Off my soap box....