Here on the Zim’s blog we talk a lot about fitness and setting goals for everyone but every once in a while I’m allowed to get a little personal and talk about my own experiences. I’m not a typical athlete by any stretch of the imagination but hopefully my experience will be helpful to the readers as they work to accomplish their goals.

I love open water swimming. I love the smooth, crisp water. I love being out in nature and soaking up the quiet peace it provides. I also love the comradery of the open water community and the many friends I’ve made along the way.
Recently I finished my 17th open water race, my 2nd time completing the Bear Lake Monster Swim in Bear Lake, Utah. Normally make the Deer Creek Open Water Swim my 2nd race of the summer but since I am going to be out of town I decided to head up to Bear Lake. I must admit I went into the race a little cocky because I had just completed the Great Salt Lake Marathon Swim, which is a mile long and this race is only a 1/2 mile (and GSL is such a hard lake to swim in with the salt content).

Unfortunately when the race began and I dove into the water I realized it was not going to be as easy as I thought. The water was cold, and I struggled to adjust to it the way I normally do. The swim was also challenging because despite it being early in the morning there were a lot of boats. One of the keys to a good open water swim is “sighting” while you swim. What that means is while you are making your strokes you pick something in the distance to look at or “sight” and this helps you from getting off track and wasting strokes. The problem with the boat traffic is the waves from boats are long and rolling, which makes them hard to swim against and sight your buoy or other object you are looking at.

As I swam I kept veering off course and struggling to see the buoy. This made me increasingly frustrated and for once I wondered if I would be able to finish the race. In any race there is a phenomenon I call “swim treadmill.” This is a mirage of sorts where it feels like I’m not making any progress in the swim. The buoy seems to never get closer, even when it is actually quite close my brain plays tricks on me. It can be very discouraging especially when fighting boat waves to feel like all the effort is in vain.

This is from a previous swim several years ago but the swimming is the same

Luckily I am not a quitter so I quickly put the swim treadmill thoughts out of my head and just kept swimming. Even with all my doubts I pushed forward and eventually made it to the half-way buoy where I took a rest and soaked in the beauty of my environment and the unique challenge I was experiencing. Then it was back to the swim and before you know it I had finished. I went in expecting it to be easy but it ended up being one of my harder swims (a lesson in humility is a good thing sometimes!).

I always learn something from my open water swims. This one taught me to keep going even when it seems like no progress is being made. Like Dory from Finding Nemo says: “Just keep swimming.” How often in life do we start something with confidence and then want to give up when things get hard? I think it happens to the best of us but that’s when hopefully our training kicks in and our moral fortitude pushes us to finish strong. Finishing every swim is a big accomplishment but it especially feels good to finish when I’ve doubted myself and my abilities in the water. This experience gives me something I can take with me in my every day life. When things get hard just keep swimming. Don’t give up! You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again: finish the race!