It was a beautiful and crisp morning. The air was filled with chatter for the event to commence. After some loose stretches and impromptu pep talks, it was time to see where I was at. I lined up along the shore with my good friend. A formation of planes flew overhead with timing just shy of the ending of the national anthem.
As the gun went off, the first flights disappeared into the Peachtree Lake waters. We were off in a staggered start that best favored my experience level. The suspense rose as I slowly inched my way to the starting line. “Just relax. You got this. It’s not a race.” It felt like my mind and Patrick were speaking at the same time. Next thing you know, my body felt a jolt of cold water. I was inching further and further from shore and it was all happening so fast. As I lost my footing, I made an attempt to start swimming. As my head completely submerged, everything went dark. My breathing was nonexistent and heart rate heightened. As I popped up for a life line of oxygen, I soon realized I forgot everything I knew. I was in over my head and stopped before I even started. I changed course and struggled back to shore as a slew of other triathletes came at me. There was no way out.
It was at that point when I knew I made a terrible mistake.
Let’s take a step back. Five years worth of steps as a matter of fact. I had just finished a run with my friend, Patrick. We were cooling off in the locker room getting ready for class. Out of the blue, he says to me, “Alex, I want to do an Ironman.” I hardly knew what that was. I thought that was nice and went to change the subject. He stopped me. “You aren’t going to do it with me? Let’s do it when we graduate.” And for some odd reason, I said sure.
Fast forward and Patrick came to cash in on a promise half a decade later as we started to transition into the real world. By this time, I had discovered what an Ironman actually consisted of. For those that don’t know, it is composed of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. No, I did not stutter and those decimals are in fact in the right place. On top of the monumental lengths to traverse, there was one small caveat I forgot to mention.
I didn’t know how to swim.
I know what you are thinking. “Alex, what is wrong with you? Do you know what you are getting yourself into? Even one of these tasks alone would make the strongest of individuals quiver.” It really did sound like a good idea at the time. Think about it. How would I ever know if I would even like to swim if I didn’t try it out? And what better way to learn than to place my hesitancy in the spirit of competition?
And I question these thoughts now everyday.
Now don’t get me wrong. I had my fair share of swimming pool encounters. However, I never had formal training. I would slowly ease into the shallow side of the pool and immediately plant my feet to the floor. On occasion, I would have short spurts of floundering after mimicking those around me. And the funny part is I would think that I was actually doing something.
I pride myself being a man of my word. With that said, there was no way around the spot that I put myself in. So I strategically set our race date to give me ample time to train. August 2019 was nearly one year on the nose and had a good ring to it. I thought to myself, “A WHOLE year? Easy money!”. I was wrong. And the plot thickens.
I had some overlap with training for my first marathon (another story for another time). And with the overlap came some lapse of judgment. I put off actually focusing on my weakness. And the more people that I would tell what I was doing, the less I could lean on my initial ignorance of what it would actually take. And the one year of training turned to seven months just like that. This was however enough time to put nearly all the money down to pay for the race. Yes, that’s right. People pay to hurt this much. With the beginning of the new year and pockets streaming at me, things finally came to a head.
I needed a plan. And who better to give guidance than a good friend and avid swim coach of six year old children. It was quickly discovered that the six years olds did swim better than me, but there was no competition in regards to my attention span. There are no videos to date from where I started. But for your entertainment, picture me kicking as hard as I possibly could, head fully submerged, and not exhaling underwater. And if you can imagine, I would not be able to make it the length of a 25 meter pool without stopping and being absolutely gassed. Ignorance may be bliss, but it sure doesn’t float.
With more than a few tweaks, slowly but surely I started learning. From kicking to breathing, to arm rotation, I started putting it all together. And although not mechanically perfect, I was going places. Every swim session, I would take a leap of faith with a further distance, sometimes doubling what was done prior. I amazed myself every time I took to the water. And confidence continued to build. Eventually, I managed to swim for a hour straight without stopping. I felt unstoppable…
Until I was introduced to Carl.