I had the opportunity to be one of the race directors for the inaugural swimrun Georgia this past April and as I reflect on the day and the athletes in particular, one athlete has really made an impression on me.
I have served as an OWS coach for ATC for the past 3 years. Nicole has faithfully been at my swims. I noticed that she always stayed close to the shore when swimming, particularly when we were at Dallas Landing, where the water tended to be a bit more choppy and we weren’t protected by a cove. I would encourage her to jump in with the group but she just felt like she wasn’t ready.
One of the things I like to do at swims, is simulate race day situations. I cram everyone into a super tight group and make them practice deep water starts. Nicole would never join us for those. I would encourage her to get out there, afterall she would experience this during race day.
I started to notice how often she was swimming in the open water on her facebook page. She was at every clinic we hosted and at every open water swim.
I was surprised when I saw her application come through for Swimrun Georgia. This was after all, going to be two miles of swimming, in the open water, with your shoes on while tethered to a partner. I accepted her into the race but honestly, I was a little nervous about her finishing. I didn’t want this to be a blow to her confidence at the beginning of the season.
Race morning came and she was there with a smile on her face (as always) and fully decked out in her swimrun gear. I remember telling my co-director that we needed to keep an eye on her team, that she had issues with long open water swims in the past. I saw her at the first swim entrance in good spirits but the day got logistically busy and a million decisions had to be made as the race director. I didn’t see her again until I was at the finish line taking pictures. She had a huge smile on her face and finished with a great time! I have to admit, I felt a few tears fighting to the surface.
As a coach, I am so proud whenever I see an athlete overcome a challenge. Often I hear people who are interested in triathlon or who are triathletes say, ‘I’m just bad at swimming’ or ‘Open Water Swimming freaks me out too much’ but the lesson is work your weakness. Challenge the part of you that keeps you from a dream and a goal. Find a good coach to walk you through the process. You’ll be amazed at the confidence you develop and the things you overcome.
This season, I’ve actually been able to lean on Nicole to help me with beginners at Open Water Swims! The transformation is inspiring!