...is fear itself."
Nice thought, Mr. Roosevelt. If only it were that easy! Most of us have other fears--rational (our kids' health) or irrational (monsters in the closet.)
The Engineer has never been the fearful sort. So when he did his first triathlon in May, he was shocked to discover that he feared open-water swimming. He got through the lake swimming portion of the race, but it was completely different than swimming in a pool. Murky water, a slight current, other swimmers bumping into him...it all made for a frightening experience.
A couple of months later he entered a more casual race at a smaller lake and, as soon as he started, he had the same experience--fast breathing and a pounding heart, bumping into other swimmers, and every stroke telling him, "This is too scary." He decided not to finish the race, and he came to me, disappointed in himself, saying, "Maybe open water swimming just isn't for me. Maybe I'll keep training, but won't do triathlons."
I disagreed. "I think you're just finding something athletic that's difficult for you, for the first time in your life," I told him. He nodded, and decided to keep trying.
The Engineer likes to do engineerish things, so he tackled the phobia in an organized manner. He did some searching and found a book online with detailed, specific instructions on how to swim in open water. He ordered it, and started watching online videos made by the author of the book. When we visited his parents recently, he visited a lake in their area four times, swimming in the cool, gentle waves.
And something amazing happened. His fear went away. When we came home, he found a couple of other opportunities to practice at a small lake, and yesterday was the real test--triathlon number two.
He did great. No longer is the cold, murky water a shock to his senses and his psyche. It doesn't bother him when he and other racers inevitably bump into each other. He started his triathlon training with nothing more than a summer of swimming lessons under his belt, and now he can easily swim 700 meters (.43 miles) in a race, and two or three times that distance on training days, with breaks.
Maybe FDR was right. It wasn't the open water swimming that was holding The Engineer back. It was the fear. I'm very proud of him for conquering it.