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My first open water swim: Am I having a panic attack?

Everything started out well for me on Saturday--I got a good night's sleep, had my bag packed and ready to go for practice in Coney Island, and I arrived there at 7 a.m. before anyone else! I was psyched to be back to training with my triathlon teammates and really excited for this first open water swim. I was suiting up and getting ready to get in the water, I started to get nervous. Our swim coach had swam out to a point in the water in which we'd go around him for a few warm-up laps, and as I saw how far out into the dark, cold water he was, it hit me what I was about to do. I have always had a fear of open water, or being out at sea all by myself, so doing this triathlon was partly a reason to overcome this (knowing you're in the water with hundreds of other people doing the same thing seemed comforting at the time I signed up), but now I was feeling like maybe I couldn't do this after all.

After a few laps and trying to figure out how to get used to the clinginess of my wetsuit (Was this was all in my head? Was my fear of the open water actually making me feel suffocated?) I swam to the shore for a breather. I needed to calm myself down and get my head back in the game. I knew how to do this, I kept reminding myself. I could do this. I tried again a few times and completed some more laps with everyone else, but the fear of the dark Coney Island water scared me from putting my head underneath. (Is this how it will be in the Hudson River too?
) I was told that swimming with your head above water could take a lot of energy out of you--when you swim like this the back of your body (my waist and legs) would sink down as I was struggling to keep the front of my body up. This was definitely true, and the feeling of suffocation and having no energy overwhelmed me again. I was a little disappointed in myself for letting my fear get in the way.

Hopefully, I'll be more prepared for my second, and last, open water swim before my race. Even though my swim didn't go so well on Saturday, my 4-mile run afterwards felt great. If I take time focusing on getting through my swim down the Hudson, I can always make up for it with my run at the end. I've realized it's best to think positive with these type of challenges--this isn't just a physical one, it's more of a mental one for me. Practice ended well...a famous Nathan's hot dog definitely made my day. Check out our Coney Island pics--Sharon, my friend and our Health & Nutrition Editor, is training with me too!

The line out to the shore extended forever--Team in Training travels in hundreds!

In our wetsuits before the big swim--Sharon & I and our two friends at Health magazine!

Before I braved the waters...

No rules apply after experiencing this practice. This Nathan's treat, at 10 a.m., was definitely necessary!


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