Around mile 4, I wanted to swim to the shore of the lake and get out.
The lake was choppy. Far choppier than anything I’d swum in before, and I started to feel sea (lake?) sick. Every time I raised my head to spot one of the giant orange buoys that bobbed in the lake, guiding the way, all I could see around me was grey swell accompanied by sheets of heavy rain.
With each tiring swim stroke, I mentally rehearsed the conversations I’d have with my family and friend, Laura—who I knew were waiting for me just a mile away at the other end of the lake—about the reasons why I’d chosen to stop swimming.
“Sometimes it’s just not your day.”
“The chop was too challenging for me.”
“My arms hurt too much. I got out to prevent an injury.”
I knew my family and friends would smile and nod and offer kind condolences and an arm around the shoulder, and yet something inside me kept on swimming.
Because I knew deep down, that this was not the day to swim to the shore and get out of the lake.
Not after a Winter of base training, charging up and down the pool timing how long it took for me to swim 200 and 400 metres. Not after all the lung bursting, eyeball popping training over the Summer that left me gasping for breath. Not after all the support and guidance from my friends (and swim coaches), Katie and Karen. Not after all the “No, thank yous” to that second glass of wine because I needed an early night ahead of a 6am swim session.
And most of all, not after rocking up at the local lake every weekend and crying into my goggles because I was so fucking scared of getting in, and yet somehow, over the Summer months, finding an almost peace with my fear.
The support boat, based at mile 4.5 was a welcome relief.
I knew from there, I had just under a kilometre to go.
One of the volunteers, a smiley lady, soaked through from hours and hours of handing drinks to tired swimmers in the rain, passed me a cup of water and shouted, “Not long to go now, you’re nearly there!”
I was nearly there.
Not just to the finish line.
But to the end of a goal I set last year.
A goal, that, despite pressing the ‘Pay now’ button on the website and telling people I’d signed up, felt pretty much impossible.
My friend, Josie, and I, on Saturday night after the race, full of beer and tired to our bones, both secretly admitted to each other that neither of us really thought we’d ever make it to the race. For different reasons. My admission based more on a lack of confidence that I could transform myself from rookie pool swimmer to strong lake swimmer in just over half a year.
And yet I did.
Because, really, anything is possible…
…and yet I’m also rolling my eyes here because haven’t we all had enough of the “Anything is possible!” shebang, especially when it’s coming from the mouth of someone doing their victory lap with a medal around their neck?
Along with “Anything is possible!”, there’s a lot of “Believe in yourself!” and “Always be positive!” and “Punch fear in the face!” advice out there on the Internet, and while I kind of buy into it, I also kind of mostly don’t.
For most of my training, I did not fully believe in myself. I was unsure and at times, massively overwhelmed by what I’d signed myself up for. I remember doing the sums of exactly how many lengths of my local 25 metre swimming pool I’d have to swim to cover 5.25 miles, and wanting to cry.
For most of my training, I found it hard to always be positive. Sometimes my training was boring. And mostly really hard. And very lonely, having found zero people to swim with, or share my training with, here in Germany. To be completely frank, the only thing that got me through most sessions was my own personal bribe of buying myself a takeaway Indian curry on the way home from the pool.
For most of my training I could not muster any “Punch fear in the face!” bravado. I was freaked out by the big fish in the lake, and my even bigger irrational thoughts of what was below, and the closest I got to punching fear in the face was a slight flick to the nose. I was scared most of the time. Yes, the fear waned slightly as the Summer went on, but I could not punch the fear away. It was there and I had to learn to swim through it.
Do you know what got me through? Massive consistency, discipline and effort.
And none of those things sound remotely inspiring or drum-bangingly motivational enough to make into an all caps quote layered on a mountain top background for Instagram do they?
No-one wants to see hashtag consistency, discipline and effort at the end of an ‘inspirational’ tweet do they?
Consistency, discipline and effort are boring.
There’s nothing particularly exciting or interesting about going to the pool 4 times a week and putting yourself through your paces.
There’s nothing particularly exciting or interesting about analysing lap times.
There’s nothing particularly exciting or interesting about training plans and swim drills and learning new swimming techniques.
At 5.25 miles, as I stood up—legs like jelly—from the lake, after 3 hours and 12 minutes of swimming, it was consistency, discipline and effort that ran through my veins as I was clapped over the finishing line.
And it was worth it. All of it.
Swimming 5.25 miles in a lake that was not the easiest lake to swim in has taught me so many things. But most of all, it was the training that taught me everything.
It was the day-in, day-out training that strengthened not only my physical muscles, but my emotional muscles, so that at mile 4, when I wanted to get out of the lake, I didn’t. Because I’d learned to endure some really challenging swim sessions in the pool.
And on race day, when everything matters, the only thing that really matters is the consistency, discipline and effort it took for you to get there.