I’d forgotten how truly important it is to have people who inspire you to be more than you currently are. Simply to complete the Cap2K (www.cap2k.com) in reasonably good form will require a lot of work, and the physical training is just the groundwork for the mental preparation that enables normal people to wake up early on a Saturday morning, throw themselves into 69 degree water in the middle of an urban river, surrounded by a few hundred other swimmers, and race two kilometers just to be able to say “I did it”. Up until today, it has been a more or less solitary pursuit for me, but I learned today that won’t get me where I want to go.
My training is going well. My swimming is progressively stronger, and technically improved. But even though I have a lot of energy lately, I could feel myself gradually not wanting to go swim this morning while at work. Don’t know why. That’s pretty normal in any sport, and just like in running I figured I needed to just push through it and I’d feel better afterwards. Besides, there are only slightly over five weeks left to prepare myself for the race, so it’s not like I have a lot of opportunity to waste. I considered calling a friend who is also doing the race for encouragement, but realized that I was just shifting the burden onto someone else’s shoulders. So I sat in my car a moment, and thought about what I expected to receive from this friend, and why I needed to look outside of myself for that. And that is when I realized that if this person were sitting next to me in the car, I wouldn’t even consider not swimming, that I’d in fact be eager to get out and work hard. I wouldn’t have felt that way if it had been a friend from work, or a family member. But it was a person like myself, who understood why I needed to prepare for the race, why I needed to race at all, and who would understand precisely the same things if I were considering going running or entering a writing competition. I don’t need someone else to tell me that I should go swim, but I do need someone else who reminds me that it’s ok to be like that, to want to push yourself to swim or run or learn something new even when you don’t feel like it. People who aren’t like that can never understand.
I returned to work from my swim exactly as expected: it was a fantastic swim, much better, stronger, faster than the day before, which itself was better than the one before that. I immediately made plans for my first cold-water open water practice tomorrow at Barton Springs, although I was completely aware that once the endorphins wore off I might begin to think more conservatively. But everyone at work was supportive in the way that only truly non-athletic people can be. “Oh, that’s nice” said one, and “I can’t believe you went swimming at lunch instead of eating” said another. I’m ok with all of that, because first, I don’t need a cheering section, and second, these are people who are so far from envisioning themselves doing any form of exercise that it is like explaining an apple to a carrot. They are fine with me out there doing my thing, as long as I am fine with never, ever asking them to participate.
And then I got home and shared my plan for tomorrow with my wife. For those of you who know my outspoken wife, the following will come as no shock to you. She probably means no harm. And it is an accepted fact around here that I am going to do whatever I want to do anyway, so I think sometimes people say stupid things to me just to see if they’ll get a reaction. But just the same, when I let her know I’d be getting up early to go swim at Barton Springs, her only comment was “you know there’s no chance you’re going to win this race, right?” I am not sure if it would be possible to encapsulate a deeper misunderstanding of that part of a person who wants to get up before 6 am on his day off and go train for a race than my wife did in that short comment. People who aren’t like that can never understand.