“Everybody makes mistakes,
but I feel alright when I come undone…
You are not making me wait,
but it seems alright as long as something’s happening…”
James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem
Have you ever had a goal in mind, and then, for some reason, you just didn’t push hard enough to meet it?
Why does that happen?
That was my Saturday, and my performance at the Great London Swim.
I did my first ever 1 mile open water swim on Saturday. It was a gorgeous day, but just one of those days that didn’t go to plan.
The swim course, London ExCel Centre, 3 July 2010
There are lots of reasons why I might not have pushed. Bad pre-race nutrition. Travel the week before the race. Home late on Friday night from the airport. Not enough time putting myself in the “race zone” mentally.
But they are just excuses…
I was totally confident, as a mile is shorter than the main sets we swim on Tuesdays. I knew I could crack 30 minutes. I just needed to focus – to make sure I pulled hard, kept good form, and guided well. Not a problem.
Until my mind messed with me.
Something threw me off. I’m not quite sure what. But I hit the water and I just couldn’t push myself to get into the pain space. I just didn’t want to go where it hurt.
Instead, I just cruised it.
But wait, that alone should be cause for celebration, not trials and tribulations! One year ago I know I couldn’t have done one mile and said “god that was easy I didn’t even feel it!” – one year ago that course would have seemed like forever. And a mile.
A shiny new medal to add to the collection – and a new first, one mile. Done!
But this is this year. I finished my first ever one mile open water swim in 34.19. And I wasn’t happy.
For me, what matters is how I do relative to myself.
I have to keep reminding myself of this – it is too easy to get caught in the trap of comparing my own progress with others, especially on the run when so many of my club mates are super quick. So I focus on me versus me. My time might seem fast to you or slow to you, but what matters is that it was slow for me. I was disappointed in myself because I just didn’t push myself to go harder and I didn’t do as well as I know I could have.
I spoke with Coach T after the swim. After almost a year of working together I think he hit the nail on the head almost immediately…
Diagnosis: Trepidation when facing the unknown.
I think I just held back because I hadn’t done it before. At the Blenheim tri I pushed the swim hard – but it was my 5th time doing an open water 750m. I was confident enough to push it, even in an unfamiliar course. This time, although my 4th time in the Victoria Docks swimming open water, this was my 1st time at one-mile. I held back because I didn’t know what it would be like.
Getting comfortable with something new is clearly the way I perform best on race day. I knew this for Blenheim, it is why we rode the race course before racing.
But sometimes you can’t get comfortable with a course. Either you don’t have the time. Or the course isn’t open for access. You just have to trust that the training is there, and that the body will perform.
This is a huge challenge for me. It is all new. I have a body that I am pushing to perform. I have never really been confident that I could be strong. If anything, I grew up believing my body was broken. Feeling strong and comfortable, and trusting that I am, is all new. And it’s scary territory.
When we finished the swim and came home, I knew I still had energy in me. I went for a run after. How amazing is that? A year ago I couldn’t even really run, and this year I knocked out a comfortable 2.5km after swimming a mile and cycle commuting 20km. Unreal.
And then we went to Hyde Park to see LCD Soundsystem. Unbelievably good gig. Central London, open air, sun shining, great tunes, dancing the night away, jumping around like a loon, feeling strong, having fun. Amazing.
No time for Trials & Tribulations, just time to feel alright when it comes undone, as long as something is happening…
My friend Nick took this of me – Hyde Park, 3 July 2010. I think I look a bit insane!