Saturday, November 10, 2012
Last month, I was in Kailua-Kona HawaiÌi to watch my husband Joe race in the Ironman World Championships. We took two of our children along and had a great experience. One of my favorite moments was when 17 year old Elise and I swam in the Pacific, on the Ironman swim course. If you read the second book in my series, The Competitor in Me II: Conquer Fear, you’ll remember how fear ran me over at this very same venue just last year. The water was rough, I was over tired, and so fear easily took over. I just couldn’t make that swim out to the floating coffee bar.
Afterwards, I thought about it all year. This year, I was determined not to give in to fear, no matter how rough the water might be or how tired I was from our flight the day before. Elise grew up a competitive swimmer, so the only worry I had about her was to be able to keep up! I was so looking forward to conquering my fears and being able to share it with Elise.
There we were, our toes in the sands of Dig Me Beach, when Elise became very nervous. I tried assuring her that the waves crashing on the other end of the bay will not be crashing on us, but my lifeguard swimmer wasn’t buying it, at least not from me. Just then, a 20-something woman came up to us and smiled at Elise.
“I am not doing the race, but I’ve been swimming here all week. I was a high school swimmer, too. You will be fine. Want to swim out there together?” That is the spirit of this place during race week.
It was all Elise needed to get in the water and go for it. My only job was once again trying to keep up with both of them. It was work, as I was pushed around like never before. I stopped a few times to see where Elise was and we would make eye contact. I would grin at her and she would be shouting near-profanities at me for getting her in the water. Best to keep swimming.
Once we arrived at the floating coffee bar, the three of us talked about the swells. Elise was still complaining to me. I reminded her that I swam out here, and I don’t even drink coffee. She persisted as only a teenager can do. As I held my little cup of 50% cream/50% Kona coffee, I grinned at her and said, “You’re out of your box and you know it!” Elise couldn’t help but make a face of acknowledgment. “And, I’m out of my box for sharing coffee with you.” I winked.
Our friend was going to continue on swimming, so Elise and I headed back to the beach together. Every once in a while, I would look up to check on Elise. Of course she was ahead of me, on course, despite the incredible swells that day. In fact, later that day, a long-time Kona athlete told me he thought this was the roughest water he’s ever experienced. Elise had physically powered through it like nothing.
It didn’t occur to me until we returned to Dig Me Beach that I had no fear of what I just did. Amazing! I grinned again.
“You did it!”
“I know you will be Facebook-proud.” I chided.
“Whatever.” She noticed my perma-grin. “Why are you smiling like that?”
“I kicked my fear of that experience right out the door. Last year, I could barely get out there and swim because of fear. Today, I was so focused on you and your fears, it made me completely forget my fears. When I focus on encouraging others, I am so much stronger.”
Elise’s complaints were slowing down.
I assured her that in a few months, when she’s sitting in her desk at school on a bleak Wisconsin winter day, she will be grinning, too.