My athletes were a little hesitant but over the last few weeks, they all have completed the Open Water Swim. Once you complete the 1K...you get the honor of putting your signature on the wall (or ceiling) of Dr. Lucky's Pool area. He also gives you a patch and a bumper sticker to celebrate your accomplishment.
All my athletes had jumped this hurdle (some of them on their own the day after my knee surgery) except for one. Ethan..or as we call her "Ethee" has become a solid cyclist and runner over the last few weeks...but the water just isn't her strong event. She struggles with breathing and sometmes gets nervous just doing her workouts in the pool. Lucky's Lake was the ultimate challenge.
She had entered the lake on the weekend when I was not there but did not do the crossing. She made it to the first or second buoy and returned to the dock to cheer on her teammates. Today, it was my goal to help Ethee see that she could accomplish this goal....See it...Believe it...Achieve it!!
With over 200 people enter the water, my group hung back to give way to the super fast swimmers. We stepped onto the small beach and past the plaster alligators that Lucky has placed on next to his dock. A few of my athletes were a little unnerved by the reminder that...this is a Florida lake..you never know!!
Ethee and I enter the water together. She was wearing a SwimSafe belt (an floatation device that can be inflated if an emergency arises) provided by one of my more experience athletes and I promised her I would be with her the whole way. As we swam, she got into a rhythm of freestyle, breast stroke and floating on her back. My goal was simple for Ethee...to get her there and back.
We got to the same buoy she had turned at on her first attempt and she thought about returning to the dock. I told her that was simply not an option. Today was her day to complete this and we were going to do it..one stroke...one breath...one kick at a time. She made it to the third buoy and finally to the other side of the lake where we celebrated. She had completed half the distance and got a breather on the beach.
As we stared back to the other side, you could tell what she was thinking in this moment. "Can I make it?" "Do I try?" "Will I drown??" "Im 50..this is crazy!!" she told me. I should be swimming with a noodle (a foam flotation that some of the swimmers were using). I told her the only noodles she would be enjoying that day were over lunch and NOT in this lake. You can't use a noodle during the race..why would you use it here!
We started off back across the lake and she had moments of doubt and accomplishment cross her face. She was scared...and she was elated. It was absolutely amazing to watch this determined woman make this crossing. Each stroke got her closer to her goal.
As we approached the dock...you could her our team screaming her name. She looked at me and said "Now they are embarrassing me!!" I told her to be proud...its not everyday you face your fear and complete a goal!!! She came up on the beach and highfived me and another swimmer, Lynne who had been swimming with her coach Jane!! She had completed what she thought was impossible.
We took pictures of her signing the ceiling in Lucky's Pool area...and also with her new swimming buddy, Lynne!! I got in my car and I was very proud of Ethee...and her team of triathletes.
As I drove home, I contemplated the morning's events and realized that is was for moments like this that God has brought me to coaching. I certainly don't look like the typical Triathlon Coach but I understand what its like to be slow. I know what its like to finish last..but the point today was...Ethee had the guts to start...and finish!
In this downtime that my body requires from surgery and as I enter a new phase of self improvement, I am honored and humbled to have wonderful men and woman that call me coach and bless me with experiences like I had today. I have no aspirations of coaching elite athletes...but I do have aspirations of coaching those with more heart and drive than any olympian!
As I walked back to my car, I past a vehicle with three stickers on the back window: one was an Ironman logo, one was the word TRI and the final one was a famous quote in the world of endurance sports
The miracle isn't that I finished the race. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.--John Bingham
And that, my friends, is what my world is all about!!
As always...Ill keep you posted