Lessons learnt

The clock is ticking, once again.
Less than three weeks to go until I attempt to swim the Moloka’i Channel. My training has not gone to plan, but I’m in a good place.
I have been on a journey of physical and mental preparedness, including exploring “fear of failure” and what I can learn from it. Let’s face it, what I’m doing is a significant challenge. Few people have successfully done it. To ask myself: “can I swim 42km across the ocean in big swell” seems ridiculous. Like being asked “can you eat the elephant that’s standing in front of you?”.. as we know, the answer is “I don’t know… but I’ll take it one bite (one feed) at a time”. Fear is good, the feat is deserving of respect and nerves, but unfettered fear can become infectious, it can seize you like a low grade fever. I have generally succeeded at everything to which I have applied myself and I while I seek to succeed again, I have to accept that I might not.
So what have I learnt?
1. I can’t train my way out of fear of failure. There is a voice that says “you don’t swim fast enough, you don’t swim far enough”, that constantly draws comparison to faster swimmers with whom I train. Over the Xmas and New Year period, I probably overtrained, particularly in open water, leading to a shoulder injury (torn labral cartilage for those of you who are interested) that has caused me physical and psychological problems since then.
2. I can’t think my way out of fear of failure. A friend, Dan, described it as “trying to wipe a stain off the wall with a dirty cloth”. Vlad tells me your mind is your engine, but thinking can break you. What a dichotomy! Trying to analyse my way out of fear of failure has twice led to me mentally tho rowing in the towel during a swim, and aborting my plans to swim Moloka’i. Firstly in a swim from Bondi to Maroubra and back and again, a week later during the Rottnest Channel swim. I have read that the only bad swim is one from which you learn nothing and in both cases I learnt that despite being broken psychologically, the drive to complete the challenge is strong. It is important for me to achieve a meditative state while swimming long distance. To be inside my own head for 8, 10, 12, 15 hours is not conducive to fighting through pain and fatigue, and when I over think I cannot escape.
3. So, the natural conclusion (I say natural, it actually took a meeting with a sport psychologist to reach this conclusion) is that as I can’t train my way out of it, nor can I think my way out of it, I need to embrace it. Why am I doing this swim? Because I love open water swimming. Do I expect to enjoy every moment? Certainly not. Is it a challenge? Hell yeah! The purpose of endurance sport is to find my limit, find my breaking point.
The last couple of weeks have been good. I have been enjoying my swimming, I am following the advice of Vlad “smile and be happy”. I am focusing on visualising the beginning and the end of the swim and how not to worry about the middle.
Last weekend was my last big swim before the luxury of tapering and eating without guilt! Originally the plan had been to take on an adventure swim, Manly to Bondi return the weekend before this. 40kmh southerly winds put the end to that. I needed a win, not a challenge that was unachievable and possibly unsafe. So last weekend, Dean and I set off for an 8 hour swim off Bondi. The 4 metre swell proved a bit unsafe for kayaking into shore, so after 3 hours of support from Dan we were on our own, completing a total of 5 1/2 hours. Not the 8 hours I’d planned, but it was the best swim I’ve had in years and has left me feeling ready for my swim. The conditions were similar to what I’m expecting in Moloka’i, with a big swell, with sets of 6-8 metres coming through. The feeling of swimming effortlessly through huge swell, beyond headlands, watching it smash on cliffs… amazing. This is why I swim.
So, where am I now? Only 2 weeks until we get to Waikiki, one week of acclimatising, battling jet lag and then my window opens on April 3… I’m excited!

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