"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933
Fear is what got me into the pool this morning.
The thing that frightens me the most about triathlons is the start. Looking out at a long row of buoys, bobbing in rough water, stretching out past the horizon, disappearing into mist, it seems impossibly long and difficult and frankly scares me to death. No one could actually swim that far, my mind tells me. I don't know why, but that sight instills panic into my soul. And it happens right at the beginning of every triathlon.
It's like the start of the 2001 Marine Corps Marathon, when I saw the Capitol Dome from the start at the Iwo Jima statue in Arlington, Virginia. If you look way, way out to the horizon, you can see the Capitol dome as a small white bump above all the rest, far, far away in the center of the District of Columbia. I knew that day, in order to finish the marathon, I would have to not only travel on my own two feet all the way around that dome and back, but miles more besides. It just seemed too impossibly hard. And I felt fear.
Fortunately, on that day and others, I have been able to talk sense into my panicking, primitive brain. I remind it that I am well-trained, and all I have to do is set out on the course, and take it one step at a time, and the day will unfold and eventually I will get through and finish the marathon course. And I did.
And so when I wade into the lake water at the Columbia Olympic-distance triathlon on May 22nd, or into the Choptank River at the Eagleman Half Ironman on June 12th, I will be talking away that panicky feeling and telling myself to take it one stroke at a time and let the day unfold as it will.
But in order to earn the right to do that, and to have the confidence to tell myself on that day that I'm well-prepared, I have to train. I have to train a LOT.
So that fear is what got me up at 5:30AM this morning, and out into the cold wintery weather and into the pool. Fear is what got me to do 35 laps, over a mile distance and farther than I've swum in years.
And if I keep doing it, one day I'll conquer that unreasoning terror, wade out into the unknown, and swim.