Saturday, August 7, 2010

Great White Shark attacks Triathlete Swimmer in Narragansett Bay

Ok...Ok.  That claim is completely false.  But it has been on my mind for the last week or so since there was a great white shark sighted off the coast of Westport, MA.  Just a short swim from Narrangansett Bay where I will be swimming next week.  I mean those things can swim pretty fast.  Who's to say it's not going to pop in for a little visit?

Something very odd has happened to me in the last few years.  I have actually become...I even hate to say the word...afraid.  Afraid of open - water swimming.  There.  I said it.

The fear of open - water swimming is pretty common.  And by open - water, I mean out in the ocean.  Not the bay or a lake or pond.  To a body of water connected directly to the Atlantic or some other ocean. 

The thing is, I used to love getting out there. I love the sea and everything that goes along with it.  I lifeguarded at the ocean as a teenager and would swim a good quarter mile out just for fun, splash around and swim back in.  I grew up spending summers  at my grandmother's house on the beach in Westport, MA (yes...the very place of the recent sightings) paddling about without a care in the world.  I would even sometimes swim for distance way out, goggles on, parallel to the shore and see the fish darting about along the ocean floor and sometimes feel them nibble at my toes (I think it was the silver toe ring - all the rage back then). I felt like I was one with the ocean.  Peaceful. Nothing but my own breath through the water and the sounds of my own limbs stroking through the peaceful silence.

Then I got a little older.  And I noticed something.  Now when I saw the fish swim around below me, I started to think..."Hmmm.  I wonder if there is a bigger fish chasing that little fish that I should be worried about."  Then a little while later, I watched an episode featured on Shark Week. Big mistake.  Now instead of worrying about big fish chasing little fish, I am now worried about big sharks chasing little fish...or people. 

Fast forward to the present. Here I am getting nervous about the open-water swim that I am doing as part of a relay team with my husband and his brother next Saturday.  I do the half-mile swim, my husband does the 12 mile bike and his brother does the 3 mile run.

Nervous because I don't think I've done a swim workout since the last triathlon we did two years ago (last year I just had a baby - like I need to justify). But mainly nervous because of this whole shark sighting thing this week...and ironically, it's Shark Week on Discovery Channel. You catch my drift. 

So I say to my husband, Ray, this morning, "I am a little worried about the open water swim with the shark sighting and everything."  Ray, "No worries.  With all that commotion, there won't be any sharks." Me, "Or, with all that commotion, the shark will think it's a feeding frenzy." Ray, *Chuckle* "I guess you have a point."  WAAAANNNH. WRONG ANSWER!!! But you have to know my husband.  He is honest.  To a fault.  Obviously. 

 I let it go.  But my fear of a great white shark lurking in the Narragansett Bay is completely unfounded.  Right?  Turns out it is actually quite possible. Ah. We live in the digital age.  Of course, I've done a little research.  Turns out there was a 14 footer in a salt pond, yes - a salt pond, in Cape Cod in 2004.  Narrangansett Bay is way more hospitable for a shark than a salt pond.  More room to roam.  More fish. More tasty humans. 

I also know, based on a little research, that most shark attacks do occur when people are riding boogie boards, surf boards or are wearing wet suits.  None of those factors apply to me.  I won't be using a boogie board (but I surely might need one).  I don't mind the water this time of year. It's actually quite warm.  So - no wet suit.  I'm golden.

It's a mental thing.  I have actually discovered that most challenging situations in life do require mental strength.  This shape-up challenge requires my mental strength in knowing that I will get better every day and achieve better personal results.  This open swim requires me just to do what I need to do and swim. 

Mental toughness. Commitment.  Humility.  Personal Goals.  Get them all together and you pretty much guarantee success on some level.  It's something that I see in action when I go to CrossFit to do my workouts.It's actually a perfect fit with what I have going on. So I know I can do this open water swim.

And I will stay away from the swimmers in wet suits.  Just in case.

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