Thursday, April 13, 2006


I’m afraid of the water.

That’s a pretty darn serious impediment to doing a triathlon, whose first discipline is swimming.

Have you ever read Stevie Smith’s poem, “Not Waving but Drowning”? I have her Selected Poems, and I can aver that “Not Waving” is by far her best:

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Whatever this poem’s relevance to my life in general (and it has some, as it no doubt has to many others’, hence its persistent popularity over the years), it’s certainly relevant to my fear of water.

Over the years I’ve tried various approaches. I took a ten-lesson Adult Learn to Swim programme at the local municipal pool, but aside from being able to thrash a length in a semblance of front (“Australian”) crawl, I didn’t learn much else.

What I like to say is that I’m uncomfortable in the water. This discomfort leads to poor technique (particularly related to breathing), which leads to further discomfort, which doesn’t help my technique.

Last fall I found Aquaphobia, basically a one-on-one programme by Kelvin Landolt, the principal of Oannes Swims. Coach Kelvin has done a great job—so far—but my … discomfort remains in a few, difficult corners. With Kelvin I’ve done things I’d’ve thought were inconceivable: diving to the bottom of the pool, comfortably treading water, and more. But …

For weeks now I’ve been bringing my swimming stuff to work, the notion being that I’ll walk over to the University Settlement Recreation Centre and do drills and lengths, as Coach Kelvin has instructed me. Not once have I gone.

Every day I have some excuse. Yesterday I willed myself to go. I was ready to go, willing. But “something came up”, and by the time that something had gone down, it was 13:20, and by the time I would’ve walked over, paid at the cashier, and changed it would have been too late to start. (Lane hours end at 14:00.)

Every time I will myself to go, but fail to go, I reinforce that discomfort.

Solutions? A psychiatrist told me that the only way to get over the fear was just to go.

Hm. That solution wasn’t working so far.

I will go swimming—just not by myself. So I think my solution is to go with someone: my friend, colleague, and would-be Ironman coach, John; with my significant other, Mona; or with my daughter, Liz. Mona’s already agreed. All I have to do is schedule it.

I’ll keep you posted!


Blogger monado said...

Now you can look back and see the progress that you've made. All it took was courage, determination, time, and money.

7:23 a.m.  

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