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Swimming in the wind

It was late afternoon and I was watching a Law and Order rerun in preparation for my open water swim.

Unfortunately the satellite signal kept getting interrupted by the strong, gusty winds.

This, I thought, did not bode well for swimming in Lake Erie.

Still, it wasn't all bad news. The sun was out and the rain storms had blown through the area. Maybe at least there wouldn't be any dead fish in the water today.

Then my cell phone rang.

"There is no way you're getting in the water." It was Sherpa.

"Well, I can try it and get out."

"This wind is strong. I don't think you'll get to swim."

Well, maybe not, I thought, but I can try. As I drove over to the swim site I decided that I'd get in the water and at least play around (remember, this is supposed to fun in the first place) and if I couldn't get any "real" swimming done, I'd just go to the pool for a traditional workout later in the week.

The water was pretty choppy ... or bumpy as I like to call it. And, um, was that white cap I saw on that rolling wall of water?

The good news was I didn't see any dead fish and the water wasn't crashing over the breakwall. In fact, though I was uncertain of my actual swimming ability in these conditions, I wasn't afraid to get in the water and try. I didn't really whine. I didn't feel like I wanted to cry.

Heck, that was the victory.

Everything else was just a bonus.

I stayed on the short end of the wall, going 100 meters with the waves then 100 meters against the waves, albeit not continuously.

After my second set I thought about just hanging out in the waves for a while then getting out.

"You're already here," said Joe who was swimming with me. "You have the wetsuit on. You might as well do another."

And I knew he was right.

So another down and back and I went. Each time I felt more comfortable. Each time I took a few more strokes without having to stop.

That gave me 600 meters and some quality rough water experience.

Good enough, eh?

"You're doing that again," Joe said.

Big sigh.

OK. Let's go.

I swam the 100 meters with the waves continuously.

Now for the hard part -- against the waves.

I false started then got in the groove. It actually didn't feel so bad at all. The tiring part wasn't so much swimming against the waves as that it took me probably twice as many strokes to cover the same distance I would without the waves.

I felt good so I kept going, past the ladder. I wondered if I could make out to the end of the breakwall but then I turned to breath and got a mouth full of water and needed to stop and recover.

When I looked up at the markings on the wall I had gone 200 meters continuous against the waves.

Not bad considering a month ago I probably wouldn't have stepped in the water let alone tried to swim in it.

This is one of the reasons why I enjoy training with other people. Left to my own devices I would have swam the short distance twice and gotten out of the water. OK, back that up even further: Left to my own devices I would have stayed on the couch and watched another episode (or three) of Law and Order.

It's not about being lazy but about selling myself short. It's about thinking, "I can't do that" when in reality I have no idea if I can or can't until I try it. Having friends around to gently nudge me gets me out of my comfort zone. And if there's one thing I've learned through this whole triathlon experience is that some pretty cool stuff happens when you get outside your comfort zone.

In today's Olympic link of the day, check out this story in the Wall Street Journal about the plethora of specialty shoes designed for the Beijing Games. Apparently, Nike has rolled out specialty shoes for all 28 Olympic sports while Adidas has 27 (eschewing creating an equestrian model). So if you need a pair of new state-of-the-art badminton shoes, this is your year.

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