Friday, December 28, 2012

There is a huge difference between Fear and Respect

"Be Strong Enough to Stand Alone, Be Yourself Enough to Stand Apart, But Be Wise Enough to Stand Together When the Time Comes"

Russian Winter Swimming Championships 2012 Dec 15/16th
The sun is slow to wake up.. This is 10 am


From a swimmer's view -What is there to fear in the Ice? I couldn't think of anything, well there were a few issues but they were more me than the Ice.

When it comes to swimming in the Ice, once the medical and preparations are solid the only thing left to fear is Pain. We can't fear pain, we can dislike it, but certainly we can't prevent pain from happening-
I have had enough of experience to draw from-I have enough places to go when I close my eyes, we can all visualise pain, we all know that intense burn will always stop.

The only unknown may be the way the body would react to the -25deg air temps when we exit the water, would the reheating be enough to bring us back for tomorrow? but these were unknowns rather than fears.

What was there to respect in the Ice? absolutely everything. You never take your eye of Mother Nature. Never. We had traveled four flights to Siberia, being physically under par, preparation not being ideal. Without doubt dehydrated, having just a few hours sleep, these were variables we couldn't change. It's so important to embrace new limits with excitement and not anxiety. Going somewhere in our bodies that we hadn't done before, pushing boundaries and mixing with new limits. That's just creating a new ball park. Nature in all it's power is there to be respected, never feared. You find strength in each swimmer's face-their concerns are yours, their dreams are yours, their physical abilities are yours and even though many are so far ahead in their achievements to yours, they respect you as all they want is everyone to be safe.

Friday lunchtime, it was so strange sitting in the restaurant in Siberia, having coffee with such a group of International swimmers, swimmers whose limits were galaxies beyond my own, who believed in themselves, their abilities, not in an elevated chesting testosterone sense of me amazon warrior, just in a calm calculating sense of juvenile excitement.
Self belief is how we move on. Trust is how we get there, trust in ourselves and others.We're capable of amazing things but it's only if we chose to go there.
All Flags stood firmly in the wind..


I often wonder how you could fear something that you have never experienced?  How can some create an obstacle that they may hurdle over like a professional athlete? Why make a mountain over a situation that just requires movement, step after step, arm over arm.

Fear of what? Is it Pain? Failure? need for approval?
Emotions are something that we should harness. For me many times in my life I was afraid-afraid of things that I thought would never stop. But they did.

Waking up in Tyumen Siberia to actually take part in the swimming championships caused us to break out in laughter. What else could you do?
When I left home, I went to my Doctor who rightly said "I can't tell you that you are fit to do swim in the Ice. I don't know how that is going to affect you"
"Can you tell me that at this moment that my ECG, my BP and my heart is ok?"
Done and dusted I left the office.

It's such a catch 22 wanting a medical and wishing I could avoid it. There were effects to the running and racing, I couldn't recall actually drinking water in 2 days but I did have lots of coffee as we traveled the 4 flights to Siberia from Ireland.My HR would be elevated, my heart was thumping in my chest and then I realised it was on the other side- Phantom pains.

The Russian doctor hooked wires up to my ankles and my wrists, indicated me to calm down and stared at the screen. Why was she staring? The damn computer was faced away from me. I handed my camera to Anne Marie to take a photo of something that I would never understand but if there was any problem I would at least have a photo. I tried to talk myself out of a negative result. Her eyes danced about the screen then the Doctor spoke in Russian to our translater Iryna, making signals with her hands, followed by a disgruntled look.

The pulse ox was 99%, my HR was 72-both were brilliant. My Blood Pressure was 120/80 which was exactly what it was when I left home. I was nearly there, still she stared at the screen. In typical Nuala style, I  edged my way forward and tried to see around the corner of the computer screen-as if I could figure out the images.

Irina translated.."The muscles of your heart are strong but there is a lot of activity, a lot of work in your heart" .. Ah well if that was all.. I knew that. My brain never stops, now was no time to explain the voices in my head. Big smiles and thumbs up I disconnected from the wires. I was cleared for take off.
Anne Marie, Noel and Padraig followed-a few giggles but we all made it under the radar.

Once back at the room, we packed for the following morning swim. The laughter, the childish roguish giggling, the sense of complete and utter insanity, or perceived insanity of the winter swimming championships.Towels, togs, thermals and goggles-there is such a deja vu.

I can't explain the excitement heading for the lake. The wow factor when we arrived to see hundreds of swimmers, organisers, overall party atmosphere. The cold was breath taking, the pool was cut from the ice, though the sun had yet to lift and brighten the day, the task seemed so doable. Out in the open without the protection of the buildings -25 deg air is quite challenging.

The ladies were only permitted to do 25m FS and BS and to be honest I had never done BS stroke before but with the relay that would 3 swims, 3 immersions and not one ounce of anything other than party atmosphere.
The opening cermony was brilliant, the music, the dancing. We danced to a rendition of "I'm sexy and I know it"

The fun-the one thing that was absent was pressure, which made our being here the winning post. Every swimmer, every supporter stood proud, though in the company of greatness there was such personal pride in both flag and country, in friendship and as more and more cameras clicked the essence of the Russian Swimming Championships was evident. Fun was here to be had-There was no place for fear-there was absolute place for respect and mostly there was total need for pride..
Let the games begin..


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