Remember when I foolishly confessed that I was thinking about doing a supersprint triathlon in September? Well, unlike that whole “writing a book” endeavor (progress to date: NEGATIVE TEN PAGES), I’m sort of inching forward towards that goal in that I actually signed up for swimming classes.

My first class was on Monday evening and I spent the entire day freaking out about it. Here is a partial list of the things that I was worried about:

• Not being able to find the locker room
• Getting undressed in front of straaaaaaannggerrrrrs
• Not knowing what, if any, footwear to wear between the locker room and the pool, like should I do flip flops or those gaylord Nike water shoes or some Lucite heels or WHAT
• That my ancient, now-too-big Miracle Suit would spontaneously perform the Miracle of Falling Right The Hell Off My Shoulders, Thus Exposing My Sad Post-Baby Hooters For The Horror Of All
• Having some Michael Phelps motherfucker observe me tiptoeing over to the Adult Beginner Swim Class and issue forth a loud Nelson-esque laugh at my shame.

Oh and also the swim cap. Jesus, the swim cap. I don’t know why I got so fixated on that little detail but I became convinced it was going to be this humiliating, insurmountable challenge to get the damn thing on my head, like I’d be in the locker room grunting and heaving and eventually collapsing unconscious on the floor in a puddle of my own urine or something, the cap still only halfway stretched across my scalp.

I posted something on Twitter about it, like oh my god you guys what if I can’t get the swim cap on, and people were very kind and no one called me a chickenheaded dumbass but they DID proceed to terrify me further by offering all sorts of exotic and conflicting advice. Get your hair wet, leave it dry, use baby powder, use leave-in conditioner, put water in the cap, wear your hair in ponytail, wear it down, wear TWO caps at once . . . I pictured myself staggering towards the pool, slicked with oil and sprinkled with powder, half-wet, a second cap dangling from one ear. Cue Phelpsian mocker: HA ha!

Kakaty’s suggestion made my day, though. She innocently sent along a link to a video she described as kind of weird, but showed someone putting on a cap, and I dutifully scrutinized it for technique. Wow, I thought. How cool that someone put up an informative little lesson in donning a swim cap, isn’t the Internet useful? It wasn’t until the end when the camera subject did a strange little come-hither twirl that I went, waaaaaait a minute. Then I looked at the comments. And the profile for the video owner. And back to the comments, one from “swimcaplover”.

OH MY GOD I WAS WATCHING A FETISH VIDEO.

So, you know, there was that to worry about too. Not only that I’d have this awful time getting the goddamned cap on, but that someone somewhere would be observing, possibly through a carefully drilled hole in the wall, and furiously whacking off over the whole thing.

ANYWAY. As it turned out, everything was fine. My suit held up, I found the locker room, the cap went on with minimal struggle, if any creepy cap-fetish dudes were nearby I was blissfully unaware of their presence, and no one pointed and laughed. The class was divided into a few people like me who know how to swim but need refresher lessons, and a bunch of folks who had never been wet before, and the lesson passed in a flash. I even stayed afterwards and flailed my way up and down the lane a few times, feeling nearly giddy about the fact that for the first time in my life I was doing LAPS. Sure, I had terrible form and I couldn’t figure out how to turn my head to breathe without water shooting up my nose and I had to keep stopping to sort of tread water and gasp, but I was SWIMMING. Rocky theme!

This weekend there is a triathlon class involving an open water clinic, and I keep browsing back to the registration page and hyperventilating a little. If you thought the swim cap fear sounded stupid that doesn’t even compare to my issues with open water swimming, which include, but are not limited to, large partially submerged objects, fish, and Lake Slime. I don’t know if a swimsuit will be okay (it’s hot as hell in Seattle right now but Lake Washington is cooooold) and I don’t know if I can swim well enough yet to even participate in this class and I am particularly concerned with the possibility, HOWEVER REMOTE, that there may be a submarine in the water (a surfacing one) (with water pouring over its sides . . . GAH GAH GAH) and if that’s the case then I will simply DIE OF FRIGHT, but I am trying to psyche myself up to sign up anyway.

It seems like there’s a lesson I should be learning about how things are rarely as bad as I tend to think they’re going to be, but then again, oh my god maybe I am going to be eaten by a MASTURBATING SHARK RIDING A NUCLEAR SUB if I do this thing. If I wasn’t the one worrying about these things, who would?

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susie
susie
13 years ago

…swimcap fetish..? what the..? um.

.
.
.
nonplussed.

Crystal D
13 years ago

Oh Lordy, I am peeing my pants over the swim lesson post. You have to do this Triathlon because I can only imagine the post where you get into the open water.

Leslie
Leslie
13 years ago

I can so relate to the overreacting to new situations. I call it “being prepared” while my husband calls it “being obsessive” :)

Congrats on committing to a triathlon. I’ve done one sprint and it was totally Murphy’s Law but my hubby loved it so much (we did it together) that he has gone on to the 1/2 Iron level.
If I can share one tip on the swim it would be this… if you can wear a wetsuit during the actual race, then train in open water in the wetsuit too. It will really help you get comfortable with the buoyancy the suit gives you.

Plus it means less places on your body the “lake slime” can touch.

Best of luck on the training – you can totally do it :)

Kristen
Kristen
13 years ago

WTF? Swim cap fetish? Seriously, WHAT?

Brenna
Brenna
13 years ago

You’re such an inspiration. Even when you’re scared of stuff, you go ahead and do it anyway. I recently started lap swimming, and OH THE TERROR I had the first time I went. I thought everyone would be 23, skinny, and tanned, and that they would all be snickering behind my back. But of course they weren’t, and didn’t, and everyone was friendly and I wasn’t the fattest or oldest person there, by far.

And for the breathing thing, what works for me is: Exhale a steady stream of bubbles through your nose while you’re swimming, but only (only only ONLY) breath IN through your mouth.

Michelle
13 years ago

So did you go with the Lucite heels?

Haitian American Family of Three

Dude. It is SO HOT HERE. Lake WA sounds great right now.

Nicole
13 years ago

:puts on instructor-trainer swim cap:

So the breathing thing. You know when you put a cup upside down in a sink of water and there’s that air bubble in the top? And then you turn the cup sideways and it burps and fills with water? That’s what your mouth/nose does when you roll onto your side to breathe (assuming you’re doing front crawl).

Underwater, keep your mouth shut and blow bubbles through your nose – try humming with your mouth shut (it works) – even when you’re rolling to breathe. When your mouth clears the water open and take a breath.

Oh and try not to lift your head to breathe – roll onto your side instead. When you lift your head, your feet sink.

Rebecca (Bearca)
13 years ago

I am a former, mostly-retired competitive swimmer and it is SO GREAT that you are doing this! A lot of adults are freaked out about swimming in general, and open water swimming in particular. Swimming is fantastic for your body and your endurance and is very easy on your joints. So YAY for you!

Also, I second Brenna’s suggestion on breathing. It’s very helpful to exhale while your face is submerged, so when you turn to breathe all you have to do is inhale.

Good luck, Linda. You’ll do great.

Robin
Robin
13 years ago

Gaylord! Too funny. I haven’t heard that in forever.

Amy M.
Amy M.
13 years ago

Swimcap fetish?!?!?! People are so weird.

I second the wetsuit suggestion. I’ve never been open-water swimming (on purpose), but I’ve been white-water rafting (hence the ‘on purpose’) & the wetsuit helps a lot in the cold water. Especially rafting in the spring – brrr!

Lauren
13 years ago

I still get freaked out about swimming in lakes, submerged stuff and millfoil waving at you….but really, you’ll be fine. Just try to stay calm and not hyperventilate. A wetsuit helps a lot, keeps you buoyant and warm. You can rent one here: http://www.everydayathlete.us, they’re very cool.

BellyGirl
13 years ago

You = fabulous for doing swim lessons.

If I were you, I’d wait to do the open water swim clinic until you get your pool chops a bit. It’s a lot less intimidating to try to be all coordinated and breathe and kick and shit when you can put your feet down on the bottom of the tiled pool floor. Not so awesome when you are in the middle of a lake.

Mary
Mary
13 years ago

Your forgot to mention those creep-tastic underwater zombies in the new Harry Potter movie that snatch up and drag away human beings with such a startling swiftness that I nearly jumped out of my skin right there in cinema 12. I’d be afraid of those guys too. (Wait, not helping. Nevermind.)

Leigh
13 years ago

Wetsuit for sure!!

vague
13 years ago

You are hilarious. I completely understand, though. I wish I could tell you how much fretting went into me psyching myself up for a frakking YOGA CLASS but I don’t want to completely embarrass myself. Well. One little tidbit: my irrational fear? Farting audibly in class. Sigh.

Accidental Olympian
13 years ago

Yeah… hate to break it to you, but last summer I actually lost a friend to a masturbating shark riding a nuclear sub in Lake WA. I still can’t go anywhere near that damn lake…

Jennifer D
Jennifer D
13 years ago

Submarines freak me the fuck out!

Jen
Jen
13 years ago

Yay for you! I’m a huge fan of finding experts to help you with stuff, so I’m pleased that my world view has been validated by your good experience with the class. :) I might second the suggestion above that you hold off a bit on the open water clinic until you feel just a bit more confident with lap swimming, but it depends on what sort of safety net (as it were) is in place there at the lake. And definitely get a wet suit!

Courtney
13 years ago

I was on the swim team as a kid and through high school, and my parents owned a boat and now a place at the lake. Staring at a clean pool bottom for so long has lead me to damn near hyperventilate when swimming with goggles in a lake or ocean. ME! The distance swimmer!!! There is just… stuff down there… often covered in slimy green…stuff. Yucky!

I will add I’ve never noticed a submarine though!

Kirida
Kirida
13 years ago

After watching that dolphin bj video, I would believe anything.

Allison
Allison
13 years ago

Dude, I would totally recommend doing the clinic, just so you get a feel for swimming in open water. Just like running on a treadmill is different from running outside, swimming in a pool is different from swimming in open water! When I did a supersprint triathlon and jumped into Sydney Harbour, MY GOD, the current! Might be a little different in a lake though.

OH and Linda, here’s a tip: When you do the swim portion of the tri, make sure you’re at the front/in front of everyone else when you’re about to kick off. I stayed towards the back the first time, and the waves coming back from everyone kicking in front of me were pushing me back and making me work even harder.

Loved this post, made me laugh :)

Renee
Renee
13 years ago

haha, masturbating sharks.

Annabelle
13 years ago

God, people in the airportare lookingat me very strangely as I gasp with laughter, tears streaming down my face. You crack my shit up. I’m bummed I had fangirl-nervousness at Blogher and was only able to approach you because I had Ezra and I figured I would be less scary and you wouldn’t run away from Sir Cuteness.

Anyway, you rule. Sorry about the fly-by hugging.

Trish
Trish
13 years ago

You can actually rent wetsuits online for open water swims, full length and bib styles. They help you be more buoyant, which is nice! I would wear a bikini bottom and sports bra underneath and as you run out of the water you start to peel off the wetsuit. It helps get it off more easily if you put petroleum jelly or that stuff runners use on their thighs (name escapes) around your wrists and ankles. Have your biking/running stuff all laid out and get it on as fast as you can before taking off on your bike! Just leave the bikini bottom on like underwear underneath.

danielle
danielle
13 years ago

If the swimcap fetish creeps you out, don’t ever do a search for “socks” on ebay. wow.

ginger
ginger
13 years ago

Mmm. Rental clothing that people might have worn without underwear. MMMM. I am pretty sure you can find something to worry about there. Also I can say with confidence that Lucite heels don’t go with a wetsuit, or if they do it’s in another one of those videos on Youtube.

I am distracted by trying to imagine what a nuclear submarine would be doing in Lake Washington, with its maximum depth of 70-odd metres. Scraping along the bottom, I guess. Looking at wrecks, maybe? There are wrecks (see: http://tinyurl.com/nkhfbv). They’re on the bottom, where you really shouldn’t be unless something has gone terribly wrong with the swimming.

Sunny
Sunny
13 years ago

Masturbating shark driving a hydroplane…isn’t it Seafair this weekend?

warcrygirl
13 years ago

Captain Destructo is on the local swim team again this summer and we put his cap on this way: He olds one side of it against his forehead exactly where he wants the edge to go and I quickly pull the rest of the cap over his head in one fluid motion. I’ve seen the wet method and the dry method but this one works for us.

Brenna
13 years ago

I had the same revelation when I checked out the profiles and “Favorites” of people who kept subscribing to my videos after I’d posted a few, fully-clothed, baby movement belly clips. There are actually folk who get off on hairy, overweight men grunting while rubbing their fopas.

Jenn
Jenn
13 years ago

“That stuff runners use” that Trish is looking for is Body Glide and it totally ROCKS.

Swistle
13 years ago

OMG, WATER POURING OFF THE SIDES AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Gina
13 years ago

Back in my swim team days, we used to put an entire person in a swim cap. A small entire person, but quite a bit larger than your head. I think you’ll be fine with the swim cap.

Sarah Miller
13 years ago

The good news/bad news: this post proves you are neurotic enough to write a book. Welcome to the club.

(From someone who was wracked with terror-induced dry heaves at 7:00 this morning at the thought of her first day working behind a deli counter. Seriously. Writers are not normal.)

Kate Thornton
13 years ago

I am still laughing loudly enough for the nice lady next door to conclude I am having a siezure. Good for you for doing this even though scared spitless. And brava for posting about it. And yes, you’re a fab writer – forget the novel and write short!

victoria
victoria
13 years ago

I think about this movie I saw when I was uh, like, 13? It was called, I think, “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

One character, well past middle age, who has never learned how to swim, has a conversation with Satan (or one of his minions) who tempts him with the possibility of going back to be his younger self. “Age 35. Not too late to learn how to swim.” And so on.

And I had this vivid sense from that scene, the sense that stayed with me for 30 years, that life tends to get narrower and smaller as we get older. We have to try to keep learning new things and not let the chance to learn pass us by.

So, I am going to take a rowing class at Lake Washington Rowing Club, after not having rowed for 13 years. Being out of the sport for 13 years is like never having done it at all, really.

Will everyone else in the class be half my age? Super athletic? Prone to mocking me? I feel really self-conscious. But I know I’m only going to get older, and life will only get smaller.

.303 Bookworm
.303 Bookworm
13 years ago

Kudos for going to the swim lesson and I recommend the open water session as well, especially if it’s for beginners.

For Tri’s over here in NZ open water = the sea, choppy waves, salt, sand and ‘denizens of the deep’. I don’t know if your lake gets much in the way of wave action but the swim style is WAY different to a pool.

To breath, you actually lift your head up out of the water so you can see over the waves and check you’re swimming in the right direction!

Oh and please, don’t put off the book, It’s already on my ‘must buy’ list!

Jen
Jen
13 years ago

A swim cap fetish. WHAT. I’m so confused.

Go you for doing a triathlon! I can’t even do a uni-athon.

vague
13 years ago

OMG, .303 Bookworm, “denizens of the deep”? EEEEP!

Suzanne
13 years ago

I don’t think I’ll ever look at my bathing cap the same way!

I just completed my first sprint tri this past Sunday. It was freaking awesome…one of the best feelings ever crossing the finish line. Can’t say i felt that way through all the hills on the bike ride, but nonetheless a fantastic moment in my life.

Didn’t need to wear a wet suit because water temp in lake was around 73 degrees, although many people did. If you are going to wear a wet suit make sure you train in it in the pool too because your stroke will be different and you are more buyoant. Don’t want to be trying anything new on tri day! Practice in the lake a few times before the race too. It’s much different than a pool but you’re still just swimming. Imagine the smell of chlorine if the open water freaks you out!

You’ve already run 5k’s, you’ve climbed mountains (of the man-made building kind), and you rule on the bike. You’ll totally rock it!

Enjoy it all and fun with it. I did, and it made the experience awesome [(and I finished pretty darn good too;)]

Jenny
13 years ago

This post has me doing that silent giggle in my living room trying not to wake the kids. Two things-

1. I am ALWAYS waiting for someone to do the Nelson laugh at me. When I trip and stumble walking in the grocery store my first instinct is to dart my eyes to the nearest SEEMINGLY innocent granny who I am sure is about to mutter a “HA ha!” before heading towards the veggies.

2. My swimming in open water fear is that I am going to brush limbs with a corpse that someone has murdered and dumped into the water and that my motions will cause it to look at me and I will have a moment of zombie in water no escape frantic splashing before succumbing to a heart attack and dying.

kakaty
13 years ago

I’m so glad I could make your day. I’m still half cracking up and half mortified that I sent you a fetish video. I watched it thinking – why the hell would someone film this, but hey! The internets, they are helpful!.

And, you are not alone in your open-water worry…I swam competitively for over a decade and am still scared to death of swimming in a lake or the ocean. But, like others said you will most likely need a wetsuit.

Kelly
13 years ago

Oh my GOD, I nearly peed myself over this:

“…a MASTURBATING SHARK RIDING A NUCLEAR SUB…”

Woman, you’re going to kill me one of these days.

Crystal
13 years ago

As far as the triathlon goes, maybe this video will give you some inspiration:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN7ujs048Rg

My SIL, is number 66. ;)

Lesley
Lesley
13 years ago

On the bright side, you look like a million trazillion bucks in a bathing suit. My Biggest Fear is wearing a bathing suit in front of straaaaaaannggerrrrrs. Hah.

Re the open water, there are shoes for swimmers that should mitigate the whole “feet touching slimy weed bottom” and there may even be whole body suits but I’m not sure how practical these would be getting on and off for a triathlon.

Lesley
Lesley
13 years ago

Another advantage of the wet suit. Sharks don’t like the taste and will spit you out.

Lori
13 years ago

Your list of pre-lesson fears cracked me up and then swiftly reminded me of my own list of fears that prevented me from getting my ass to the JCC pool to try to swim laps. I was afraid I’d be the only flabby looking one, or I’d have to change in the open, or I wouldn’t be able to find my way out of the locker room (provided I could find the locker room)… I don’t have your open water concerns but I will definitely be remembering them when/if I swim in open water!

Amy
Amy
13 years ago

Oh man, I am laughing SO hard about your fear of large partially submerged objects. Not laughing AT you. No way. Laughing because you hit it on the nail. We all have these completely random, obscure things that we are afraid of that make complete sense to ourselves, but others would just not get it. I, myself, have never given any thought at all about large partially submerged objects, and now that I’ve thought about it a little bit have definitely added that to my list of fears. I think it’s probably only just below having basically a whole wall of windows in one room of my house because, HELLO, zombie invasion and we’re screwed, I tell you. But it’s only just barely under that on the fear list. Thanks a lot!

Kathy
13 years ago

My kids are taking swimming lessons for the first time–they started on Monday. We’re addressing major fears such as: (1) water on my face and (2) I’m too short to stand on the bottom of the pool and still have my face out of the water to breathe.

I’ve told my kids all about you taking swimming lessons (I lied and said you didn’t know how to swim. Please don’t hate me!) and they feel much better about being the oldest kids in swimming lessons, now. So thanks for letting me lie about you to my children!

Also, I read the entirety of your post out loud to my husband, giggling the whole time. He thinks you’re awesome, too!