Cook Strait Swim, New Zealand

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Overcoming fear in the open water.

I hate to admit it but several years ago I avoided swimming in the ocean due to fear.  My 34 year old brother Robbie was an outstanding swimmer and open water enthusiast.  I remember asking him about facing the uncertainty of what was in the ocean water beneath him.  "Aren't you afraid of sharks? Aren't you afraid of something lurking beneath you waiting to grab you?"  He looked at me and said, "Pat, how many car accidents do you hear about in the state of Maine (my home state)? And, how many times have you heard about someone getting tragically killed in a car accident?   But, you still get in a car and drive to work everyday, go shopping, and live your life."  Then he said, "How many times have you heard of a swimmer being attacked by a shark in Maine? Put your fear on the back burner and live your life."  It made me think!  Every month I read in the newspaper about some tragic accident...yet, I still got in my car.   I never heard of anyone getting attacked by a shark in Maine, yet I was hesitant to try open water swimming.  The following month my brother Robbie died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack (he was unaware that he had heart disease). A few weeks after his passing, my sixteen year old son Tom said he was going to swim the Peaks to Portland, a 2.4 ocean mile swim, as a tribute to his Uncle Robbie who won it twice. I was deeply touched by my son's thoughtfulness.  He encouraged me to try to swim it.  So, at the the age of 46 I was faced with this challenge of swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean and to overcome my fear of the creatures lurking below the surface.  During my very first swim of the Peaks to Portland,  I fell in love with the sport of open water swimming and overcame my fear. I am grateful to my son for encouraging me to attempt my very first open water swim.  It's been sixteen years since my brother Robbie died, his words inspired me many years ago to face my fear of creatures lurking in the depths. At the age of 62, I have enjoyed swimming in many iconic swim locations worldwide. And, now the most welcoming and enjoyable encounters I have had during my swim career has been with dolphins, seals, flying fish,  sea lions, and whales.  These sea creatures haven't changed but I have.   I hope Robbie's words will inspire you.

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