Sunday I did the Tri for MS for the second time. it's an event run by my triathlon group, and it is a whole lot of fun! Lots of friends cheering each other on and a very supportive group.
I was calm the night before and calm the morning of. The swim was 500 M something I do for a warm up in my swim workouts now. it should have been simple, easy and fun.
I started my swim out relaxed and calm, did two laps in a normal pace and started to settle in. I got passed once and did one more lap calm and relaxed. About 3 laps in within about 10 seconds I went from calm to a full on panic attack. My heart rate shoots through the roof, I start to hyperventilate and my body is pretty sure I'm going to drown. Even though I know otherwise it spirals up and out of control.
The picture above a good friend (Peter Dunwoody) caught on camera me, mid panic attack. While this photo brings a bucket load of tears forward it may also be one of my favourites. It catches me in a moment I cannot control. My brain at this time was probably screaming at me "GET OUT! getoutgetoutgetout!" But this time I managed to stay. I flailed, gasped, gulped and finally caved and took a kick board. Feeling defeated and disappointed I finished the 500 M. I did manage to let go of the kick board the last 100 M but for me it was not my shining moment. Seeing that in a picture brings it all up close and personal.
I'd like to think I am a fairly strong person who can handle just about anything. Heck, I rode and broke some rank horses in my younger years, I snow mobile, I drag race and I'd like to think there are few things I won't try.
But swimming, boy it can scare me.
I have no epic words of wisdom. My advise would be to take small steps forward if you are trying to manage panic attacks. Plan for the un expected, they can happen at any time. I think the biggest thing I learnt sunday was to get help if you need it.
A panic attack in the pool has not happened for about a year. This one came on faster than most. I did finish my swim. It took about 15 KM of the bike course before my heart rate came down and I stopped gasping for air. My bike was solid though. My run was good! I managed a few speed pick ups and felt strong during the whole run. I think the practice bricks my coach had me do really helped my run, my legs felt good right off the bike.
I finished the day happy with my race but un happy with my swim. My next step to tackle them is to learn a good breast stroke, during a panic attack it may allow me to sight and breathe easier. So onward to Plan B, learn the breast stroke.
My day finished with smiles amongst friends in the sunshine.