I love to swim in pools and in bodies of fresh water where I can be assured that the critters are harmless and few. I grew up on the Gulf Coast and always had a healthy respect and fear of what was floating around out there. Jellyfish, bull sharks, driftwood, and anything else with the potential to take me down. On boat trips out to Ship Island in the summers, I was always aware of and creeped out by the fact that the lifeguards kept a healthy supply of meat tenderizer on hand to treat jellyfish victims. The thought of the open swim in the Gulf off the coast of Santa Rosa Island in the midst of the sea life FREAKS ME OUT. I believe that the open water swim will be the biggest mental hurdle in this process. It doesn’t help that I’ve watched an excessive amount of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week programming.
I traveled to Kauai and Key Largo in 2011 and thought about those shows every time I entered the water. The one excruciatingly pervasive thought while out on my body board in Hawaii was, “I look like a seal from below the water. I look like a seal with my arms and legs dangling off of this board and it’s a matter of time before a shark starts thinking the same thing.” Because as all of us who love Shark Week know, sharks love to snack on seals. Like I said. Mental hurdle. Thankfully, I don’t believe there is any significant seal population in the Gulf.
Also, thankfully, I’m going to be doing my swimming training in the comfort of the critter-free Olympic sized pool at the YMCA where no meat tenderizer, stand-by emergency personnel or shark cages will be necessary. It will be just me, my hot pink swim cap and the 65 years of age and older members of the Silver Sneakers water aerobics class.