It’s Time We Had the Talk: Swimming With Jellyfish


“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

-Rabindranath Tagore

It was a beautiful weekend in Nashville. My sister Kelly and her family were here from Biloxi, having escaped Hurricane Isaac in time to make the first Vanderbilt game of the season. Come hell or high water, literally, in this case, my brother-in-law Christopher will be there to support his alma mater; and on game day I undertake what I call Auntie Robin duty, which means that I attend the tailgate with everyone then take the babies home so that the adults can go to the game. This year my 5-year old nephew was old enough to attend Thursday’s night game, so it was just the niece, my beagles and me for a few hours until my sister arrived post-game back to my house.

Two things: Baby Arden, seldom seen without a snack in her hand, is a foodie and my beagles, Buster and Shirley, have zero self-control when it comes to food. Keeping those two vultures at bay and away from her food was the most difficult part of my duties and I can say, definitively, that my sister and her husband have done a much better job raising their children than I have my beagles. Swim. Bike. Run? Try Sniff. Snack. Snooze. I live with two world-class Ironhound snack stealers. Moving on.

What does any of this have to do with jellyfish? Well, here’s where I tell you. Saturday was the last day of my sister and her family’s stay in Nashville. We were lazing around on the couches in my living room having just finished the coffee and breakfast that Kelly and I brought home from Whole Foods. The subject of my impending triathlon came up. There is a huge group of people that we know competing in this year’s race and they have all done the Santa Rosa Island triathlon before. They are more than qualified to give me advice and race-day pointers.

Let me start by saying that I had heard rumors of a jellyfish situation in the Gulf of Mexico during the 2011 SRI Triathlon. A friend and fellow triathlete of Kelly’s mentioned before that she swam off-course to avoid them. When I heard this, it conjured up a vision of the sand dollar-sized blobs of jellyfish tissue that I saw countless times on the beach during my childhood. They were small enough that I never gave much thought to the actual jellyfish that spawned them, so I was able to push that information far, far away from the part of my frontal lobe that causes me to repeatedly emotionally overreact to things of this nature.

Christopher brought the subject up again and I told him that I had actually heard about the jellyfish. He said, “Well, I didn’t want to scare you before, but I think it’s time we talked about it.” In an effort to visually describe the size of what he said were hundreds of moon jellyfish, he held up his hands as one might when trying to demonstrate the 10 and 2 hand position on an imaginary dinner plate-sized steering wheel. My sister then chimes in about her arm hitting one of the jellyfish and actually bouncing off of it, not allowing her to complete the stroke and that she only started to feel the stinging during the bike ride. She added quickly that, on the bright side, it was her fastest swim ever. Well, in that case. WHAT!?

I happened to be playing Spell Tower on the iPad during this conversation, but quit my game and started searching the web for pictures of these things. After finding plenty of hideous photographic evidence of the existence of these jellyfish, I thought to myself, “Really? I know there is a purpose for every creature God puts on this earth, but seriously? These things are not precious and quite frankly, this is all a little much.”

Christopher’s philosophy was that it would be better for me to know what I may potentially encounter and to mentally prepare for it rather than jump face-first into an unexpected swarm of big-assed moon jellyfish. I see his point, but that didn’t stop me from momentarily deciding to change my blog name to if-you-never-tri-you-won’ and also, to call the whole triathlon thing off.

Ultimately, though, I’ve put in too much effort to let a few, or a thousand, moon jellyfish stop me, right? RIGHT? At some point after this conversation we ended up in my reading/music room, me with my guitar in my hand. (A note about me: I tend to hum or sing when I’m nervous.)  A moment of panic became an impromptu family songwriting session and a funny little song grew organically out of a light-hearted moment. It will be my official mantra while I’m in the water. I won’t have a guitar and I won’t be able to sing the song, which I wish you could all hear, but like a military cadence, these words, which I will repeat in my head, will get me through:

Jelly, jelly, jelly, jelly, jellyfish

Stop frightening me.

Stop frightening me.

It’s hard enough to be,

A first-time triathlete.

Don’t swim near, get away from here

Swim back out to the sea.


Jelly, jelly, jelly, jelly, jellyfish

Stop bothering me.

Stop bothering me.

Jellies, can’t you see,

That I’m a triathlete?

I’ve got no time, You have no spine.

Swim back out to the sea.


That is all.


Anyone every run into this problem during a triathlon?

Should I buy a sting stick to put in the transition area?

Any tips on mental preparation for this kind of thing?

(Photo Source:


9 Comments on “It’s Time We Had the Talk: Swimming With Jellyfish

  1. Wow, swimming with jellyfish isn’t something to take lightly. I’m sure it’s been OK in the past–and will be fine this year–if race directors allow the OWS to take place. During my triathlon on Saturday, there were scuba divers underwater, but I’ve never encountered anything out of the ordinary fish and seaweed and. I do think Chris has a point–if you mentally prepare to see and swim with jellyfish, it won’t be a shock on race-day. I also think it would be worthwhile to mentally visualize all possible situations: swimming with jellyfish, swimming around jellyfish, what will happen if you get stung, etc., and how you’ll react in each case. (I’m keeping my fingers crossed it doesn’t, obviously!) There’s never a dull moment when it comes to triathloning! 🙂

    • Thankfully, I think the moon jellyfish don’t set out to sting humans and if a person does come into direct contact with one, it is milder and certainly less painful than some of the other jellies floating around out there. (If I say it five times, I will believe it!) It’s just such a scary visual! I was searching the internet for others who did that race and found a few people who mentioned it and that while the jellyfish were abundant, the stings weren’t so bad.

      I think that’s a great idea you have about visualizing each scenario and my reaction. I’ll add it to my daily workout! No, never a dull moment!

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog. I am amazed with the fact that I get a variety of people visiting from all wlks of life. Based on what you said in this post I would have changed the last line to “And I do so swim out to sea”
    Good luck with the swim.

    • Oh, but I don’t plan on swimming out to sea for long. 🙂 I agree, it’s so interesting to communicate with people from all over the world via these blogs. I truly love it. Have a wonderful day!

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