Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Guilt And Loyalty Overrule Common sense

I have a dear friend who some times can not understand people's actions and when such a case occurs she asks, "Who does that?" The answer is Israel. The question is who would ever agree to race in the New York City Triathlon which involves a 1500 meters swim in the Hudson River, 40 KM bike ride, and 10K run around Central Park knowing full well he can not swim confidently enough in a pool let alone in open water? Yes, I have completed the New York City Triathlon before, but I was also extremely pensive leading up to the race strictly because of the swim portion. Caroline, whom I met the weekend of the race told me at a dinner one month later that she attempted to converse with me several times over the weekend, but I never responded so she asked others and was told "Israel is really nervous about the Hudson River." In fact, Caroline said it was nice to see me finally smile when we saw each other a month later. I've worked with some wonderful individuals who have attempted to teach me to swim. After some time with each of them, I can usually swim a length then a lap and in a couple cases more, but I am always tense. My acting teachers all use to also say that my body was tense. One said she understood that it was a defense wall or protective layer to prevent me from being hurt in the real world, but it also prevented me from fully being an artist and now it stops me from enjoying swimming. I get scared when my form is off or I don't get a good inhale and I get anxiety attacks. Some times this even happens in the shallow end of a pool. Again, why would someone who can not quite swim agree to tackle the Hudson River? Out of guilt and loyalty. It was announced recently that the national and international governing bodies of triathlons have implemented a rule which states all blind and visually impaired participants must wear blackout goggles. Those in charge believe this will level the playing field and bring more blind and visually impaired to the sport as they look to grow the sport and hopefully make it a Paralympic sport by 2016. It may give them the desired result, but it discriminates and singles out blind and visually impaired people. Matt Miller, founder of the C Different Foundation, an organization which pairs athletes who are blind with sighted guides for road races and triathlons attempted to reason with those decision makers who implemented this rule then he put out the word to as many blind and visually impaired individuals as possible to get them to New York for the NYC Triathlon. He wanted to bring as many of them as possible to show the decision makers that behind the categories of blind and visually impaired are names, faces, and stories hurt by the new rule. I have always respected Matt for his accomplishments in all aspects of his life so of course, I supported his efforts and hoped he could organize a successful turnout. I was not planning on racing in the event because of my inability to swim. Teachers and coaches have said I can swim, but I know that I am not confident nor comfortable in the water. Matt and others made it clear they wanted me in New York. I wanted to show my support, but could I learn to be comfortable in the water in six weeks when I had not accomplished that after three years of swim coaching? I needed to be consistent in going to the pool and practicing, but would that be enough? I did not know, but I did not have the time to find out. Matt needed an answer and I did not want to disappoint him. CDF has given me opportunities to race in events and enabled me to meet wonderful people. I owe it to Matt do I not? What about my lack of swim ability? Still, if I passed up the chance, Matt would be disappointed in me. He will get over it. I will too. I know he will, but I am not sure if I could get over knowing I disappointed him. So I said yes. Knowing full well I would get daily anxiety attacks for weeks leading up to the race. Recently, I have been having anxiety attacks in the pool. Mostly in the deep end, but even in the shallow end. Why do I get so scared? I can be fine performing my strokes and breathing then suddenly, it breaks down and I panic! As one person who observed me in the pool said, "You have all the tools to swim, but you psych yourself out." Days away and I am worried. As I see it currently, my best bet is to try the front crawl and breast stroke just to see if I "have it" on race day otherwise, just get on my back and do the back stroke all the way through. So long as I am relaxed and moving through the water, will anyone care how I'm getting through the swim portion? My biggest concern is my guide, Brendan, who will have to put up with my anxiety attacks and discomfort in the water as my guide, Brian Pearlman, had to do the last time I was in the Hudson River. He has done his best to calm me down and say it does not matter how long it takes us as long as we get through it together, but I feel the burden of guilt for putting him through this. Knowing that I am not a swimmer why did I not just tell Matt, good luck to all, I support your mission, but I will sit this one out? That is what anyone else would have done. I am trying my best to fill my mind with positive thoughts, but it is difficult as one minute I am fine then the next I am scared. Maybe this time when Caroline walks up to me I can manage a smile. I know I have to relax and have fun. The event and the 4,000 athletes competing will all be worth it as will be the spectator support along the course. If my involvement helps make a statement in opposition to the blackout goggles rule then that is nice, but that has never been of my concern. I want to support Matt's foundation and the wonderful people I have met through my association with the organization. Maybe next time I will let common sense overrule loyalty and guilt.

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