… Swim, Swim Again

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If at first, you have an intense panic attack in the water and actually straight-up quit in the first leg of a sprint triathlon…


…And if at second, you have another panic attack in murky 55-degree water, grab onto a noodle for support, and end up being the last one out of the lake…




Oh yes.  Why do I torture myself so?  Even though I have two not-so-pleasant triathlon experiences under my belt, I think I really, really want to prove to myself that I CAN master the triathlon.  This isn’t about my finishing time.  It’s not about the blog.  It’s just about me and the mental limitations I impose on myself.

Watch Caitlin freak out in the lake AND crash her bike! Yay!


My triathlon fears are definitely more mental than physical.  At least I can control myself mentally on race day – if I wasn’t physically ready to swim the distance, there isn’t much I can do!  I’m just scared of open water, and I know the only way to get over it is to just dive back in.  I need to get over my fears of: creepy things; dark water; cold water; being kicked in the face by other swimmers; not being able to breathe whenever I want to.




My sprint triathlon (750-meter open water swim, 17-mile bike, and 5K run) is on Sunday, June 12, but before the “real” race, I need to get more comfortable in the water.


That’s why I signed up for the Open Water Challenge, which takes place THIS Saturday at the same location as my upcoming sprint tri.  The Open Water Challenge provides me with an opportunity to safely practice swimming in race-like conditions. 


Saturday’s event will also give me a chance to test out swimming clothes.  I don’t have a trisuit (padded shorts that you can swim in and dry quickly for the bike), and I have to wear a sports bra because my bathing suit isn’t supportive enough to run in (my teets hurt just thinking about that).  In the past, I’ve swam in a sports bra + bikini bottoms and pulled on bike shorts during the first transition.   Any other gear solutions that I can try?  I can’t afford to invest in tri clothes right now!


So – what exactly does the Open Water Challenge entail?


  • 800 meter swim <— 50 extra meters!!!
  • 5K Run


I’m not 100% sure, but I think the swim waves begin at 8 AM and the run doesn’t begin until 9 AM.  It won’t take me an hour to swim 800 meters (um, hopefully), so that means there might be some hanging around.  Although the Open Water Challenge is technically a race, I won’t be racing per say – just trying to survive and have fun. 


Some interesting little tidbits for you!


  • Swim + Bike + Run = Triathlon
  • Swim + Bike + Swim = AquaBike
  • Swim + Run = Aquathlon
  • Run + Bike + Run = Duathlon
  • 750-meter Swim + 20K Bike + 5K Run = Sprint Triathlon*
  • 1,500-meter Swim + 40K Bike + 10K Run = Olympic Triathlon*
  • 1.9K Swim + 90K (56-mile) Bike + Half Marathon = Half Ironman
  • 3.8K Swim + 180K (112-mile) Bike + Marathon = Ironman


*Exact distances can vary!


What’s the longest distance triathlon you could ever imagine yourself tackling?  What leg would be the most challenging for you?  Since I’ve biked a Metric and ran several halves separately, I really cannot IMAGINE doing a Half Ironman.  But it’s swim that would really kill me! 


PS – Other bloggers have gotten involved in the fundraising efforts for my neighbor Tonya, too.  Jenny from Fitness, Health, and Food will donate a $100 Sun Warrior Protein Pack to anyone who donates $10 to Tonya. Check out her blog for details.



  • kalli@fitandfortysomething June 1, 2011, 9:04 am

    so proud of you for signing up for this event and for swimming even when it is tough for you. caitlin you are an inspiration!

  • Brittany (A Healthy Slice of Life) June 1, 2011, 9:06 am

    The good news? With temps in the 90s, Lake Norman’s water temps are perfect for swimming! I’m not sure about at 8am, but I’ll bet it won’t be bad.

    Good luck!!

  • Baking N Books June 1, 2011, 9:08 am

    Well…I don’t do triathlons so can’t answer those questions 🙁

    But you rock! 😉

    Just read up on Tonya – that’s amazing work.

  • Evan Thomas June 1, 2011, 9:11 am

    I could never do a triathalon just because I hate swimming and would rather do anything else. I would definitely do a duathalon, especially if it involved a half marathon.

  • Holly @ The Runny Egg June 1, 2011, 9:13 am

    I think you are being smart by signing up for this. I would never want to swim in a race — I am terrified when I’m in water.

    I could do a duathlon, although I’m not too comfortable on a bike either! I should stick with running.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat June 1, 2011, 9:14 am

    Good for you for facing your open water fears Caitlin – I’m sure you’ll show that race who’s boss! I think the swimming part of a tri would be most difficult for me because I haven’t done any serious swim training since my early high school years! That’s assuming I have a bike though – which I don’t at the moment. Doing the cycling part would be quite a challenge without!

  • jenna June 1, 2011, 9:17 am

    you amaze me!! after the first one i would have quite! I know you’ll do great !!!

  • Sarah@The Flying ONION June 1, 2011, 9:18 am

    You are so inspiring for facing your fears like you are! You WILL tackle the tri. 😀

    Swimming would most definitely be the most difficult part of the triathlon for me as well. I’d like to take some swimming lessons to get myself feeling a little more comfortable. 😀

  • Liv @ The Salty n' Sweet June 1, 2011, 9:21 am

    This open water challenge sounds like the perfect thing for you to gain confidence in your triathlon! I can’t even imagine doing a triathlon, but maybe one day…

  • Morgan @ Life After Bagels June 1, 2011, 9:24 am

    that tri recap video is my FAVOURITE … I won’t lie I watch it every now and then 🙂

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen June 1, 2011, 9:25 am

    Good for you signing up for this. I’ve never done any race outside of running. the swimming would scare the heck out of me, even though I can swim just fine. Oh and “my teets hurt just thinking about that” totally had me laughing!

  • Kris June 1, 2011, 9:28 am

    I’m not big on lake swimming, but I felt totally comfortable in Lake Norman. It’s the only fresh water I’ve been in in the last 15-20 years.

  • Emily June 1, 2011, 9:39 am

    you are setting yourself up for an awesome tri by doing this open water swim! i had a panic attack during the swim leg of my first half ironman (and i have a competitive swimming background) and I think it’s largely due to the fact that I never bothered to practice open water ocean swimming or swimming in my wetsuit. You will rock this and have so much confidence going into race day!

  • Halley (Blunder Construction) June 1, 2011, 9:40 am

    Good luck, Caitlin. I’m a little scared for you, so you don’t have to be!! Swimming is not my thang.

  • Chelsea @ Strawberry Sweat June 1, 2011, 9:41 am

    I haven’t done a triathlon (yet), so the farthest I can see myself going right now is a sprint triathlon. Maybe I can see myself doing an olympic tri, but I definitely can’t imagine myself doing any of the half or full ironmans!

  • Karen June 1, 2011, 9:44 am

    YAY you for not giving up! Sounds like the open water challenge would be a great way to get a little extra comfort level going into the race on the 12th. You can do it!

  • Rachel @ The Perseverance Diaries June 1, 2011, 9:46 am

    I think that is awesome you are facing your fears. The more scared that you are, the more you have to just get out there and do it. Nothing is better than the feeling of facing a fear and feeling so accomplished afterwards. I’ve faced so many fears in the past few months and each time I do, I feel stronger! You will kick some swimming butt 🙂

  • Erin June 1, 2011, 9:46 am

    I am impressed that you’re facing your fears… I have always wanted to do a triathlon, but the open water terrifies me! Can’t wait to hear it goes!

  • Theresa @ActiveEggplant June 1, 2011, 9:54 am

    SO smart Caitlin! I also tend to panic during open water swims…especially in lakes! I even train on the weekends in the Gulf, but still freaked out on race day of my last Tri…I think because of how deep the water was on the swim course and because of all the people! Tackling an open water swim challenge/race is definitely a GREAT idea…I need to find one near me and get it done before my next Tri!

  • Jamie June 1, 2011, 9:59 am

    Wow good luck! I have been scared of open water too, I get panic attacks. But I am going to do an open water race this summer, maybe even an aquathlon (I odn’t bike).

  • Wendy June 1, 2011, 10:01 am

    I’m a triathlete (age grouper) and I’ve done several, but here is another experience for you…


  • jen @ taste life June 1, 2011, 10:06 am

    Wow, i absolutely can’t imagine doing anything that involved a half marathon or marathon. I’ve run half marathons, but doing other stuff besides the running….that would be too much! I can kinda of swim and kind of bike, but I’d need to train big time before doing any of those distances!

    Hey, at least in Charlotte you don’t have to worry about gators!

  • Amy June 1, 2011, 10:09 am

    ive never done a tri…i really want to! i just havent rode a bike in like 10 years so i need to start practicing around a parking lot or something haha. swimming is so hard, but such a great workout!! congrats you’ll do great!

  • Jenifer June 1, 2011, 10:21 am

    So glad you posted this! I actually said to my husband this am.. “I don’t think I’m going to do that Tri in August. I just don’t think I can ride a bike well enough….”

    You will rock on the swimming girl! We will be rooting for you!!

  • Kate (What Kate is Cooking) June 1, 2011, 10:27 am

    Swimming would kill me too! I can’t even imagine an Ironman. I almost collapsed of exhaustion after a marathon, so to run one after swimming and biking for hours? No thanks!

  • Emma June 1, 2011, 10:28 am

    I am absolutely terrified of doing a triathalon because of the swimming part! I think it’s awesome that you are trying to conquer your fears of the open water swim and I’m sure you’ll totally rock it. One day I’d like to get out there and try it, maybe I’ll start with a duathalon. Sounds like fun!

  • Jess@atasteofconfidence June 1, 2011, 10:46 am

    Yay! you can do it. Anything over the olympic scares me. Geesh! I have been a swimmer all my life, so the running is actually what scares me!

  • Leanne (Bride to Mrs,) June 1, 2011, 10:58 am

    I love how your husband starts running next to you. That’s SO sweet. 🙂

  • Wendi @ Earth, Wind and Fire June 1, 2011, 11:01 am

    Ok, so the idea of a triathlon is very overwhelming to me. Although most of my friends are triathletes (several of them have done half ironmans) I am like, no no, let me stick to my half marathons… but I have been trying to learn to swim for cross training and riding my bike more. This sunday, we’re doing a course preview of the Caine Halter Ymca sprint triathlon, but only doing the bike and run and I have reluctantly agreed to try this out. It’s a 9 mile bike ride (which should be easy for me) and a 5k (which should be easy for me) but the idea of racing on a bike is scary and running after a bike ride is scary…. so we’ll see how it goes.

  • Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun June 1, 2011, 11:16 am

    That’s so awesome you will get to try out the swim so close to the actual race and in the same place. I bet that will be huge in easing mental angst.

  • Carla June 1, 2011, 11:26 am

    Good luck on Saturday! Sounds like the perfect opportunity to practice for the June 12 race. I’m sure you’ll rock it!

    I completed a half ironman last summer. I thought the bike would be my weakest leg, and since I’m usually a runner, I thought the run would be the strongest. My swim and bike went great, and according to plan. The run…not so much 🙂

    I’d love to do an Ironman eventually, but I’ll have to get pretty siked up for the almost full year of training LOL

    Good luck on Saturday!

  • Gavi @ Gavi Gets Going! June 1, 2011, 11:28 am

    You’re a swimming warrior! I did a sprint triathlon last September and loved it. It was absolutely freezing on the day of the tri (50 degree water AND 50 degree air temp!) and that made things more challenging, but I really had a blast. I would consider doing an olympic distance or even a half ironman, but I think anything beyond that would require a lot of time-consuming, intensive training. My good friend just completed her second ironman, and training essentially took up her life for about six months. I would love to do another triathlon, though–in warmer weather!

  • Samantha June 1, 2011, 11:32 am

    I’m like you & scared of the open water! Throw me in a pool and I’m fine, but the idea of racing in open water and being kicked in the face by other people is just a tad terrifying to me. Hopefully I’ll be able to conquer those fears and dive (pun intended!) right in too!

    I could see myself completing a sprint triathlon, and maybe even an olympic triathlon. But a half ironman? Eek I’m not so sure about that!

    Good luck with your race!!

  • Jen June 1, 2011, 11:40 am

    Good luck!! You can totally do this 😉

  • Chelsea June 1, 2011, 11:43 am

    This makes me want to sign up for a sprint triathalon. I’d probably die trying. The only swimming I can do is doggy paddle hahaha.

  • Marissa C June 1, 2011, 11:56 am

    You can buy trisuits that are made up of separate pieces–as in padded shorts and separate top. That was my Christmas gift this year and it is awesome, because I can use the shorts for regular bike rides and the top for other forms of exercise. Definitely made my last triathlon better, too. I improved my transition times and was more comfortable overall (I used to get nasty scrapes from my wet swimsuit)

  • Marissa June 1, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Good luck! Really the only way to get over your fears is to challenge them head-on. I actually love to swim in the open water! I jump off my friends’ boats into the water when we’re floating out in the middle of the lake all the time. There is something just breaktakingly unreal about looking around and seeing nothing but water in all directions.

  • Carolyn @Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. June 1, 2011, 12:11 pm

    I’ve done a 2.4 mile open water swim – that is the longest swim race I’ve done. I won a rubber ducky for 2nd in my age group. LOL.

  • Shannon June 1, 2011, 12:16 pm

    My goal is to do a half ironman sometime in the near future.. I am trying sprint triathlons right now though

  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing June 1, 2011, 12:20 pm

    Good luck girl! And I don’t blame you about your fear.. the thought of an open water swim scares the CRAP out of me!

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey June 1, 2011, 12:25 pm

    I defnitely want to do a triathlon – I was a swimmer in high school, so swimming doesn’t scare me – I think that’s the hardest part!

  • Tameika June 1, 2011, 12:31 pm

    I’m rooting for you! I know you can do it. You’re giving me hope as I learn to swim. I am TERRIFIED of ALL water, but pushing on through. You’re inspiring me to keep going. Thanks for sharing.

  • Christina June 1, 2011, 12:48 pm

    Ok #1: I LOVE your video! So what you fell and came in last, it really makes me feel that as someone who looks to you as inspiration it’s ok to stumble or be scared. Just have to go back at it!

    #2 the quote on your video “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage” that’s now on a sticky note on my computer. So inspiring!! Happy National Run Day!

  • Rachel @ Grateful Girl Goes Gluten Free June 1, 2011, 12:58 pm

    I don’t think I ever wan to do a triathlon. I never realized iron man finished w/ a FULL marathon. Good luck at your race you’re such an inspiration!

  • Natalia - a side of simple June 1, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Anyone who swims in open water for a race gets major points in my book. I don’t think I would be able to do it without my nerves getting to me. You get a brave-gold-star just for signing up 🙂

  • Christina June 1, 2011, 1:30 pm

    My suggestion is to suck it up and buy tri clothes! Separate shorts and top will be the best. Look on ebay- I got orca ones for about $20 each. Also watch bonktown.com- they have different deals every 30 minutes, and often feature tri clothes.
    Think how much better it is to run in running clothes than awkward cotton. Same with tri clothes- you will be SO MUCH more comfortable.

  • Heather @ Dietitian on the Run June 1, 2011, 2:42 pm

    Best idea ever! You may be a little nervous on Saturday morning, but I’m sure you’ll be SO glad you did this once the “real” race comes around.

    Interesting little tid-bits! I’ve always called anthing that’s only two “sports” a Duathlon. Aquabike sounds much cooler 😉

  • Karen June 1, 2011, 3:18 pm

    Dude! You’re a beast! You are so courageous to do big races back to back like that! Awesome:)

    I’ve been working on training myself up to running a 5K for what feels like forever. I recently found out I have a torn meniscus and a high grade tear of my ACL in my R knee. But after I get surgery, I plan to get back on track and join the 5K ranks!

    Anyway, something on your short list of fears above struck me: not being able to breath when you want to. I struggled for a bit with keeping my breathing rhythmic and regular while running. But after I started doing regular pranayama, I had serious improvement! I feel MUCH more in control now and I found it keeps me from freaking out in the “I can’t fo this” moments. I know you don’t have much more training time before the races, but I wanted to tell you about it because I think it could really be a life changer for you in the water!

    Good luck!

  • Wendy June 1, 2011, 4:08 pm

    Get a trisuit. You won’t be sorry. It makes a HUGE difference. JAM! suits are only $40 and well worth the money. Ugliest things you have ever seen. Hands down. And you WILL stand out. Made me a little self conscious at first but easy to get over and friends/family can pick you out of the pack with no problem. I have a black more traditional trisuit too but my mom demands I wear the Easter Egg colored one so she can see me. Super comfy and cut for a woman’s body. http://www.jamtrisuits.com/how_to_order.htm

    • Mary June 4, 2011, 7:53 pm

      Can you wear a trisuit under a wetsuit? I have a sprint in 2 weeks and am thinking about ordering one of these (the price is great!). Also do they run big or small? And are they supportive enough without a sports bra? Thanks in advance for any advice!

      • Wendy June 6, 2011, 1:52 pm

        This specific trisuit has more support in the bra than in others I’ve seen. I’m able to run without any additional sports bra support. It seems to be true to size for me but if you are in-between sizes you are probably best to size down. I have never needed to wear a wetsuit (CA lake tris only so far) so I don’t know if it works under one or not. I would expect so …. but that is just a guess.

        You won’t be sorry with the purchase if you decide to go for it. I warned you about it being ugly and standing out but who cares about that??? And I love that I can be found easily by friends/family & tri officials! The easter egg lady in the sea of black trisuits. It’s oddly comfy and, for me, fits better than any other trisuit I own or have tried on. I have a very “traditional” female body (aka not really a runners body) with hips, waist, and curves.

        No matter what you choose good luck on your sprint!

        • Mary June 6, 2011, 6:18 pm

          Thanks for the advice, Wendy. I am going to order one of these and give it a try. If it doesn’t work under my wetsuit for this tri I should be able to use it for my next one in August when our lakes will be warmer (I live in MI). I also don’t have a runner’s body so I think this should work well for me. Thanks again!

  • Alaina June 1, 2011, 4:29 pm

    I think I ccould possibly do a sprint tri. I haven’t swam competitively though. It’s always been a lazy swim in a lake. 🙂

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) June 1, 2011, 6:00 pm

    I’ve done a half ironman – and would love to do another one someday!

  • Katie June 1, 2011, 6:43 pm

    Thank you *so much* for posting your video! I love the quote about fear/inaction and courage/action; it helped me out of a rut. Kick some booty this weekend, and next weekend, too!

  • Kristen @ The Concrete Runner June 1, 2011, 8:03 pm

    My goal for the summer is to not watch TV until after 5 PM (my hubs + I are both teachers so we have lots of time to sit and watch TV in the summer). However, he is not on the same TV diet as myself, so we’ll see how it goes! You are a brave soul! I don’t think I would sign up for a tri if it was in open water (we have lots of tri’s in STL that are done in a pool).

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin June 1, 2011, 8:04 pm

    This is a great idea to get in a little bit of practice before your tri! I’d like to do a triathalon someday, but I haven’t swam laps in years, so that would definitely be my weakpoint!

  • Kristy June 1, 2011, 9:04 pm

    I love that video. It made me just about cry. You are always so inspiring with everything you do on this blog and Operation Beautiful.

  • Laura June 1, 2011, 11:03 pm

    Before I had tri shorts I swam in under armour compression style shorts-they dried quickly and were fine for the bike/run. Since your bike portion is short, you should be fine without the padding. Or you could put a cushioned seat cover on the seat itself if you want padding.

  • Heather June 2, 2011, 10:46 am

    Great idea to get some practice in. I did my very first open water swim saturday in practise for my sprint triathalon on June 18th and it went pretty well. No panicking just sore arms with it also being the first time in a wetsuit. I went home and the same day signed up for a try a tri this Saturday so Im more prepared for the sprint distance in two weeks. A little nervous but Im trying to treat this as practise as opposed to a race. Good luck on your open water swim. II look forward to readingnyour recap.

  • Rose June 2, 2011, 4:50 pm

    Hey! I’m new here 🙂 Take a look at the classified forums on Beginner Triathlete! They have a whole section where people post things they are giving away FREE under the “Pay it Forward” section or lightly used stuff. I gave away a tri suit (worn once) and two pairs of shorts (cycling) a month ago! http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/discussion/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=92866&start=1421&posts=1438

  • Ashley June 2, 2011, 8:47 pm

    Is anyone doing the swim on Saturday with you? I’m glad you posted about this – I’m thinking about doing this on Saturday too since I’m signed up for Tri Latta as well. The preview would be awesome, and since this will be my first open water swim, the practice is much needed! 🙂

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