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  • Jade Elkind

Panic In A Three Foot Pool to Ironman: For Those of You Who Are Afraid of the Swim, I Get You.

Everyone freaks out about the swim and understandably so. If you're reading this and you're one of those people just understand that I was like that, too. I'll tell you about the time I panicked. Felt like I was going to die . . .

It was morning, about 7 am at the gym pool. All of the lanes were taken. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest as I scanned the room and saw that the comfort of having my own peaceful, quiet, and calm lane had been take away from me. I was a victim to the desire of other swimmers to get their workouts in at the same time as I.

How could they?? (Easy, they also pay for a membership. Duh).

"Oh no," I thought. "Where should I go? Which lane should I choose?"

I saw the lane to the far right. There was a big guy in there, swimming laps back and forth . . . back and forth . . .

"I'll choose that one," I thought. He's splashing, and I'll probably get splashed on during the Ironman. I need to get used to it."

So I waited until the man reached the end of the pool so that I could quickly ask him if I could share the lane. For those of you who have done this, it feels like you have a split second to ask before the flip turn happens and he is gone, leaving you standing there very awkwardly by yourself, almost like your celebrity idol just refused to give you an autograph after you've been waiting in line for an hour. REJECTED.

When he came back to my side of the pool I jumped on my chance.

"Do you mind if I share a lane with you?" After which, he nodded his head and then took off, again.

Did he nod his head because he does mind? Or did he nod his head agreeing that it's okay for me to jump in? I didn't know. I figured, "I'll go in anyway. I'm a blue belt in jiu jitsu! I could choke him out if he tried anything funny!" Never mind the fact that I would probably end up drowning myself first,

So I slowly lowered myself into the abyss of the three foot pool. There is always that "Is it too hot? Is it too cold? Is it just right?" thought that goes through your head. Good thing there aren't any bears around otherwise Jade-y-locks' morning would get that much more interesting.

"Alright, time to go!" Goggles are on and Flip Turn Guy is in the other side of the lane. Looks like I get to pass on drowning myself while trying to choke someone out.

So I push off the wall and start to front crawl-ish my way to the other side of the pool.

And then it began . . . the tsunami . . .


My fight or flight takes control and I panic. I can't move nor catch my breath. I feel like I'm going to drown. All sense of logic and reasoning go out the window.

And then logic hits me . . .

Stand up.

Literally, I'm in a three foot pool. Just stand up.

I am able to bring my legs underneath me and stand, after which I let out some short gasps and allow my breathing to settle down as the panic subsides. I stand there a little dumbfounded as Flip Turn Guy continues his swim . . .back and forth . . . back and forth . . . like nothing happened.

I assess the situation: I got in the pool, got a little splashed on by Flip Turn Guy as he was doing his laps, and panicked.

I panicked because I got a little water in my face.

Taking a shower get way more water on my face!!!!!

In the moment, it seemed perfectly reasonable: Humans breathe air, not water, so the fact that water was hitting me in the face at a rate I couldn't control stimulated my fight or flight response since it thought that all of the water would get into my lungs and cause me to drown.

In hindsight, I laugh because it's pretty ridiculous and honestly a funny story. Splashing is not going to make me drown.

When I regained my composure (and checked around to make sure no one saw the traumatic event that just unfolded) I slowly started moving in the pool.

I did a little breast stroke, some back stroke, some front crawl (or what I thought was front crawl at the time), and inched my way along the pool. I was NOT going to let the tsunami of Flip Turn Guy hold me back! I wanted to become an IRONMAN! Screw this three foot pool! I will conquer it and become an IRONMAN!!!

I spent about another 30 minutes or so just moving in the water, just becoming used to being in water, out of my comfort zone. No pressure to be fast or work on swimming technique. I just needed to get comfortable with getting splashed on a little bit. A slow burn, as they say.

I began to accept the water's terms: I will get splashed on. I may cough and choke on water. Hell, I may even have a sneezing fit (this did actually happen to me during one of my master's swims), you may accidentally hit or get hit by someone.

But if you are patient, stay at it, learn how to move through the water and let it keep you afloat, you will be successful.

Instead of fighting it, I learned to accept it for what it is.

I slowly spent more and more time in the pool, eventually got swim lessons, and improved enough to joint a master's group.

One week after my panic attack, I made the decision to swim the 2.4 miles in the pool on my own. It took me about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I didn't panic.

On April 22, 2023 I swam 2.8 miles (I can't swim in a straight line, apparently) in open water in 1 hour and 27 minutes to complete the first event of Ironman Texas.

At approximately 10:50 pm the evening of April 22, 2023, I became an Ironman.

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