Thursday, September 06, 2007

My Only Fear: Swimming with the Fishes. And Monsters. And Gators. And Sharks. And Snakes.

On Friday evening, I was attacked by two fish. They might have been Loch Ness monsters for all I know. That's the problem with murky water, you think you're alone until something grabs your leg. Or in my case, bites it. There were no fang marks, but I'm pretty sure the fish bit me. The guy I was swimming with, Andy, checked my leg and saw no marks on it and then concluded that I'm just a random crazy woman. It was the first time I had met him.

These people I swim with on the occasional Friday evening (I've only joined them twice), are all Ironman people. They're, how do you say, HARDCORE. When I arrived this past Friday evening, a little late—because I had to run to the bike shop to pick up road tires for my mountain bike (which I will be racing with on Saturday—yeah, I'm going to suck)—I got there in time to see these hardcore swimmers leaving for their 1.2 mile swim.

So I swam 100s in the cove and waited for them to come back. I'm still a beginning swimmer, though I learned how to swim when I was 5 or something and I swam in college. But that doesn't really prepare a person for swimming a mile in open water. The problem is there's no one to rescue you.

After the milers came back, several of them went back out, for ANOTHER 1.2 miles. Andy didn't want to do another mile. He thought he'd just swim back and forth across the cove. I joined him.

The first time I swam in that cove, I felt pretty confident about having overcome my fear of the unknown. The monsters in the water. The fish. Am I a complete wimp to be scared of fish? Yeah, probably. But they have teeth. And they have the advantage: I'm in their world. If I could see the fish, I might not be AS scared of them, like when I'm snorkeling in Hawaii, or when we're checking each other out in an aquarium, or when one is on my plate and I'm about to eat it. It's when a fish bumps into my leg or swims at me, seemingly out of no where, that I freak out.

And oh how I freaked out. You should have seen me glide across the water, on my back, on my side, on my stomach. It was tough to stay on my stomach, with the hyperventilating and all that. On my back I kicked as hard as possible, to make the biggest splashes and noise, to scare off any fish or other underwater predators (sharks, snakes, whatever). I had to make it to the other side of the cove. Once there, I planned to exit the water and WALK AROUND THE COVE IN BARE FEET TO REACH MY STUFF. I didn't want to swim across, even if it was a shorter distance.

Any cold stream of water passing my legs I was certain was a fish or gator coming at me, stalking me (we don't have gators in Tennessee. Supposedly). When I finally looked up, Andy had stopped and was watching me. "What's wrong? Are you okay?" he asked.

"A fish bit me," I gurgled. I rolled onto my back and tried to swim on the very top of the water. Have you seen the old cartoons where Donald's arms move like a windmill and he barely touches the water? That's what I looked like, only I flailed more. I was about to die from the effort and the hyperventilating.

But I made it. We stood in the shallows. "Let me see your leg," Andy said. I twisted and lifted it from the water. He inspected my calf. "I don't see any bite marks, I think it just bumped you."

"Fine, it bumped me. But it scared the hell out of me." Then I ranted for a bit, like a lunatic, about my fear of murky water, and deep ocean water, and how I'm not scared of anything but that. Snakes, spiders, heights. Not a twinge of fear. But don't ask me to go on a cruise, man. I read Life of Pi and there's no way I'm going to be marooned in the middle of the ocean. Andy told me his wife is a really good swimmer, but she won't swim in the ocean. Go Andy's wife. Let's start a club.

Anyway, as you can see, the Loch Ness monster didn't get me (though I HAVE heard Nessie migrated to Tennessee. Sick of the cold Scottish winters, she said), so I made it back across. We chatted about swimming and then another miler finished and talked to us a while. He said there are also snakes that swim on the surface of these waters. I said that's fine, as long as I can see them and they're not poisonous.

Apparently they're poisonous. He avoided the remark and then the question, even after I tried to pin him down. As I was leaving, another fish had been cozying up to my leg. We collided on my way out and I swore loudly, and scrambled across the sharp rocks to the shore. I cut my foot in the process.

So, back to square one. My triathlon is on Saturday. It's in the open water. Hopefully, the 500 other swimmers scare the damn things away. Fish love a nice morning breakfast and coffee while they watch the sunrise, so I know they'll be out. It's WAR, fishies.


Jodi said...

they are probably water moccasins, the snakes, and they are poisonous. they tend to stay out of areas in which humans go. docks. popular swimming places. stuff like that.

i share the fear of the murk with you. i was of an age to be PROFOUNDLY affected by JAWS. Old enough to be aware of it, young enough to have it traumatize me. I'll do you one better, I love to swim, but even now, if I am alone in a pool, I am convinced something could come up thru the drain. I cannot shake this old fear. Although I won't let it stop me. If one other person is in the pool tho, I'm fine.

Dani said...

Nikki, I am laughing so hard right now! A fish biting you. It's hilarious. Ah, you crack me up. Good luck on Saturday, you'll do fine.

Aries327 said...

Yeah, Jodi, THAT is a bit worse. I get it, though. Because I ran into a cockroach in the middle of the night, almost picked it up because I thought it was a piece of trash, I have new and odd fears about the dark and the toilet. So, your fears make sense to me. It turns out that a lot of people are afraid of fish. Right?

Dani, I'm glad I make you laugh. It's nothing compared to when I say to you, "I've got some G-U-M on my B-U-M, it's a sorry sight to see." Or "Brontosaurus Roxy!" Right? I am the queen of making you laugh.