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Iron Strong Part 15
Learning to Swim with Bob...
In 2012 I journaled daily through my divorce, leaving the Mormon Religion, being a Single Mom, becoming a Marathoner and eventually an Ironman Athlete. This story will be delivered in parts and not really edited down from the original writings in my journal (including some typos and grammar misalignment). I do this to uphold the integrity of the Woman I was when I wrote these a decade ago, long before I knew this would end up as a full book and despite the fact my writing has evolved in the decade since I wrote these pieces. They read in present day time from a decade ago. These are stories of hope, miracles and never giving up on your dreams. It is a heroine’s journey of shame, secrets and ultimate seclusion to the Finish Line of Ironman Arizona....and then beyond. An Outward Journey to an Inward Destination of Freedom and Liberation, Iron Strong.
Learning to Swim with Bob…
We spent many days together on that pool deck. Talking. Laughing. Even crying sometimes. I was newly divorced and you were newly widowed. Both grieving and experiencing loss in very different ways but also the same emotions.
I looked forward to our chats after and before the pool just as much as the actual swimming. You taught me to breathe. To glide. But more importantly to open my heart and believe in myself. We latched on to each other and got to work, the 50 years age gap felt so minimal as you were so full of love and life. I had an Ironman to get ready for.
After swimming together for nearly three months, the gym decided they were going to tell us that we couldn’t swim together anymore…it was against code and he was “coaching me”.
Which I was being taught but from the beginning the only payment was “smiles and being a happy and fit mom for my boys”. Nothing in return except soup to freeze or freshly baked banana bread at times.
I was devastated to hear they pulled Bob, 84 years old and recently widowed into the managers office and told him he would be kicked out of the pool forever, if he was seen on the pool deck with me again. When he told me this my heart sunk.
I started crying. I just stared in disbelief. I told him everything good in my life was being taken away. Nothing stays. Nothing is forever. Why was this good being taken away.
I sobbed to him and he told me he wasn’t going anywhere. He was there and wouldn’t ever leave. He just wasn’t allowed to swim anymore with me.
And just like that we parted ways and I was left with what little pieces of my heart I had pieced together…laying on the floor once again.
After the feeling of shock that the BEST part of my life was being ripped from me, I got angry and decided to them on. I sat the GM down and laid it on thick…I don’t pull the single mom card but I pulled it strong this day…I wanted sympathy and I let the tears flow…tugging at heart strings was my first attempt to deal with the trauma of being told I could no longer swim with Bob.
I was truly healing, like the real kind of soul healing, through our time in the pool so it was as if someone took my therapy away from me as well. I have had SO much taken from me. When you go through a divorce you grieve the life that you always believed you would have…because that dream and life is taken away. I was done with the special things in my life being taken away.
When he held his ground I started rallying the gym and called in the troops…they knew how innocent it was us swimming together and as the tears flowed because I felt I was having something taken away from me…everyone we knew got enraged.
I couldn’t stop crying for two days. I remember getting in the pool and not being able to breathe I was crying and missing Bob so much. Then I saw him watching through a window and I waved. I stayed strong while he was watching and as soon as he went away I grabbed the edge of the pool and cried. Until every tear drop melted away into the pool. I felt like I had lost my source of happiness. After a divorce and losing so much by following your truth right out the door of a cultish religion, you cling to any happiness you can and our swimming and talks were mine.
I was running on the treadmill one day after sobbing that they took away my special time with Bob at the pool and I slammed my fist at the machine…pulled the emergency plug and grabbed my stuff….my two best girlfriends simply stared said…“oh no, she is done being sad and is pissed now.”
I looked at them and said that I knew grief. And at some point the shock and sadness would wear off and I would stop crying. And when that moment came nobody had better fucking mess with me. I will be pushed against a wall for so long and then I will come back swinging with a force and will-power that you can’t comprehend in your wildest dreams. I was DONE being a victim. I was DONE having things taken from me. And it was fight time.
As I stormed off I decided this wasn’t happening and if I had to call the CEO myself I was not having my swim partner taken away from me. I didn’t shut the door this time when I went to confront the manager and I stood my ground.
I had valid arguments and was NOT allowing this to happen because some swim coach was upset I wasn’t paying them instead of spending time with my 84 year old new best friend.
I wasn’t taking no for an answer and I made some threats they couldn’t ignore because I knew all the shady shit that went on behind the scenes at the club. I also knew people were training each other in the weight room all.the.time.
I was no longer playing nice and a corporate game. This was my life and I was fighting for it. He finally succumbed because he realized I wasn’t backing down and was calling his boss and that boss’s boss and had the numbers in my hand.
And then just like that, I won. I was allowed to swim with Bob. I smiled. Was gracious to this man. And walked out of the door feeling like I had just made the first step to OWNING my new life. I would never be pushed around again, especially by grown men. That was for damn sure. It was equally exhilarating and powerful.
I’ll never forget how grateful I was and excited to call and tell Bob that night thatI had taken on the “big boys”…and won. We did our little secret victory celebration and then with all the dignity and gratitude in our hearts…went back to work the next morning. Spending time at the place we both love so much…our pool deck.
My father had a chance to meet him during Christmas as well. He thanked him as my father for watching over me and coaching me. They joked about me as well. Bob told him the only problem with me is that he may need to reign me in sometimes with my big dreaming! HAHA!
My dad just smiled, laughed and said…good luck with that one Bob…she is my daughter and can’t be reigned in! My father also told him that he would never have to worry about a lack of motivation with me! Did I mention I am a total Daddy’s girl. My dad is my biggest hero. Love that special man and I am glad him and Bob were able to meet and share a laugh about my craziness!
As I stayed consistent in my swimming I noticed I started to feel better. The breathing clicked. I remember when Bob would say…work up to swimming 4 lengths. I would try SO hard and would push SO strongly because I wanted to tell him I did it and see the proud look in his eyes and feel in my heart I could DO IT! Having a mentor who wholeheartedly wants your success was so new to me and I cherished it.
I vividly remember the day I graduated from the kiddie pool to the “adult cold pool”! Seriously though a huge temperature change. I was so proud when I finally got to 2 lengths (50m).
Bob would have me do drills…try techniques, encourage me SO much and pick at my technique. It was ALL technique based. Learn the technique. Speed will come but efficiency and proper form was key. I was getting better and better. It was clicking more and more.
How you ask?…sheer determination and COMMITMENT. Three days a week. I knew I could do.
I remember on a Monday I finally decided…let’s just see how far I can go…so I did…and I made it half a mile. WOW. A half mile swim. Without stopping. It was unbelievable that just happened and I couldn’t WAIT to tell Bob the following day!
The pride in his eyes brought me to tears. I can’t believe how fast I am progressing. And for him to tell me that I was at a 95% technique and working quickly higher was just unreal. I kept at it…working up to get his approval that I was at 99%. That is where we all stay right? Always improving the last 1%.
There is always something to work on. Knowing I had the technique down, breathing was solid, and I was building this endurance…I decided I needed another long swim…AND it was at this point I signed up for the Racine 70.3 knowing I would be able to get there.
It is amazing what you can accomplish when you believe in yourself. And one thing I have learned is that it is ok to let someone believe in you. To see the greatness in you before you can catch even a glimpse of it.
It is ok to allow someone in as you become the person you are meant to be. To see you raw and vunerable as a beginner and an eager student. Sometimes it takes opening your heart to the possibility of the greatness that someone else sees in you…for you to begin the journey toward seeing even just a glimpse of it yourself.
Shortly after signing up for my 70.3…Bob and I were having a poolside conversation after a session as we usually did. I will NEVER as long as I live forget this conversation. Bob looked at me…deep into my eyes and told me that he didn’t have a single doubt I could do the 70.3.
That maybe at the beginning he had a few reservations because I was so overly ambitious and a big dreamer, but not now. Not after seeing my resilience in the water and in life. My dedication and love for this new sport. That sealed the deal…I was on my journey to becoming a “Half” Ironmaner this summer! Both Bob and I saw it. And most importantly BELIEVED it.
The FIRST 1.1 Mile Swim…
I set out thinking I would do a half mile on a random Monday…but when I got into the meditative flow of the swim I decided to really go for it. That was the game changer day for me…I broke free of all limits.
I would NEVER again have limits set on me or most importantly set them on myself. It was truly time to rise up and be the woman I have always been meant to be.
Swimming became much more than swimming in that moment for me. And can I tell you the excitement and pride I felt to be able to say I went from 1 lap to 1.1 miles in 9 weeks…with GOOD form! Maybe not the fastest but hey…I’m used to be slow and steady and conquering distance.
I was so excited to tell Bob once again and the look in his eyes just filled my soul with overwhelming joy! And whenever he would tell anyone about it…it just gave me such a feeling of accomplishment! It was the first time in my life I felt like someone was really “bragging about me” to other people and as much as it was completely embarrassing…It felt amazing to be loved in a way that someone wanted to speak of my accomplishments and successes.
Bob liked to tell people about all my accomplishments. It was rather cute the way he would “show me off”…I think it is because he is so humble, it deflected from people asking about him…but to have someone REALLY genuinely proud of you is a special feeling.
Then the unthinkable happened….I fell in deep, passionate love…with swimming…it was the following Monday…I wanted to swim another mile…and during that mile…I fell in love! Like I really really love swimming!!!!
And to seal the deal the following day Bob brought me a wetsuit to try on. Now…we are going to discuss this for a moment…putting on your first wetsuit…while WET! Holy Hanna…good thing I have big runner calves and am used to squeezing them into skinny jeans otherwise we would have been there all day!
I swore up and down there was NO way that wetsuit was fitting over my ass. Yes, I have an ass. I am an ass girl! Whatcha gonna do? To my shock…and rolling over in laughter at the mere thought of the scene I was putting on at the edge of the pool deck grunting and pulling and swearing and stretching that wetsuit over my wet body…10 minutes later I had that wetsuit on.
“Yay”…Coach Bob laughed and said it was harder to get on wet…note to self…never try that again without body glide! Haha!
Anyways….once I got it zipped and jumped in the water feeling much like a dolphin…I took off…and was beaming! I WAS FLYING!!!!! It was amazing! The speed. The love. The glide. The grace. The passion of it. I knew I was meant to do this all along…it just took me 31 years to find this sport!
I remember…swimming side by side with Bob…day in and day out…he was there when my journey started and he would be there when my journey “ends” at Racine 70.3…racing with me instead of spectating…my angel. I had asked him a few weeks before the race if he would come to be with me and my family and friends and the next day he said he couldn’t just be there…he had to race it too…he was never a good spectator!
Swimming became a passion we shared. We would follow each session with a long chat about everything from life to food to triathlon. Many times I would cry because seeing someone standing over you just giving you the praise and support from their heart is enough to bring anyone to tears.
I remember a particularly hard day for me when I was in tears…Bob held me and promised me that he would never leave me. He wasn’t like everyone else and he would always be there. Priceless words to hear from the girl who felt loving her was conditional her entire life. Bob healed my heart. Swimming wrapped it with a bow.