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Photo by Molly Pennings. That’s me swimming! Check out how much my head is out of the water. Oh well!

On August 26, I did something that I thought I would never do: I swam 1.2 miles in Lake Superior (well, a harbor of Lake Superior) as part of a relay team for the Superior Man triathlon. And I could have kept going.I learned to swim two years ago at age 35. Before that, I just figured triathlons were out of my reach. I always told people, “I can’t swim.” I thought about perhaps participating in tris as part of a relay team, doing either the bike leg or the run leg. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would voluntarily do the swim (a 1.2-mile swim!) in a triathlon relay. But then I decided to take adult swimming lessons at the YMCA and give triathlons a whirl.

I had always enjoyed being in the water, but never learned how to properly coordinate an efficient stroke. When I started the adult lessons, I had trouble swimming across the length of the 25-yard pool. It took three months before I felt comfortable in the water.

The first tri season I did sprints (a quarter-mile swim), and this year I’ve done Olympic-distance tris (about a mile swim). The Superior Man swim was my longest swim to date.

Photo by Molly Pennings. I could see Duluth’s scenic Lift Bridge while swimming. Beautiful!
I want to say that swimming is like writing, and in many ways it is. You have to practice both regularly in order to improve. Over the winter I hit the pool twice a week without fail because I knew I wanted to complete longer swims. If I want to write an essay, I know that I have to “hit” the computer without fail (something that I tend to slack on at times, usually because I don’t always have a clear end goal).But in other ways, swimming is different. I feel different about finishing my recent 1.2-mile swim than I do about my writing accomplishments. I almost feel prouder of my swimming because for a long time, I thought swimming was something that I would never do. Whereas I have had an inclination toward writing my whole life. It was easy to decide that writing was a skill I wanted to pursue. I felt comfortable writing and wanted to spend time developing my craft.

It’s easy to work on things that you enjoy. It’s more challenging to try to learn something new. But when you succeed in that new thing, that thing you thought you would never grasp, the reward is even greater than when you succeed in something that you feel is a part of you.

Have you ever tried something completely new? Or is there something new you want to try?