Fear is defined an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

I hope you know that fear can be so intense that you feel like you’re going to die. Most people call that anxiety. Your pulse races, your heart pounds, you find it hard to breathe. You may even pass out. I have never passed out, but I have exhibited above mentioned characteristics.

I, like many kids experience age-appropriate fears, such as being afraid of the dark. Most kids find solace in a nightlight while others may require both reassurance, to sleep with mommy and daddy and perhaps a nightlight. Eventually they learn to overcome their fear or they outgrow it. However, if they continue to have trouble or there’s anxiety about other things, the intervention has to be more intensive.

My childhood fear was of Jaws, later it grew into anything that could possibly be found in the water. Having swam in the Gulf and seeing sharks up close and personal in aquariums intensified my fear. (The weirdest thing is I continuously watch shark week.) My fear is so intense that sometimes in a pool I can see the shark teeth and the water bubbles escape from it’s mouth. Lately it has been alligators, not the Lake Placid ones.

I know sharks aren’t present in the lake or in a pool, but yet a fear will come over me and I begin to panic. Unfortunately, snakes and alligators can be found in the bodies of water I swim in. . Which brings me to the fear of swimming in open water.

As a small child I couldn’t take baths because I was so afraid that I either had to take showers or have a parent sit outside the tub or present in the door frame.

I nearly drowned three times, once I had to be revived, but I have overcome my fear of drowning. I know the possibilities each time I enter the water and I am OK with that.

I am not to fond of Jason and Crystal Lake either, but that’s another story.

I am afraid to get tangled in weeds or have stuff touch me. I’m allergic to grass, pollen and flowers. If it is a green and I can’t ingest then I’m probably allergic. I’m not as afraid of the green that grows in the lake unless I am tangled in it.

Keep in mind I can’t hang any of my body parts over the bed because I just know something is going to grab me. My heart rate spikes and my breathing becomes labored. Knowing this I think to myself each time someone brings up open water swimming, ” You want me to swim in open water when I can’t touch the bottom and can’t see the bottom?”

So how in the heck do I go from the swimming pool to an open water swim on the anniversary of my enlistment into the Army? My answer is always the same my Father, God. He puts people in your lives for a reason and/or a season.

Ironman Jada, and I met online in April a few weeks before the Boston Marathon and she agreed to be my guide. Ironman training Isabella, Cooking Shinta, Trainer Eileen, Coaching Norm and Knowledgeable Isaac. The perfect couple Denise & Walt and I met running the Kemah bridge. Marine Guadalupe and I met at a race, all were members of the Houston Chapter of Team RWB.

Two years in a row I volunteered and and event called Andy’s Tri . In October 2015 I volunteered with Team RWB. We ate breakfast at Jupiter Pizza and Waffles, a place in Sugar Land Town Center, where Guadalupe, Denise and Walt were talking and it was decided that 2016 would be the year for us to do a triathlon. I told them initially I’m on my 50 states 1/2 marathon journey I have 16 states this year and that’s that. Then I agreed I could try to a triathlon, but couldn’t do an open water one. I can’t deal with duck fecal matter and all that other that other stuff; I’m a recovering germophobe. They were like, “No we are all going to do this triathlon!” They asked me to check my calendar. I did and it was virtually clear; I had forgotten about the National Black Marathoners Association Summit the same weekend of Andy’s Tri. They pulled out cell phones from wherever they were hiding and took pictures of me looking on my phone calendar. Crazy folks!

Nonetheless I am not trying to get into anyone’s open water I have a fear of open water. They aren’t trying to hear that. They are convinced we are all going to do Andy’s Tri next year. I am convinced and trying to convince them that my first triathlon is going to be in a pool or a lazy river, they weren’t trying to hear me. I never agreed that I would do an open water swim, so why bother conquering my fear.

Let’s 1st get me swimming; I can’t swim, I explained. I have right side hemiparesis; my foot drop isn’t the only issue. It’s my entire right side which includes the external intercostal muscles, lungs and diaphragm I need for breathing. Plus my lung doesn’t inflate all the way and of course I have Asthma. All the muscles on my right side upper, mid and lower plus my extremities are sometime of difficulty. Are they crazy?! I can’t wear a brace and swim. Eileen is sitting at the table. She says, “Well keep coming to the swim clinics.” At that same breakfast Tee talked briefly about having fear and anxiety. I’m looking at him crazy like what? You are freaking Aqua-man. What you know about fear in open water? He reassured me as all other Eagles had and I am so very grateful. I am still not trying to enter the open water.

In summer 2015, I started trying to swimming with them in the pool, because I wanted to learn to swim for exercise. Eileen was telling me I need to somehow get my hand straight. I was upset ’cause my body parts don’t move properly. At an event Isaac talks me about claw hand just out of the blue. Next thing I know he is torturing Jessi (the hand model) and makes me this hand brace to keep my fingers straight. So I practice with it for about 2 months before I pop the rubber bands and break it. I’m totally hating swimming! I shortly there after I decided that there would be no more swimming. Definitely not in open water. Why, because I am not even remotely faster than the slowest person.

Jaws or whatever is in the water is going to get me. I am not having it. I watch movies…ain’t nobody got time for that!!!

One day, Norm asked me if I’d ever considered a triathlon. I almost laughed in his face. I told him I couldn’t swim because I have right side hemiparesis. He basically said so what’s the problem? You run with right side hemiparesis… I couldn’t say anything, he was right. The Almighty Oz had spoken. I paused, then explained I couldn’t wear a brace and swim like I do for running. Nor was I able to wear a hand brace plus transition barefoot for me is impossible. He didn’t push the issue. Treating me as an athlete, he offered to swim with me anyway. Months go by and I finally swim with him. Of course he did more online coaching than physical coaching because I was afraid to get in the pool with him, he swims like a fish. He basically said, ” You swim with your arm. Don’t worry about your hand.” A few days later I am swimming by myself and I swim my 1st mile. Two days later the same thing swim my 2nd mile. My form isn’t the greatest, but it can only improve. The point is I swam non stop for an hour in the pool. I kinda just got lost in thoughts of feeling each stroke.

Sometime in May:

At a Houston Racing Triathlon Club (HRTC) meeting earlier this month I was talking an older gentleman that had done many triathlons and few Ironman race and he was telling me I should just hop in the water and that on the 20th of May would be the perfect opportunity. It’s nothing to it, but just to do it. I considered it all of 3 seconds and walked away.

I swam 1225 yards in the pool Thursday and planned to go swim Friday in a pool. I began texting Jada. Why, did I text Ironman Jada? Sometimes I would just like to blame it on the brain injury.

Jada started talking to me about triathlons shortly after we met. Once she saw some swimming pictures on Facebook she asked me about triathlon. She has been giving me pointers and helping to build my confidence to try open water from a far. She suggested that I just put my fear aside and go try it. I asked Norm if I swam well enough to try open water. He suggested I try it, but not alone.

So I send a text to Isabella and ask her if she going swimming at the lake. She was all over it. She offered me her safe swimmer. I’m like what the heck is that?

Immediately I started to panic. Well I only made to meditation with Shinta once, but I sat on the floor in my office and meditated. Shortly after that I prayed.

Fear comes from the heart. If ever you feel overcome by it, you should inhale and exhale deeply, slowly, and rhythmically, relaxing with each exhalation. This helps the circulation to become normal. If your heart is truly quiet you cannot feel fear at all.

So grateful for Shinta and the one meditation class I made it too, there are definitely more in my future.

So here it is Friday, I get a text from Isabella. She wants to know if I am going to the lake. Well I have many reasons as to why I can’t go. One my car is in the shop and now as I look around I have no purse. I left it at my job which ain’t close.

I ended up at the lake. After much drama! I ask a friend to drive me round trip 58 miles to retrieve my purse. Craziness!

I arrive at the lake, Isabella blows up the safe swimmer and wraps it around my waist. It took me 15 minutes to get into the water to put my feet in. As I walked closer to the water I could feel my heart racing. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I had to focus to control my breathing, tried to meditate and breathe. I put my feet in the water and had to work really hard to stay calm. Isabel talked calmly to me and the ladies at the dock reassured me. Another swimmer either got out of the water or stepped into the water, which caused the pier to give. I yelped and almost jumped up to run. Key word {ALMOST} I didn’t have on a leg brace; no leg brace equals a face plant waiting to happen. Not today, not today.

I look over on the water and see a spider skipping on the water. I don’t like spiders. Oh! I drew my feet out of the water. There’s a fish! Isabel is like of course there’s fish. I’m thinking ok let’s move up the food chain her sister. What else is in this water? CANDICE, stop being negative. I say to myself, relax, relate, release. You have conquered many things by having faith.
Then I hear Dana, Ariana, Mia, Jeanette, Eileen, Jen, Miriam, Guadalupe, Denise, Kimberly, and Karen my TIR tribe screaming ‘Kill It’ I got pumped!

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1st Women Veteran Team at the Texas Independence Relay

Then I thought: She promised not to drown you. If you drown it’s cause you freaked out. Have faith. I felt a calmness come over my body. Then I felt as ready as I was going to be. I’m about to Kill it!

When the consciousness is kept on God, you will have no fears; every obstacle will then be overcome by courage and faith. I was afraid to step out on faith although I had done it many times. Feeling a little iffy, I told Isabel to swim out and I will swim out to her. She did just that. I thought if today is the day I parish in open water, I’m ready! Take me…take me now!

I eased off the deck into the water. Dang it’s cool, like a pool. Dang, no line at the bottom. It’s green and cloudy with no chance of meatballs. Breathe, stroke, stroke…Freak out! My chest tightened and I know I left my pump at home. Roll over and look at the clouds and breathe. You are floating..right into Jaws, swim! I rolled over to swim. The water was cool as I swam, in certain places it got cooler. Then change in temperature made me freaked out. I could feel the alligator coming towards me in the water, but he evidently wasn’t ready for BBQ because I didn’t feel any pain from his bite. You are trippin’ Candice, I told myself. Just then my breath was taken from me, I rolled on my back and floated. I had to calm myself down. Each time I lost my breath I rolled over on my back. It was the longest 110 yards of my life, 4 minutes and 6 seconds. I spent 50 yards on my back floating the wrong direction. I thought I’d never make it to the dock. As I rolled over and I started swimming again something brushed up against me. SHARK! oh, it was the safe swimmer. All I could see was water,  and I couldn’t get me breathing right. Isabel, where are you? I scanned the water. Check, I see her. I started swimming toward her as she was moving away from me. Why can’t I go straight, there was a current making me move in a direction I didn’t want to in. Where the hell is Isabel? Oh I see her bright pink Ironman cap. I hate pink! Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. I made it. I get to the algae filled ragged metal steps and cut myself twice on my knee. Now I’m on the deck freaking out, because the fish are going to get me cause I’ve drawn blood. Oh my! I’m not worried about the disease I have just contracted, but piranhas trying to eat me.

Isabel jokes about the fish trying to eat me, “Oh so we are in the Amazon now?” I am getting heated. I am seriously about to freak out and you are making light of this situation. I’m going to be out on this deck until the blood stops. I told Isabel take your safe swimmer! It’s freaking me out. Shortly, Norm shows up doing his ninja impression. He swam out away from us and then swims to the deck. He climbs the ladder and sits between us.  I was venting to him about how insensitive Isabel was when he began to talk about my fears in a way that made me upset too.

Oh so ya’ll both got jokes?! I am sitting there thinking it’s official you are both unfriended if I ever make it back into the water and to my cell phone. I wasn’t happy with them AT ALL! They were trying to help. It upset me that they would make light of my fear, but that wasn’t their intention to upset me. They were trying to help me to realize that we all knew it was in my mind and not even close to being reality. Like I always say someone’s perception is their reality. Sometimes it is hard for people to accepts or understand that.

I was so tired of hearing the tease me as if I was some child. I was suddenly motivated to keep swimming, because I wanted to get away from them. I asked Norm to get in the water and swim, hoping he would swim like a fish a disappear, but he refused. So I asked Isabel, she took the bait and did it, but waited for me to enter the water.  I has wished she had swam away and left me. I took a few breaths and swam 98 years back to the pier. I climbed out of water and caught my breath and decided to swim again. 30 yards was as far as I could make it. 15 yards out and something touched my face. Lord Jesus! What the heck touched my face? Are you serious? I realized it’s the strap to my goggles. I turn around and got out of the water. Isabel asked me am if I was alright. I’m like yeah, I am not talking to you. I fixed my strap and swam out again another 102 yards. Ok I can do this somehow my watch only picked up 50 yards on my return trip. I was robbed! Well I’m not going to edit my data. No, I am just going to swim extra (that’s dumb-just edit the data). I get out of the water and they think I’m ready to go.  I said nope I need to maximize my time especially since my Garmin robbed me of my yardage. I get back in and  to swim out to the dock and back without taking a rest. On my way back I can’t see. Oh my gosh, the sun is setting. Where the hell am I going? Oh somewhere near the sun cause I can’t see anything , but bright light.  Now I know why there are tented goggled. Dang!!!! Life lesson, I tell you the truth. It’s the little things you should tell newbies. I’m just gonna head that direction because that’s where I think I last saw the pier.

As I am swimming I see bubbles coming up underneath me.  What the…? I pause to ensure I am not concocting this in my mind. No! There are bubbles, what creature is coming up under me? I think, “Get to the pier!”  I start swimming as fast as I could away from the bubbles I have no idea what is in the water with me. I see a lady standing in the boat, I am thinking oh she must see the creature.  I get onto the pier and I look and see the bubbles rising to the top. I can’t believe what I am seeing.  Is that Jason Voorhees; nope that is a damn scuba diver, Asshole!

As I get comfortable on the pier I asked my buddies if they saw the lady on the boat.  Norm was like nope there wasn’t a lady in the boat. Isabel co-signed what he said. Man, I could feel the anxiety rising. I know I saw another swimmer or someone on that boat. I started speaking in my head like Drew Barrymore in Fire Starter. “Back off…back off!” I’m trying not to go berserk. Those thoughts were drowned out by a foreign language.

Isabel starts to speak in another language other than English, it wasn’t Spanish either. She was speaking Ignunce (short for ignorance; something stupid). She said something like, let’s swim out around the dock and back? You and me? “Girl, I don’t know you like that. Gurl, stop playing; you crazy and you want me to jump off the dock and belly flop? Shut up!”

2 milliseconds later..
“Ok…I’m your Huckleberry!”  30 seconds of chitchat about jumping in at the same time, I jump in and swim 315 yards without resting Yaye! I swam 917 yards  on my first open water swim, I truly believe 50 years should still be added, but I am happy I conquered a fear. That was an awesome distance for my first time in the open water. I am pretty sure I’ll be able to swim 300 meters for my 1st triathlon in July and 500 meters for my 2nd triathlon in October.

Conquering fear is an arduous task. It takes time, focus and faith. Your brain is a very powerful persuader if you believe you can’t do something, then you won’t be able to. Believe you can and and you shall conquer all that is in your path.  You must  have a strong desire to change your mindset.

Kandi Kane’s tips on conquering fear:

  1. Identify your fear
  2. Understand your fear
  3. Take Action
  4. Work Gradually
  5. Have Faith

“I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” (Philippians 4:13)

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