Why Ignorance Is Bliss When You’re the Underdog
How underdogs chase progress, not perfection
“Are you just learning to swim?”
That’s what a stranger asked me while I was joyfully swimming in the Pacific Ocean.
I laughed and replied. “Oh — am I that bad?”
I told him I’d been practicing open water swimming regularly for the past two years and I was surprised by his comment. He told me he was a swim instructor and offered a few tips. He watched me swim a few strokes and provided feedback on my technique.
“Well — you’re not horrible.”
Although he was friendly and meant to be helpful, the comment was a killjoy, and it made me question my swimming technique.
“The most oblivious people are often the happiest.” — George Meyer
Before I trained for my first-ever triathlon race at age 51 this year, I was oblivious that I wasn’t as strong a swimmer as I thought I was. I later learned I was slower than average, but I didn’t expect to be the slowest swimmer in my age category and the second slowest swimmer out of 255 racers. I was out of breath every second lap, my technique lacked grace, and swimmers glided past me until the pool was quiet and nearly empty.
But I didn’t stop swimming.
I finished the Sprint triathlon in one hour, 31 minutes, and 31 seconds — with only 29 days of training.
If I’d known I’d be the slowest swimmer or if I postponed the race until the following year to allow for extra training instead of saying, “What the hell, I’ll give it a shot,” — I may have never attempted the race.
Relearning how to swim
I decided to take open water swim lessons to improve my random “Mary-Style breaststroke/front crawl/breathe/gasp/kick rapidly/tread water technique” and to prepare for my second triathlon, which would incorporate an ocean swim.
I signed up for a course called “Race Skills.” The course outlined that it would cover everything in the Beginner’s Course, and the only prerequisite was the ability to swim 100 meters in open water.