There are four stages of competence.
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, they recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.
With open water swimming I fall into the first level. Unconscious incompetence. I know so little about open water swimming that I thought I knew what I needed to know.
Before the race I had high confidence in my abilities. I had put in a lot of time in the pool and swimming in lakes. I cut my mile swim time in almost half from 42 miles to 25. My running seemed to be going very smoothly.
The first swim of the race had been eliminated by the low tide. Nathan and I found ourselves in the top 25% getting into the water for the first segment. It seemed like it would be an amazing day. We entered the water, got sight of the marker a half mile out and started to head across the water. We quickly were getting passed by a large amount of people. It took us over twenty minutes to swim the first segment. As we exited the water Nathan and I discussed the possible reasons that people were so much quicker than us. They were all elite level swimmers, they were using hand paddles, we some how over estimated our swimming skills. As the second run segment started we quickly and easily passed large groups of people. We made our way around the island fort and got back into the water. In and out. We find ourselves farther back into the pack. In and out of the water. We are getting nearer to the last place position. We have a three mile run. As we cross the island, we are catching people that cannot run up the shortest of inclines. It seems very odd that we are this far back in the pack. Some of the groups even comment on how quickly we are moving. Then we get into no mans land. We are swimming too slowly to be with the lead group and running too quickly to be with the trailing group. This, in our eyes, is the tipping point of the race.
IF we can get the one mile swim done, we will be back to short easy swim and run segments.
Nathan and I get instructions from the gentlemen guiding people into the water. Head to the island, look for land, shoot for the flag pole. We head out into thick seaweed and waves. The people we passed running are now coasting by us once again. We get to the island and head to the only land we can see in the weather. We have to tread water to get unhooked from a buoy. We tread water to untangle ourselves from seaweed. We have been swimming an awful long time. I get a little bit of fear that I might never make the shore. From a few minutes I consider taking my cap off and being rescued. I remind myself to keep calm and keep a steady stroke. This is one giant shit sandwich and I am determined to eat it one bite at a time if needed. The coast guard boat comes and ask us if we are ok. I respond yes and ask them if we are off course. They tell us that we are but we are doing well. He points to the closest beach and tells us to head there. 15 minutes later, we are on the beach with a lady playing with her dog. She say that we missed the mark back a few coves. So we get back into the water and head deeper into the cove. It has been over an hour for us to make the mile. I am shivering and my hands are numb. As we crawl out of the water my wife Alex is there and says we are almost in last place. How could this be possible? What in the world is going on? Nathan and I get our first food on course. It was listed in the aid station that they would have gels and bars. We are now 4 hours in and this is the first time that they have had anything other than electrolyte tablets. Those have been useless and we have been ingesting plenty of salt water. We make the short run to the next swim. We pass a few people walking. When we get to the water Nathan asks for a moment to prepare mentally to get back in the cold water. I am very glad he did. At that point I am ready to say very terrible things to everyone I see. I resist. They haven’t done anything. They are wonderful volunteers. They cheer us on and we keep moving. It is a short swim followed by a 50 yard walk, and then an 800 meter swim. We are freezing our asses off. The waves are rocking us sided to side and we make our way across the “Shark Cove”. It seems like we are not even moving. We are fighting the current for any forward progress. Another beating of a swim and we get out of the water. The lady at the aid station asks how we are doing. I tell her that I am considering dropping from the race. She says “That doesn’t matter, you missed the cut off anyway” At that time we are two swims and a run from where we are supposed to be time wise. Alex finds us and we tell her that we are out. We shiver and walk our way back to the finish line, which happens to be a mile and a half across the island. It is a long walk of shitty thoughts about what we have just done and how we could have been so damn awful.
We head to the Boston area for a wonderful evening with a wonderful old friend of mine from the Army.
In the morning Nathan messages me. He has downloaded his data form his Garmin complete with the maps. Want to know what went wrong? Of course you do. We shit the bed on the swim portions. Swim speed, good. However, we had doubled (or more) all of the swim distances. That swim that took us over an hour was supposed to be a mile… it ended up being 2.5 miles.First swim where we started getting passed like we were standing still was a half mile, but we swam a mile. By mile eleven in the race, Nathan and I had covered almost 17 miles, and of that over five and a half were swimming. The total swim distance for the race was supposed to be around 4.5.
Even before knowing this I was happy with the results of the race. What I wanted from the race was to be pushed mentally. There are not very many things that test my spirit. I was tested. I don’t remember the last time I was truly nervous about whether or not I would be able to keep moving. In that regard it was a great success. As far as being competent in the abilities need for the race, I was unconsciously incompetent. I didn’t even know enough about swimming in the ocean currents to know that I was drastically unprepared.
So there it is. I worked my ass off to develop my swimming for this race. I am gald to have had the experience. I now know that if you drop me in the water, I will more than likely survive. Most importantly, I know understand that I know diddly dick about the ocean and how to navigate it.
Now back to the regularly schedule program and relentless forward motion. I want to be better tomorrow than today. Same goal the next day. And the next. What is the next thing coming up for me? I have a couple things in mind. It will be a struggle no matter what goal I choose. Struggle is good and what makes you grow.
Thank you for reading and thanks for all of the support.
Love always- Mike (Skinney) Kinney