As much as I love obstacle course racing, I don't love every obstacle. I can climb walls and structures that are 20 feet in the air and not miss a beat. But put me in a situation where I have to submerge myself in icy (and usually brown) water and I freeze up (pun semi-intended).
The fear of getting into extremely cold water came out of a race several years back. We'd had an exceedingly snowy winter and the race was in April. For those who live in New England, April can be hit or miss. We hadn't had much of a spring and things were still melting, including all that snow.
The race was really fun--overall I loved the obstacles, even the ones with water. But boy that water was cold. So cold that it took my breath away when I jumped in. I had a hard time breathing and my body stiffened. It wasn't fun, and while I recovered, I haven't forgotten that feeling.
Fast forward to a race at the end of June of this year. I had done my homework, so I knew there was an obstacle that required you to dive under a wall that was submerged in icy water. It was going to be a very hot day so I looked at it from the viewpoint of "it will feel refreshing."
This obstacle was towards the end of the race. I was exhausted and running out of gas. I got into the water, which did feel nice. But I couldn't do it. I just couldn't submerge my body for even a few seconds. That feeling from a few years ago came rushing back to me. I was disappointed in myself that I couldn't overcome this fear, but I got out of the obstacle.
Fast forward again to a few weeks after that at a different race. Once again, I knew a similar obstacle was along the course. I was determined to conquer this one and fortunately I did! It was cold and it took my breath away just as I had feared, but I survived. Unfortunately there were two other obstacles I wasn't able to conquer, but that's a topic for a different blog post.
My point is this: it's okay to not conquer all the obstacles. But eventually you need to conquer your fears. It's not always easy, but it's rarely as bad as you expect it to be.