Eventually I will get back to writing about running, but I just had to write a post about my first open water swim. From the girl who couldn’t swim freestyle less than a year ago, this was a huge deal for me. I once thought it better to not know what’s coming and tackle challenges as they come, but in training for this half Ironman – where a time cutoff is my biggest concern – I need to face my fears head on. What better way to do that than to jump out of my comfort zone and dive in! (pun intended)
I found an open water swim clinic on Octane Athletics‘ site. There would be coaches (major plus), lifeguards on the water (double plus) and Trishop was bringing Orca wetsuits to try out for the swim (major double plus). Oh, and they were going to be separating beginners from advanced swimmers. It’s like the whole day was set up just for me! I registered for it and then talked my running buddy into registering for it too.
I’m working on getting her to do an Olympic distance this year with me, but she said I’m on my own for the half Ironman. 🙂
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m getting a lot better being around groups of strangers. I’m no longer intimidated by the triathlete crowd. I’ve been in the running community long enough to know that everyone has different levels and goals. It’s all about bettering myself, and what I can do to get there. I’ve read up as much as I can, so I am familiar with some of the typical concerns of open water swims – wetsuit tightness, panic, limited visibility, etc… My main concern was that my brand new (just purchased that morning) mirrored goggles would leak, and I would have to wear my too tight, limited vision, foggy goggles I wear at the pool.
Putting on the wetsuit was a little tough. I thought it would be like getting pantyhose or compression gear on, but no. It’s not the classiest look either trying to get everything in place. Once it was in place though, I never needed to adjust it.
The beginners (and the ones who needed a refresher) were in one group with a coach. We practiced going out in groups: 10 strokes, turn around and come back; 15 strokes, turn and come back, and so on. I was a little timid, and didn’t want a foot in the face (which is what happened to my friend), so I think I was holding back some. Then on one of our starts, I had someone swim over me. That was different!
We also practiced getting our heart rate up and calming it in the water. I never really got panicked though. Maybe because I’ve had lots of practice calming myself in the pool. Our group got smaller as more people moved over to the advanced group. We practiced beach starts. Running from the sand into the water is a lot harder than it looks!
We then took our turn swimming out and around a buoy, and coming back. We buddied up and someone else led us out. I struggled with sighting and the feeling that I was way off course, but I eventually made it to the buoy, treaded water to regroup with my buddy, and we started back to shore. I wasn’t prepared for the current on the way back. Fortunately, I breathe to my left so I didn’t get a face full of water every time, but I sure swallowed my share of the lake fighting it. We rested for a minute, and completed one more lap. This time I worked on sighting better. I found a landmark to keep in my view, and it helped. You can see on the map how off course I was coming back the first lap.
When we got out of the water, my friend said, “I can’t imagine getting on a bike after this!” I felt the same. We had been in the water for over an hour, and we were wiped out! Oh, and so hungry! But I am grateful that I had the opportunity to do this. It was so beneficial to me, and the $20 I spent was well worth it. I learned a lot and I no longer have fear of the unknown, but I still have a lot of work to do. Swimming is my weak link, but it’s not going to keep me from my big goals.