I heard it but I just didn't believe it. Everything I've read said that open water swimming was totally different from swimming in the pool. But hey, I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. I swam in Lakes Union and Washington regularly in Seattle. How different could it be?
Well those were all some time ago. I headed to Wenonah Lake tonight for an open water swim sponsored by the organization that's running the triathlon. I'm up to 1800 yards in my pool workouts and, while I don't swim fast, I swim strong so I was feeling pretty good about the 1/10 mile loop there would be at the lake.
I decided to try out my new wetsuit while I was at it. There's a good chance it won't be allowed the day of the race, if the water is too warm, but just in case I thought I'd give it a try. The suit was comfortable, though I thought I'd feel more bouyant given what I'd been reading. Actually, I felt a little heavier in it and I got tired really quickly.
I headed out into the water and made the first turn just fine but about 50 yards into the swim I was suddenly up to my neck in a panic attack. There was no wall, I couldn't touch the bottom and I was surrounded by swimmers. I paddled around for a good several minutes before I calmed myself down and remembered that I know how to swim. That got me through several strokes when I took the first blow to the head. Then a stray foot in my side. I was startled, but not as completely thrown off as I thought I would be. I made it around the loop and touched bottom for a moment. I was tired and I had only done about 300 yards!
I knew that if I didn't go right back out there just then, I would be afraid for the rest of the summer and would have real problems on race day. So, back around I went. The second time I was able to get into my rhythm and remain calm. I stayed on course when the first few swimmers went over me. At least when there's a foot in your face you know you're going in the right direction. I did have a little trouble sighting the bouys, as they were on my right and I breathe on my left, but I was going so slowly that I didn't get too far off track.
I stopped after two loops, that was just a bit longer than I'll have to do for the tri. It wasn't nearly as long as I was supposed to do for my training swim today but I know I worked twice as hard. It's frustrating how difficult it is to find a lake to swim in here in South Jersey so I'm not sure yet when I'll get to practice again, but I know I sure need to before that race comes up!
I will say again, as I have after every group event I've done, you couldn't find a nicer group of people to spend time with. I think if we could get everyone in this country active, not only would we cut down on obesity and weight-related illnesses, but I think people would just be happier and get along better. I may be pushing it, I realize it's probably the endorphins talking, but I felt like I was at one big swimming party and it didn't mind that I bulged out here or there. There were people of every size, shape and age in the water and the thing that tied us all together was that we were all there, seizing our own fish, meeting our own challenges and refusing to sit back and just watch things happen around us. And that was worth every sliver of cedar I'll be pulling out of my nether regions for the next couple of days!