On Memorial Day, most people are celebrating our armed forces and the sacrifices they have made to keep us safe. There is also time to relax and enjoy what most consider the kick off for summer with a barbecue and a few cold ones. Then there are those few, sick, twisted individuals who think it would be a good idea to swim a half mile in the rain.
…that would be me.
I drug the family out in the mud to the lake with the promise of some fishing if they would go with me to my first real open water swim. They agreed and after a stop at Bass Pro Shop for some bait. I had never been to this lake before so I didn’t know what to expect. Finger lakes is a state park about 10 miles from my house that is a combination of small lakes and old quarries that have filled with water. It’s a beautiful area that is a multi-use space so there are off roading trails for bikes and quads as well as mountain bikes and hikers. There are some primitive campsites and a few areas designated for swimming. It’s actually quite a find to be so close to home.
The lake we chose to swim in is actually just about perfect for open water practice. It is dogleg shaped and is narrow. It’s only about 75 yards wide and is about 550 yards long. So you get a perfect opportunity to swim up to a half mile with only one turn. There are plenty of trees on the bank to sight on and the water is decent. There are only a couple of spots where you have to swim through a plant or two, then you are in open water.
Here are my impressions of my first open water swim:
Even though it was 68, breezy and rainy, with a water temperature about the same as the air temperature, I was comfortable to even a bet warm in my sleeveless wetsuit. The hardest part (besides cramming my fat ass into the suit) was walking out over the mushy, rocky bottom until I could get to a point where I could start swimming.
I’m still not used to swimming with a cap. But the rules for swims with teh club are that you have to wear one. Mine never seems to fit right and when I got done it was sealed tight, but full of water…? Weird and kinda funny at the same time. I desperately need to get some “no fog” fro my goggles. About 400 yards into the swim I ran into a self induced fog bank and had to stop for a second to clear my googles. Kinda hard to sight what you can’t see… My wetsuit performed admirably. I just got the tiniest of rubs on the underside of my upper right arm. Otherwise it was comfortable, buoyant and warm. Almost too warm at points. It didn’t bind or impede me in any way. It was a nice security blanket for my first open water.
It took me a long time to find a rhythm. I’m sure it was just the nervousness of being in a new situation. I found that my breathing was a bit labored even though I was barely kicking. I’m sure this was stress. I usually breathe every 4 but had to drop it to every two to keep me comfortable. Sighting was easy (except when my goggles fogged up) but I did find that I pulled to the right when breathing every two strokes so I kind of swam in a bit of an arc. Once I got out to the half way point I tried to really focus on tracking and relaxing/breathing. I worked on tracking every 8 strokes. If I was on, I did another 8 strokes. If I was off, I corrected and then checked every 4 strokes until I was back on line. I tried to force myself to breathe ever 4 strokes. I did have to occasionally do a catch up breath but by the end of the lap I was back to an easy 4 stroke breathing pattern. I realized that even though I really didn’t have to, I was kicking quite a bit. This is an old habit with me. I kick when I’m not comfortable. I tried to force myself to relax from the waist down and swim “through the tube”. This seemed to help and I’m pretty sure I swam faster toward the end. I briefly entertained thoughts of doing another lap, but I was pretty tired and since it was my first time I decided to declare victory and wait for another day.
As intimidating as it was standing on that bank and looking down that long lake, I think it went OK. Lots to work on of course, but the jitters are gone now when the mention of an open water swim comes up. It would be nice to swim open water a couple more times before the race, but if not, I’m OK with it. My first open water swim is about half the distance I did yesterday and from my understanding it’s the run/bike that is the hard part of this one. LOTS of hills! Still, this swim did a lot to allay my fears about “real” open water. It was really kind of fun.