Monday, March 9, 2009

First Open Water Swim

On Saturday, I had my first Open Water Swim.

Oh. My. God.

It was quite the experience and I'm so glad that I did this before my first triathlon.

First, we have the wet suit. I LOVE my wet suit! It's so much easier to glide on top of the water with it. I don't sink when I breath! I've been working on this in the pool and have gotten much better, but the wet suit makes it automatic and one less thing to think about.

I'm also doing better at wiggling into the suit. Body Glide rocks!

On the other hand, I had a lot of trouble making my stroke efficient. Again, this is something I'm working on in the pool. But my arms are a lot more constricted in the suit. I think I can improve this by putting the suit on better though. I didn't pull it up as high as I could have once I got it on well enough to zip.

But enough about the suit ... on to the actual swim.

It was freezing! I started off okay, but a few strokes with my face in the water and I couldn't breath! So I just faked it.. did a few breast strokes, tried again, couldn't breathe, more breast strokes. I was pretty panicked at first, but I remembered hearing about others who eventually were able to put their face in.

I had overheard one of our coaches, Sherry, telling someone she had taken out on an club-sponsored open water swim the week before that "you just have to do it". So I kept "just doing it" and eventually I got used to the cold and was able to swim normally and not doggy paddle or do the breast stroke.

Next time I'm going to go further out and try to really swim a bit during the warm-up so I get used to the cold much faster.

My next big issue was spotting. I am really, really bad at knowing where my body is in space. It wasn't that much of an issue going out as I was breathing on the same side as the shore. Plus there was a big blob of pink caps ahead of me to look for.

Which reminds me of another cool thing: I didn't have too much trouble keeping up. In fact, I wasn't the last person to the pole! Usually I'm always last and sometimes by a large margin.

But on the way back to shore, I was ALL OVER THE PLACE. I zig-zagged like crazy. I still had a big group to look for though. But they kept getting farther away. Plus, I kept thinking I was closer to the shore than I was and I kept stopping to check and realizing I had a lot further to go and starting back up again. There were still people behind me so I suspect I wasn't the only one doing this.

Then I tried to stay in the water when I walked back to the starting point, to stay warm, and that slowed me down some more. Plus I was staggering all over the place due to lack of equilibrium. I think next time I'll use ear plugs to keep more cold water out of my ears.

In the end, by the time I started on my second lap, almost everyone (except the ones who decided to only do one lap) were already up to the pole. I was sure I could catch up to them and I felt good so I took off. But spotting was more of a problem this time. In fact, on the way back to the shore, I was so disoriented that at one point I was heading BACK out to the Bay instead of into the shore!

This added a lot of extra mileage to my trip. So, even though I was smart enough to stumble to the start point on the shore and not in the water this time, by the time I got to the starting point, the lead group was almost back to shore on their third lap! I didn't want to hold up the whole group waiting for me to do another lap, so I just stayed there. I was also a bit worried about having anything left in my legs for the run.

So we all ended up in the parking lot getting changed for our run. We didn't really practice it as a T1 transition. This is a good thing, because I really sucked at getting out out of the wet suit. In the store, getting out is easy, but when your feet and hands are wet, they won't exit the legs and arms of the suit! Next time, more Body Glide is in order, I think.

By the way, I did try the trick I saw on You Tube of holding your cap and googles in your hand when you take off the suit so they get stuck in the arms and you don't have to worry about dropping them. It works!

I sat in my car to change and I had a really hard time with the laces on my shoes -- I had no strength in my fingers to push the lace lock on my laces. I would have been better off just tying them, I think. I had trouble getting my feet out and then I had trouble getting my socks on. There was sand everywhere on my suit and feet, which didn't help, the socks were sticking to my wet feet, which didn't help, but the main thing is that I just didn't have anything left in my fingers to brut-force it.

So maybe I need to learn to bike and run without socks? I'm going to try going sockless at the next track workout, I think. Assuming I'm brave enough, that is.

Then I ran. Again, everyone was way ahead of me. Plus I still have no watch. Then I must have turned a different way from the rest of the pack, since I never saw them again after a fork in the path. So I did only a 20 min. run, 10 min. out and back, instead of the 15 minutes we were supposed to. But it was okay. The hills got me a bit, but I did eventually get some oomph back in my legs. And it was so pretty running at Coyote Point.

Anyway, I had a blast. I do love to swim and I do like swimming in the wet suit and also outside the pool. I want to do another open water swim! Heck, I'd do this every week, if I had someone to go with me. It was so much fun!
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