Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Open Water Swimming

When I first started my triathlon training I wasn't really concerned about practicing the swimming portion out in the open water. I felt like I was a pretty strong swimmer and I read about people who waited until race day for their first open water swim (OWS). I figured I could pull that off too. Well first of all, when I started training in a pool with actual lanes I realized I wasn't as strong of a swimmer as I thought! Secondly, I am so glad I had the chance to do an OWS today.

I met my co-worker and triathlon training buddy/coach at the Chesapeake Bay this morning. She's done several triathlons, her most recent a half iron man just last weekend, so this swim was a walk in the park for her. I was excited to just get out there and try it, we've been swimming over a mile in the pool so really my only concern was how cold the water was going to be! Thankfully she brought me a wet suit so I didn't even have to worry about the cold.

We waded out in to the water about waist deep and decided what marker we would aim for, about a 1/2 mile up the beach. I started out a head of her, and I knew we weren't going to race but at the same time I didn't want her to pass me! So I started out fast. My feet kicking hard and my arms pulling and it took about, oh, 5 seconds before my heart started to race because I realized I couldn't see A THING! In the pool theres a black line to follow to keep your self in a straight line, in the bay, theres just greenish, foggy water with the occasional black speck floating in front of your goggles! I tried not to panic and just kept swimming on. Trying to figure out how my rhythm of breathing and sighting (looking up out of the water to make sure you're still headed towards the target) was going to work. It didn't take me long to start tiring out, and then all of a sudden, as my arms were paddling and my feet were kicking I realized I must look like a helpless turtle just screaming out for a shark to come and eat me! Seriously.  I've never really been scared of sharks getting me when I'm in the ocean here in hampton roads, but today a totally irrational fear of being eaten by a shark completely over took me! I tried to force myself to stay calm and just focus on breathing... lifting my head every 3 strokes like in the pool. It seemed to be working for a while, that is until a piece of seaweed got wrapped around my foot and my arm knocked into something solid and immovable!

I literally had a mild heart attack! (Which is two in one week because I saw a funnel cloud during a tornado warning at work on Monday night - these heart attacks can't be good for my health!) Anyways, I started panicking. I started flipping around and pretty quickly realized I was in about knee deep water and the immovable object that my hand was actually the sand. Yea, as in the bottom of the bay. Woops! I had swum a little too close to the shore trying to make sure I didn't swim too far away from shore. Because there were probably more sharks out in the deeper water... Once Missy got to me, we rested for a few minutes and I shared my shark story. She laughed at me and assured me there were no sharks in the bay haha so we turned ourselves around and headed the 1/2 mile back.

I felt much more confident on the way back. My goal was to keep a better pace, find a consistent breathing/sighting rhythm, and think less about a shark biting my leg off. I think I did pretty good at the first 2, the last one was still a little bit of a challenge.

Anyways...I have a little over a week until my first triathlon. Thankfully we'll be swimming in the James River where I'm 99.9% sure there aren't any sharks. Hopefully all other river creatures will be scared away by the multiple people in the river splashing ahead of and behind me! Which the multitudes of people may produce another irrational fear of being drowned by people swimming over me, but... I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!

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