Monday, May 28, 2007

Open Water

The last milestone I'd yet to accomplish before the triathlon was an open water swim. I could have gone Saturday, or yesterday, but, not to put too fine a point on it, I chickened out. I hadn't swum past the end of the dock at our town beach in all the time I've lived here, and hadn't ventured beyond a marked swim area since I was 12 years old. (Back then I was a confident swimmer.)

But today, I pulled on my SuperWoman suit (short-pants version!) and waded in to the lovely Mudge Pond. I must have looked silly with my goggles and swim cap, next to all the toddlers and tykes splashing around! But I ignored this - no self-consciousness, remember? and carried on. The water was chilly but once I'd gotten acclimated, quite refreshing - I could have probably done fine without the suit and am still thinking of skipping it next week. It was also choppy, and I kept getting the feeling of tentacles brushing against me - just the seaweed that grows in the pond, but still... eery. Also eery: that sense when you go from a warm spot to a cool spot.

I did a few breathless laps around the floating dock, while my family sat at the end of the regular one and cheered me on. I only stayed int he water 10 minutes or so, but had another go an hour later - this time the breeze had settled so the water was calmer, and I ventured a little farther out. Lots of people swim all the way across the lake and back (it's a tiny lake!) and I've no doubt that after a few more attempts I'll build the confidence to do it too. The swimming itself is no problem. I'd been wondering how long I could sustain my stroke without a wall to touch every 25 yards, but I didn't find that to be a problem - I paused when I needed to, but probably quite a bit less often than I would have in the pool.

What I didn't do was stroke efficiently - my legs were dragging, even in the wetsuit. My husband diplomatically said, "maybe it's taught differently now, but when I was a kid I was taught that my feet should break the surface when I swim."

If I understand the Terry Laughlin / Total Immersion technique correctly, this is indeed correct - that if your upper body and head are in proper alignment (head down, chest thrust forward) your feet will naturally rise. But I didn't do this consistently - it was just a wierd feeling to be thrusting down into the murky green deep (no black line to follow!) So, I have 2 or 3 workouts left to plan - I want at least one more of each under my belt, especially to test my latest and greatest shoe experiment, which I think I already described.

The weather forecast for Saturday has been posted: 75 degrees (not bad, but cooler would be nicer) and 40% chance of thunderstorms. Yikes! Evidenly it was 40 degrees and pouring last year - I'll take this over that!


LBTEPA said...

hope you don't get storms!
but WELL DONE on your open-water swim! once you get over being so conscious of your surroundings you will regain your form in no time :)
Remember if you do wear your wetsuit on Sunday then spray your calves/thighs with cooking spray so it peels off easily :)

RUTH said...

I remember doing a long swim out to a wreck in Cornwall(UK), the tide was out which made the swim shorter, when I got there this "thing" wrapped itself around my legs...I had imaginings of giant squid like in some horror movie! though I expect it was only seaweed. I think I must have broken all records in my swim back to shore...LOL

cynthia said...

yay jenny!! i admire you, not only because it's so much harder when there is no wall and no lanes but also because swimming in dark water is so much more intimidating than swimming in water you can see through. Here's a kicking tip from Pat Kelly at The Hotchkiss School, who has amazing swim wisdom and is always happy to share it. When you kick, make it feel as though you're kicking off your shoes. And do break the water. It def makes you go faster, i've found. Another tip from pat: when you stroke, do'nt bring your arm up high out of the water but just skim the surface (apologies to Pat, who i'm sure would explain it better). I used to bring my arm up all the way in a big arc, and I'd be exhausted after a single lap. Now that I just skim the surface of the water with my arm, my stamina has increased 10 fold. As for dealing with the weeds and the weirdness of an open water swim surrounded by hundreds of churning legs, good luck with that, no advice to share!