It's easy to say that someone 'should really do a swim' when they themselves are not going in the water with you. Here is my opportunity to swim in some pristine water while having my own personal Kayak support for my first open water swim of the year. How can you pass up the offer?
Well this is Canada for one. The coldest, wettest spring in history according to my books. We're up at Brian's cottage and by coincidence his wetsuit hasn't arrived since his Ironman the previous weekend. Oh of course, his event was so warm it was not wetsuit legal too! So when he coerces me to swim in the frigid Canadian water, I'm a bit skeptical since many would love to see me suffer a little. :)
I knew I would regret it if I didn't swim it so I put the wetsuit on and jumped in the water. Wow - it was warm! Well the shore was anyways. The kayak followed along side of me while I splashed in the water. Big winds, HUGE waves. I was getting killed out there. My face was in the water but the waves were so big that the water would drop out from underneath my head, and then it would come up and slam me in the face. I was swimming directly into the waves, it was not working. I was going really fast though. Even with the waves going one way with the wind, the current was pushing me along underneath, I could clearly feel it and the kayak could see me flying in the water. When I turned to go with the waves it was soo much better. I could hardly tell there were waves and I stopped getting whacked in the face. The waves were from the wind so they were not perfectly separated meaning you couldn't time the waves. They were different sizes too. Going with the waves was heaven. I could hardly tell they were there. I didn't notice it, but my speed slowed down immensely. The current was pushing me back, even that kayak couldn't hold a straight line. Then again Mrs. LoTC was in the boat and if anyone were to be awarded worse navigator EVAR, she would win for sure. :)
By the time I was back on the dock, I wasn't finished! I wanted more. The water was not cold, but not warm either so I wanted to take advantage of the conditions while I could. I decided to swim across the lake and back. Going across the waves was interesting. I could only breath to one side or risk being swamped by a wave incoming. All while I had to breathe every stroke. To be honest I had little to no concious awareness of what my stroke was. I was just happy to be moving in a forward motion, I didn't care about technique or breathing. It was a mess, with a side of anxiety. When I finished the swim I felt my confidence bump up to a whole other level. No way could conditions be worse than this, if I can survive this swim - I could survive an Ironman! I might have done roughly 2000m in the roughest water a race could be held in.
A couple of days later...
I learned of an OWS happening locally through someone on Facebook. I was quick to react and dig up the details on the where and when. Luckily the organizer, Lisa, was willing to let me join in the fun! Apparently they had already been swimming for a couple weeks it sounded like, yet I just learned of it now! I figured the water was too cold, but these guys are hardcore perhaps?
I was nervous. The last time I wore my wetsuit for any length was at Ironman Muskoka. I made sure to pre-soak it in a tub a couple of days earlier to help it get back to its original shape. I read that you're supposed to pre-soak your suit if it is in storage for longer than a couple weeks and then let it dry. I don't know why. Anyhow, the organizer is some kind of hardcore swimmer. I think she had been in a National championship in Vancouver or something, finished second place. I don't know the details but I didn't need to know them as they all amounted to the same thing - I am likely out of my league on this one.
The lake is the same one used for my first tri that I will be doing in a few weeks time. They are training specifically for it it seems. When everyone arrived I got even more nervous - almost everyone were Ironman finishers and/or Kona material. All I could think of is keeping up, hoping my wetsuit fits, and not drowning. Maybe not in that particular order. Heck the one guy was cut like a frickin' Ironman. Totally ripped, been to Kona. Yeh I had a small case of man-envy going on.
I was quick to throw my wetsuit on and was surprised to find it went on quite easy! Amazing, it used to be such a fight. My arms moved great and my calves weren't being crushed like before. Then I remembered - I have lost almost 18lbs since I last wore the wetsuit. Sweeet! It fit like a glove.
My swim cap not so much. OK I have to admit that I wear my swim cap UNDER my ears. Yes, like behind the ear and not over them like everyone else. I totally look like Dumbo with my big flappers dragging in the water. I can't do it - I can not put the cap over my ears or it opens my canals and floods my brain. No matter what I do, I cannot put the cap over my ears. So standing there I felt a bit like a knob. Nobody said anything but I could tell they were looking. OK, maybe I'm just paranoid -but still!
The water was purrrfect. Seriously, I was more worried about being too warm with the wetsuit on. It was almost soup! OK, maybe not but it still felt extremely warm compared to what I was prepared for. We swam out to the middle of the big lake slowly. Everyone refused to swim anywhere near the shore because of 'the fish'. I dont see what the problem is but the majority seemed outright scared of the huge fish that hump their legs while they swim. I'm guessing carp is what they are talking about? The water was really murky, I could barely see my hand in front of my face. While it is just a fish - I'm guessingt it gets freaky bumping into them, there were quiet a few shrieks coming from the ladies while swimming lol. I can't say I seen anything. Which brings me to the bigger concern - boats. A bunch of us going straight up the middle of the lake sounded rather dumb. A boat could run us over easily. The swimmers took comfort in knowing we're wearing bright coloured swim caps and a big splashing group so the boats 'should see us'. Not very comforting to me cuz I know some of the hillbillys that boat these waters. This may not end well.
We are swimming to the white buoys in the middle of the lake. The problem is - I couldn't even see them from shore. Ummm at all. Thats. Really. Far. Away. They tell me you'll see them eventually as you get closer. This is not helping my anxiety.
We swam. I kept my eye on the swim superstar leading the group. I couldn't sight worth crap. My swim mask fogged up immediately. I couldn't see the white buoys that we're supposed to be swimming to so I just watched the person in front of me. The first 20 minutes was tough. I kind of had a straight line but I totally breathed every single stroke because I couldn't hold my breath long enough. Anxiety mostly. Once I figured out that I was keeping pace with everyone else, I calmed down and it got easier. Eventually we got to the buoys. I never seen them myself as I could only see the head in front of me - 20ft at most. Big thunder clouds were rolling in at this point. Not the best place to be if lightning struck. So it was every man for himself on the way back, more or less. No stopping - as fast as possible back to shore. I finally found my rythm and could breathe every-other stroke finally. I even switched sides. The best part was that I kept up with the lead swimmer, and then some! I don't know if they were trying really, probably not, but I wasn't getting dropped! That made me very happy! I didn't want it to end so soon, I was having fun!
I didn't like that we spread out and were just begging to get hit by a boat. Maybe I'm just paranoid.
I survived the second OWS of the year. My confidence elevated and my wetsuit fitting right - I can't wait for the next one!!
We followed up the swim with the fastest run on my life! I kid you not, I went there dreading the swim and not worried about the run. It should have been the other way around! They ran at a 4:05min/km for 8km. I damn near died, but did it! I can't say I want to make a habit of that pace. Not this close to Ironman at least. Maybe in time for next year though! That was crazy! Their running was on a whole other level than mine, it wasn't fun but certainly different.