Tonight was my first open water swim. By now I’m pretty comfortable in a lane at the gym, but I hear that open water swimming is a totally different game. In fact, a lot of beginner triathletes’ biggest problem is that they show up the day of the triathlon with no open water experience and when they get in the water, which is colder, darker, deeper, and more open then they are used to, they panic. This leads to hyperventilation, poor performance, and about anything else. Luckily the program I am in sponsors these swims at a local lake, so beginner athletes can get used to it, and experienced athletes can get better at it. It is a good program.
But let me tell you about this lake. It is a man-made lake, so it isn’t clean the way a natural lake would be. Plus there is a large population of geese that must gorge themselves on whatever they eat so they can have contests to see who can crap most in the lake. As if that weren’t enough there is a zoo right next to the lake. I strongly suspect that rather than shovel the elephant, giraffe, monkey, penguin, and other assorted animal waste in a proper place, they just hork it over the fence into the lake! Yay for the swimmers!
The water was chilly, but not too bad. Actually the wetsuit kept me a ton warmer than I expected. Plus it turns out that poop is an awesome insulator, so that made things even less cold. But enough about poop for one blog.
The course set up on the lake is a simple triangle ranging 600 yards. You swim from one point of the triangle to the next, ending at the beginning. When I started swimming in my wetsuit, I felt like I was flying. I was really able to get my glide going in that water thanks to that wetsuit. But I am really glad they have this program, because my problem wasn’t being too cold or panicking at the vast expanse. Nope. I couldn’t swim a straight line to save my life.
I was told at one point by the spotters in the canoe that if I am turning back it’s fine, but I am cutting half way through the course. I wasn’t trying to go back, I had just completely lost sight of the first buoy. I believe if they hadn’t said anything I would have kept swimming in small circles until I has tired myself out. After several more corrections I made it around the first buoy and was swimming along at a good pace when I dipped my hand down and felt cement. I had washed up on shore way off of the second buoy. The course goes NOWHERE near shore! On my way to the third buoy I almost swam under a bridge to the other half of the lake. Once again, WAY off course.
So did I screw up? If that were an actual triathlon, you might say yes. But I like to think I took the scenic route around the lake. Plus I got in way more than just 600 yards tonight and I saw way more of the lake than most swimmers, expect maybe another person or two with my same problem. I’ll be back next week to work this out. But in the meantime, I won’t be discouraged. After all, sometimes you just have to stop and smell the