June 21, 2008
Great Lakes... Not so Great
Today was my first open water swim, or OWS as we like to call it in the triathlon world. I had been excited about it and certainly a little nervous, but after walking the beach yesterday and plotting the course, I was feeling pretty confident. I did the swim at Silver Beach on Lake Michigan. For those who haven't experienced it, Lake Michigan is like a fresh water ocean. It's so vast you cannot see across or side to side and there is almost always a strong current and undertow. In fact, I read an article last year about America's deadliest beaches and the neighboring beach to Silver Beach was listed. Regardless, my pie in the sky plan was to swim part of the Steelhead Ironman 70.3 course, but to my dismay, there was a massive WWII re-enactment taking place this morning and the D-Day landing was coinciding with my swim so I had to move it next door.
I arrived relaxed and ready for the challenge, but the first thing I noticed were the waves. They were a bit rough and I could see a strong left to right current so this changed my plans of swimming from right to left. I waded out to the buoy line, spent a minute getting comfortable and took off. I immediately noticed how difficult it was, but figured, "hey, this isn't so bad." But then after about 35 meters, I raised my head to breath and took a huge wave in the face, which totally threw me off. I tried to side stroke to recover and it was hopeless. Then my recently reconciled Speedo Vanquisher goggles leaked. If lightning had suddenly struck, it would have been the only worse scenario for me. It took me a few minutes to recover, then I started out again and was wondering if the effort was a lost cause. I had developed the dreaded "open water panic" and not only couldn't breathe, but couldn't even exhale into the water. My chest was constricted and I felt utterly helpless.
I know I haven't been swimming long, but how could this be happening? I was so frustrated that I wanted to quit, but I decided to do some breathing drills while floating and make the most of being in this massive lake. After getting comfortable, I pushed on and made the .25 mile swim in increments of about 40 meters at a time. I never got used to being pummeled in the face by waves and at times I felt like I wasn't moving forward at all. It was like swimming in one of those endless wave pools, not that I've had that experience. I was frustrated, but I can't expect too much on my first try so I'm going to go back and try again on Monday. And if all goes well, I'll try again on Tuesday. I'm determined to get past my fears and get comfortable in the water.
On the more positive front, my wetsuit was incredible, my tri top and shorts were great underneath, and I wasn't stopping because I was tired, it was just because I don't yet know how to navigate the open water.
After a banana, water and Starbucks on the ride home, I immediately went out for a short run, still in my wet tri clothes. I did three miles and tried to push my pace to 8:00 per mile, but fell slightly short at 24:26. But that's ok, I seem to be getting my running legs back... finally.
My nephew is being baptized tomorrow morning and I am one of his godmothers, so I'm hoping to squeeze in an early morning workout, but if it doesn't happen, I think I have a good enough reason and can make up for it on Monday.
Sport - Swimming
Distance - .25 miles plus drills
Time - 1:00:00
Sport - Running
Distance - 3 miles
Time - 24:26