Thursday, August 14, 2014

Life's a Beach!

Practice open water swimming.
Practice open water swimming.
Practice open water swimming.

Every list of triathlon tips contains this particular nugget of advice. With biking and running, it's possible to train in nearly identical conditions to the race (and in some cases, like mine, on the actual race course itself), but with swimming, training and racing conditions differ considerably. Pool swimming and open water swimming are just not the same.

Some aspects of the swim portion of a triathlon can't really be replicated during training, such as getting kicked in the face or having other racers literally swim right on top of you in order to pass you. Thankfully, there are other aspects of the open water swim that can be practiced, such as not being able to see in the water, and sighting so you remain on course.

The lake where my race will be held is not open for swimming except during races and special events, so I couldn't practice on the actual course. I've heard a few horror stories of the lake being filled with goose poop and scary lake grass, but I will have to deal with those obstacles for the first time during the race. There actually aren't many places in my area to practice an open water swim, so I chose to hit the BEACH! This coincided nicely with my family's desperate need for some summer fun in the sun. We loaded up the kiddos and headed out to Sandy Point State Park on the Chesapeake Bay. The water is calmer and less salty than the ocean, so I figured it would be a reasonable stand-in for the lake.

My swimming pool for the day!

I played with the kids in the water for a little bit while my husband finished setting up our chairs, umbrella, etc., but then I decided to get the big swim out of the way so I could relax and enjoy the rest of the day. I donned my goggles and swim cap and tried to shake off how awkward I felt, knowing that other beachgoers were probably eyeing me and wondering what the heck I was doing! I'm not sure how long or far I swam, but I started out going to the right, then turned around and came back and passed our spot on the beach, then turned around and came back.

Trying out some new goggles with UV protection -- They fit more tightly than my training goggles, but I think they make me look fierce. :)

The first thing I noticed was that swimming in the Bay was just exhausting. I was breathing heavily and huffing and puffing almost from the start. I did have strong currents to contend with, so that may have been a factor. Throughout the swim, I had to take lots of breaks just to dog paddle for a bit, or do front crawl with my face OUT of the water, or even occasionally flip over and do the backstroke for a while. Regardless of what stroke I was doing, I made sure to keep moving forward the whole time.

Not being able to see in the water ended up being a lot less disorienting than I expected. It just didn't really bother me. When I swim in the pool, I generally lift my head way too far out of the water when I breathe anyway, so sighting was not a major challenge to me either. The worst part of my swim, by far, was the wind blowing the water directly into my face. I took in a lot of water, in my mouth and in my nose, nearly every time I breathed. I gagged on it a lot. It was frustrating and a tiny bit scary at times. I expect (and hope...and pray!!) that the lake will not be nearly that windy for my race, so I won't have to deal with that problem as much. But if I do, I will be ready for it! Overall, I think my open water swim practice was a success, and left me fearing only face kicks, swimovers, goose poop, and lake grass. :)

Post-swim, exhausted but happy. :) See how it looks like I have facial hair? That's dirt. The water was so dirty that my whole face was covered in it. I was totally grossed out when my I wiped my face clean on a t-shirt and saw exactly what had been all over my skin. Maybe I'm ready for goose poop after all...

Closing with a picture of my Boo, just because. It was a lovely day at the beach.

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