Open water swim time is the most difficult part of triathlon training for me to schedule. In fact, since I have practiced it the last 3 years and circumstances were conspiring against me recently, I had decided not to worry about it this summer. I mentally reviewed what I remembered and hoped that would be enough.
- It would be cold
- It would be crowded
- There would be low visibility
- It would be hard to swim straight
- There would be unpredictable water movement
There didn’t seem to be anything I could do to prepare for 1-3. We haven’t heated my pool in a few weeks and the water temperature is still in the mid 80’s (number 1). The pool is small, but I supposed it wouldn’t be tooooo hard to convince my 2 girls that still live at home to stand next to me and jostle me around while I try to swim… still, it is hard to simulate a swimming crowd (number 2). I’m certainly not going to do anything on purpose to make my pool water murky; I can’t think of a way to blind fold myself underwater, but be able to see above it (number 3).
I have worked on sighting some (number 4), but if there is one thing that still gives me twinges of sea sickness in my pool, that is it. Consequently, I haven’t done it a lot. What I have done, though, I have done according to some information from swimsmooth.com about using as little energy as possible in the sighting effort. Also, I have noticed that I am much more comfortable in the moving water (number 5) than when I started in the pool almost 9 months ago.
When a trip to Lucky Peak reservoir was in the making for a Sunday in late July, I wasn’t too excited about it. I figured there would either be uncomfortably crowded shorelines, or I would end up on some fly ridden, sun scorched, rocky thread of shore. Yeah, I’m not really an optimist.
However, so as not to be a spoil sport, I worked on my attitude. My husband tossed in the idea of open water swimming for me, which I hadn’t thought would be part of the trip. This was interesting. I packed my lunch, long-john swim suit, and my umbrella.
In about 10 minutes of open water swimming, I was able to work on all 5 things listed above to a degree that should be very helpful. Plus, I was reminded of a couple of other important aspects of the experience.
- The boat GPS recorded the water at Lucky Peak as being 69.8°F. Chilly for me. Since there was no starting gun to pressure me, I took my time getting in, even with my full body swim suit. Last year, the water at Black Canyon Reservoir had been low – mid 70s, or so they told us. And, I had only had a swim shirt on over my triathlon suit. It was good for me mentally to feel the water and see that swimming in it with this attire was completely comfortable once I got going.
- I may not have been pinned in by other swimming bodies, but I was swimming circles around 4 of my grown kids while they tried to balance on a log. I highly recommend this for preparing for the mental strain of swimming with others thrashing around you. I had to stay near this activity in the tiny bay because the multitude of boats was coming quite near to the shore. The kids on their log, the boat anchored to the shore but being regularly relocated by the incoming wakes, and the other boat traffic were my crowd for the day.
- Even though I knew there would be low visibility, there is nothing like experiencing it. I could see my own arms in the water (I was wearing my goggles), but nothing under the water to guide me. Oh, to do a triathlon in a secluded, clear lagoon some day! What I discovered was that this lack of visibility seemed to trigger a low level of panic. I wouldn’t have told you at first that I felt panicked, but I knew I had been feeling very comfortable in the moving water at home. There is something about murky water that makes me just want to get to my destination. Once I realized this was going on, I consciously relaxed and felt much better. I am very glad to have worked through this before the triathlon.
- I was greatly encouraged with how my new understanding of sighting felt. To be honest, I didn’t read the total description thoroughly. I just picked up on the part about not lifting the whole head up, but just getting the eyeballs above surface level. I absolutely think I could do this even with the boat wakes because of swimming in the Fastlane.
- The swells from all the boat traffic didn’t bother me at all. They didn’t make me sea sick. They didn’t interfere with my breathing. Knowing these things, which I also attribute to my training in the Fastlane, will help me begin my swim without unnecessary concern.
If I hadn’t already been able to swim without stopping for 20 – 25 minutes in my pool, I would have felt greater need to establish that ability in the open water. However, I know I can practice that more at home. Also, if I really want to swim for extended times or distances in any reasonable water during the summer, I would either need to go quite a bit earlier in the morning on a weekend or during the week.
The last surprising thing about my mini open water swim, is that it was kind of fun and makes me less likely to think of it as a scary training activity. The longer periods of swimming in my pool, with no need to turn seem to have really resulted in a new level of comfort in the water. I might have to see if my husband wants to take his boat out again before the triathlon!