Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Time in the Lake

Today was the first time this year I went swimming in the lake., and only the second time ever. 6am came early, I was ready but anxious. I made a commitment yesterday that I would not postpone this any longer and go give Old Hickory Lake a try. Went to ACME and picked up a wet suit to give it a try as well, after all in just a week and a half I will be doing the Mach Tenn Tri which is wetsuit legal and I will be wearing one. Didn't really think it would be a good idea to show up race day without knowing what the experience would be like.

I'm not sure why but from the moment I picked up the suit anxiety hit me, sometimes it was strong enough to make me doubt; doubt whether I should be doing this wet-suit-lake-swimming-at-6-am-thing.

I have been swimming in the pool consistently for a few months so I wasn't worried about my swimming fitness... or was I?

I arrived several minutes before six. Skip was the only other person getting ready to go swim. Two of our HEAT teammates were there, Mark and Chuck. They were not going in, they were there to show support, help and advise.

The water was cold, really cold. We planned our route and took off. The first leg was about 150 yards away. We just wanted to make it there, rest for a bit and return. No big deal, right?

What happened to my stroke? What happened to my breathing? I must have looked like I had never been in the water before, it sure felt like it. Everything I have been practicing for weeks was gone. It was survival time. Then I remembered a piece of advice Chuck gave me a while back. "Relax" he told me. "Get on your back, catch your breath, concentrate and go on". This I did. The rest of the distance seemed to go better.

Upon arrival to the starting point Chuck told me to let my stroke "glide". He told me that it looked like I was "pushing" through the stroke using up more energy than needed. This made sense to me, I have been working on this for a while.

I took a second shot at the water. This time across the cove and back. It was about 75 meters in distance one way. I the other end the water was shallow so I felt a bit of security in that. This time I took my time with each stroke, with each breath and it made a difference. It felt better, much better.

I learned several things today. First and foremost the fact that to get good in open water you have to practice in open water. Second, you need to warm up. You do this at the pool, you need to do this on the lake. You just cant take off and expect the same results. Third (this is obvious but needs to be mentioned), there are no "walls" on the lake to grab on to for rest or to push from. This makes a big difference.

I will be out again next Wednesday and "God willing and the creeks do rise", every Wednesday after that for the remainder of the summer. Skip, Mark, Chuck... you guys in? Anyone else want to join us?


  1. Nice job!! I had my first open water swim on Saturday and yeah....totally different experience than swimming in the pool, huh? I DO like that the wetsuit also kind of serves as a bit of a floatation device. ;) Good luck with the rest of your training!! :)