Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ice Breaker Open Water Swim Race Report

Okay, first of all, this totally wasn’t a “race” since I chose the Open Division and the swim wasn’t officially timed.  But the “ice breaker” part was descriptive for sure – whooooooo wheeee that was some chilly water this morning!!  I’m not a fan of suspense, so I’ll tell you right up front – this “race” didn’t go as well as I had hoped, but it wasn’t a complete bust, either.  Now on to the details…

I didn’t pre-register for this race, but it’s been on my revised-and-revised-again Half Iron training plan since the very first draft.  I knew I would need the open water experience and nothing prepares you for race nerves better than a race, ya know?  But still, I dragged my feet and didn’t sign up online.  After our beautiful weather last week, this week took a dip into colder temps and threatening rain, which didn’t make me super eager to get into the lake, either.  I hemmed and hawed all week, feeling like I needed to do the race even though I didn’t want to do it.  Even as late as this morning when I woke up, I wasn’t certain that I would be going to the race, but I got ready as though maybe I would.

Big Boy came home from school yesterday with a monster migraine and slept literally all day long, woke up long enough to eat some dinner, then went back to bed for the night.  When I woke him up this morning, I wasn’t sure what the day would hold for him.  I love to have my kids cheering for me at races, but it was clear right away that there would be no cheering section today.  Bummer.

So I debated some more, I meandered around the house, I considered just taking Little Boy with me, and IronHubs assured me it wouldn’t be a big deal if I didn’t go.  In the end, of course, I went, even though I went all by my lonesome.  I have never been to a race all by myself before, it was a strange feeling.

There was a one-mile option and a half-mile option (as well as Open and Competitive Divisions – but the Competitive Division was NEVER an option for me!!), and while I was standing at the registration table I made the final decision to wimp out and only do the half-mile.  OMG, I’m so glad I did!!  The half-mile ended up being so difficult, I’m glad I didn’t struggle through twice that distance.

As far as conditions go, it was chilly at the start of course, but there was plenty of sunshine and absolutely no wind.  The water was calm but brutally cold, maybe 55 degrees.  I wore my full wetsuit, a neoprene hat and neoprene booties and I was numb within seconds.  One guy wore nothing but a Speedo!

Ice Breaker BreakdownI think my only real complaint about the race was how few buoys they put out.  There were two and it took approximately forever to reach them!

The race started a little late (medical personnel had trouble getting there, and what with liability issues and all, they can’t have a race without medical support), which basically meant more time to be cold and nervous.  I tried to do a warm-up swim, but since my face froze almost immediately, I wasn’t sure if that was a smart idea.  When they blew the horn, I sort of waded into the water and took my time getting going.  No sense duking it out for a non-competitive swim, right?  I felt okay and settled into a decent rhythm, though in hindsight I can see that I should have started a little closer to the middle of the pack.  I lost sight of other people pretty quickly and had a LOT of trouble getting my bearings.  The first buoy seemed impossibly far out and about halfway there I started to panic.  Dammit!  I had really, really, REALLY hoped that all my training would keep my panic issues at bay, but nope.  First kayak stop.  The incredibly friendly volunteer was so nice, telling me that I was doing great and I was almost to the first buoy.  So I looked back and - whaddya know? – I was almost there!

So, off I went to swim some more, rounding the first buoy and making my way to the second.  The long stretch between buoys had direct sunlight blinding me when I took a breath to the right.  No bueno for sighting, but I completely suck at sighting anyway, so I’m not sure it made much of a difference.  Thankfully, I had no trouble at all between the buoys and felt great for this entire stretch.  Yeah, I was freezing my face off, but my breathing felt fine and I was swimming strong (for me).

I turned at the second buoy and was so excited to be on the home stretch, but suddenly I panicked again.  The finish line wasn’t getting any closer and I couldn’t see where I was going and…kayak!!  Another incredibly nice volunteer let me catch my breath and listened to me swear.  I was so disappointed.  I didn’t have any time goal for this swim, but I did have a “no panicking” goal and I missed that one by a longshot.  UGH!

After thanking the nice kayaker, I put my head down and “powered” into the finish.  I am 99% certain that I was DFL out of the water, but I sure as heck didn’t turn around to look.  Some things I am better off not knowing.  There were three very nice people at the finish line who cheered for me when I came out of the water, so I gave it a big ol’ “WOOO HOOO!!” and then stumbled out to my car.

Ice Breaker Swim!! 005So very, very glad to be done!

Here’s what I learned from today’s experience:

  • Swimming in a pool does not in any way, shape or form prepare you for swimming in open water.
  • Swimming in open water is pretty much the scariest thing in the world, but
  • I WILL conquer this fear!
  • The only way to get better at open water swimming is to do more of it, so guess what I’ll be doing next weekend?
  • Even races that don’t go as planned offer you something to be proud of:  I got out there and I did it and I survived, which means I can do it again.
  • I don’t panic for any of the obvious reasons – it didn’t bug me at all that I couldn’t see the bottom of the lake (in fact, it was so murky I couldn’t even see my hands going into the water!), the numbness in my hands and face was bothersome but not scary, and it didn’t faze me when I got a big gross mouthful of dirty lake water - what really freaked me out was feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere.  Every time I looked up, the buoy still seemed really far away and I lost my sense of moving forward.  Knowing what makes me panic, I think I can work on my mental game.

Out in my car, I called IronHubs to tell him I was done and then struggled out of my wetsuit.  I had brought clothes to change into after the swim, but I couldn’t make my hands function, so I just dried off the best I could and put my sweatpants back on over my trisuit.  I cranked the heater up to eleven and high-tailed it home.  Finally, about 30 minutes into my 45-minute drive home, I could sort of feel my fingers and a little bit of my face.  Holy smokes that water was cold!

Ice Breaker Swim! 002Hours later, I’m still cold enough to wear my hat indoors.  I think I’m going to wear the hat all day – I certainly earned it!


Julie said...

Love the hat! You did great!!!

We don't have our first open water swim for a few more weeks, but I did take an "ice bath" in the lake today after our brick. Lake Patrol actually came over to see what we were doing. They thought maybe someone dared us to get in or we lost a bet. Nope...just some crazy triathletes trying to keep the swelling down :D

Caratunk Girl said...

Great job!! That is awesome. Sounds freaking COLD!

Char said...

You are a superwoman - to be scared of open-water swimming and to keep going back ... I'm in awe. Well done!

Anne said...

You are one courageous lady...congrats!!!

Christi said...

That is awesome that you got out there in the cold water and swam. That is awesome! I don't like open water swimming either and I need to work on it.

Love the hat!

Jogging with Fiction said...

I guess pool swimming is like treadmill running, eh? I definitely learned that at the half marathon full of hills!

Way to go, though, that's seriously awesome!

Lancer!! said...

You have more guts than I do, just to get into that water. Congrats!

Megan said...

I'm cold just thinking about OWS, congrats on doing it!

ajh said...

You are one inspiring woman! Wow! You are the swimming postal (any weather) energizer bunny.

ratherthecouch said...

I'm kind of freaking out just looking at that picture of the lake. You get major points for getting out there and doing it!

Aimee said...

I can totally relate to this post!! The first time I did an OWS I totally panicked too. In fact, I think even during my first sprint tri, I panicked so much that I practically did the breast stroke the entire time!
You should be so proud of yourself for getting out there and facing your fears! Keep going out and swimming and I promise you, it WILL get better!

Matthew Smith said...

Way to go on the icy swim! I think I would have chickened out. Hopefully you're getting warm again. Those bouys were way to far apart, or as you said, "FOREVER." Those open water swims are tough. Good job!

Alma said...

Way to go P! I would never have the guts to sign up for a swim race, swim caps off to you! Such a great accomplishment, especially in cold waters. That cold messes with your head - physically & psychologically!

Teamarcia said...

Holy icebergs Batman! Way to take the OWS bull by the horns! Be very proud of yourself for an awesome swim!

Candice @ I Have Run said...

LOVE the hat. Very much earned!!

Congrats on the swim and the lessons you learned. You are a much braver woman than I will ever be!

Colleen said...

Ugh... that first or second open water swim after being in a pool all winter is hell - panic every single time. Good for you for getting through it.

And I totally laughed at this "There were two and it took approximately forever to reach them!"

chris mcpeake said...

I would love to do this but my fear of drowning is just to strong. Way to go

The Green Girl said...

Urgh, that sucks that delay = more time in water.

You are really brave, congratulations on working on conquering that fear.

Take your vitamins tomorrow!