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!
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.
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!