Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Open Water: Mentally Staying In My Happy Place

I heard it's a good idea to NOT do your first open water swim on race day. ;-) Sounds kind of logical and I was happy that I had a chance to swim the course for the race during our Sunday preview - my first open water swim.

Well, technically, it's really not my FIRST open water swim (OWS) ever, since I swam in lakes and oceans growing up. But I never considered these "open water swims", but play time. They had nothing to do with continuous swimming for any length of time... And there normally was a floating device* nearby and you didn't get disqualified when you paddled on said device for a while.

*Speaking of floating device: Let me share a story of one of my summer vacations way back when. I think it happened during a vacation somewhere in Croatia. The beach was always packed with other German kids, so we had tons of people to play with. One day maybe ten of us where playing on a surf board around 100 yards off shore. We just jumped off the thing and climbed back up, dove off etc. At one point I jumped off the one side of the board and when I came back up out of the water, all the other kids jumped off the other side of the board and therefore pushing the board towards where I was and I got smack right in the face by the edge of the surf board. I had a shiner for the next couple of days, but other that that, nothing major happened. Actually, I still managed to swim back to shore on my own.... Oh blissfull memories! ;-)

I thought I would be more nervous about it... but no. Nevertheless, the pep talk that Stacy (training buddy) gave me was more than welcome! We decided to stay together since she is the OWS pro and I am the newbie... She also had a stop watch that I forgot in the car.

First order of business when I was in the water, I stuck my head in it and was relieved to see that I didn't see much! Tinted googles are my friend! And soon after that, we took off for a warm up lap from the dock on the right side of the lake to the dock on the left and back. Funny enough, the only time that I swallowed water was when treading water to regroup on the other side of the lake.

There were three kayaks/canoes for safety and also to mark the turnaround point on each side. And this was also part of the practice, to still find your way even if you don't have a black line to follow. The sighting practices that Coach Katie had us do during the tri swim class really came in handy and I never really veered off the course much. I almost bumped into people every now and then... Oh well.

In general, I actually thought it was a really fun experience. Much more fun than swimming in a pool could ever get. I also took it fairly easy, just to make sure that I am comfortable doing this for an amount of time without having the chance to cling on a wall to take a breather. So every now and then I breast stroked some, I also had to fix my googles once, which is also good to know that I am capable of doing this while treading water.

The only thing that I had to watch out at times was, to make sure that I mentally stayed in my happy place and pushed away thoughts about:

  • river monsters

  • water snakes

  • grabbing into sea grass (which is probably the only reasonable "fear" here) - it grosses me out!
Also thoughts like: "I wonder if they counted how many people are in the water and make sure that all get out again?"... Stuff like this is not very productive! ;-)

So long! ;-)

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