Friday, June 20, 2014

Swimming In Open Waters With Bricks

My first triathlon is a week from tomorrow, so I've been trying to get myself both physically and mentally prepared to finish.  That is the only goal I have — to finish. It's not about my "time," or my "place." It's simply the ability to swim (without panicking or drowning), bike (without crashing or getting a flat which I don't know how to change), and run (the only thing I actually feel comfortable with). I can do all these things separately, but one week from tomorrow I must do them all in A ROW.

Why? You may ask?  I ask myself the same question quite frequently.  In fact, I was screaming it in my head the day of my first open water swim.

Two weeks ago, (after practicing in a crystal clear, chlorinated pool, alone in my lane with walls to touch at each end) I realized I needed to get into the open water.  My tri club started their open water swims at the EXACT same lake where I am doing my triathlon so that makes it even better.  Best part is that it's barely 2 miles from my house.  They host these group swims once a week for a nominal charge (covering the life guard fee at a private lake). During those 2 hours in the evening, close to 200 women are in and out of that cold, murky lake swimming their quarter mile loop.

So, I rolled up on my first day a little nervous.  Then, I parked and got out my car and got A LOT nervous.  My throat closed, my body felt numb, and some sort of inexplicable emotion gripped me.  I felt a wave of unstoppable tears swell up.  I was simply overwhelmed by what I was about to do and I couldn't get control of the tears.

So, there I was... crying, and not really able to fully stop.  I kept trying to get myself together but the longer I just stood there, the more I realized I had two choices — get in or go home.  A few friends who noticed my mini-break-down talked to me and gave me lots of calming advice. One friend who had finished her own swim offered to go out again with me, but I declined.  I had to do this on my own.

I lowered myself quickly down the little latter in order to swim out with the next group of about 10 women treading water by a floating dock. There, you waited for the signal to go. The water was colder than I could have ever imagined. It was like immersing yourself in a bath of pure ice water. I had been warned that the cold water would "take your breath away," but nothing can prepare you for this feeling.  My body started seizing up and involuntarily holding its breath. Sticking my face in the ice water and trying to blow out was harder than I dreamed.  The water was dark, though cleaner than I expected - some seaweed stuff floating around, but no fish or nasty algae and the likes.  Visibility under water was close to zero. It was as if you were swimming in coffee. So when you have no breath in you, the water is deep, ice cold, you can't see anything that isn't one inch from your face, and you doubt your ability to actually swim the full quarter mile?  It's terribly daunting.

I'll spare you the details of that swim and just jump to the ending.... I did it. Without panic. I kept my emotions and head under control. I forced myself to stay calm.  Whenever I started feeling like I was going to freak, I said to myself "Don't freak. You're fine. You got this.  Just breathe, swim, and get the *bleep* out of here."  When I rounded that last buoy and saw the ladies standing up by the dock waiting to climb out, I just swam and swam and swam with everything I had (which is still slower than a 90 year old lady).  When I made it there, I swear I wanted to raise my fists in the air, throw my head back and shout to the heavens. But, I played it cool.  Except for the goofy grin I couldn't get off my face.

It's amazing how you can start out feeling so meek and scared and incapable and like 20 minutes later feel such pride and happiness.  I guess that's why so many ladies DO this!

So, I did my first Open Water Swim which was probably the BIGGEST thing for me in this whole "triathlon training" thing. We missed the next one due to poor water quality closing the lake, so I was back just this past Tuesday.  I was less nervous and more prepared for the shocking cold. Still, as I rode my bike up to the lake and saw it, some butterflies started up.

I did it this time with no tears.  It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fast, and it was still very cold, but I did it. Afterward, my friend Lori and I went for a 12 mile bike ride. This back-to-back workout is called a "brick" - when you pair either the swim and the bike or you do a bike then the run. The idea is to prepare yourself for what it feels like to go from one event to the other.

Half-way through the bike ride, my cell phone started ringing.  I'm mid-hill and working my ass off trying to keep up with Lori who is a phenomenal athlete (and slowing it down tremendously for me and my slowness). I know who it is before I even fumble with my phone, one-handed.

"Hi, I'm in the middle of a 12 mile bike ride," I puffed, hoping that nothing catastrophic had occurred at home.

Dr. Fabulous proceeds to tell me CB has a stinky diaper to which I respond "There's nothing I can do about it right now...everyone is just gonna have to wait."  I had 6 miles to go, the sun was setting like a giant orange globe in the sky, and everyone would just have to survive without me. No one ever died of a dirty diaper.

I finished the ride guilt free, went home and changed CB. 'Coz that's how all of us TriathaMoms roll. Dr. Fabulous DID have the other girls all ready for bed, so that was a bonus.  Plus, as always, he was proud of me.

While I'm not 100% certain I'm prepared for this triathlon, I think I've had some good life training on basic survival skills. Triathlon?  Pffft.  My LIFE is a freakin' triathlon.  Bring it!


Elizabeth said...

I hear you! And I'm so impressed and proud of you -- can't wait to hear about the big day.

michelle said...

I think the only thing that could get me to jump into a cold lake is a drowning kid.

You are one strong mama

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