Thursday, June 23, 2016

My first lake swim, what went wrong?

Marsh Creek Lake
It was a beautiful 85F sunny day when I drove 1 1/2 hours to Marsh Creek Park. With the music cranked up and scenic views, I looked forward to being done with this training.

I've taken scuba lessons, gone snorkeling, and ocean swimming many times - no problem, but I don't remember ever swimming in a lake. I expected this swim to be mucky, weedy, and dark. I'll most likely get kicked, but I must remember not to panic.

I'm scheduled to do my first triathlon on August 14, 2016. It includes a 1/2 mile swim (800 meters), 13.6 miles biking, and 3.1 miles running. Since May, I've been swimming in the pool twice a week and hired a coach to help make sure I'm swimming properly.

Triathlete Classmates Chris, Marissa, and Alyssa (L-R)
This open water swim clinic offered 2 programs. I opted for the class lessons and swim vs just swim. I was surprised that of the 9 who attended the class, 4 were experienced triathletes. I didn't think that they would have the same concerns that I did: drowning, panicking, and how to defend myself from the crowd.

After about an hour of valuable tips and tricks, we all got into the water for more lessons. Water temp was just right for me, about 80F/27C. Mid-Atlantic Multisport offered free use of wet suits on a first come first served basis. I contemplated on getting 1 just to reacquaint myself with how it feels but soon opted out. I learned from class, it's best to know how to swim without a suit because you'll never know when wet suits won't be allowed to due to high water temp (over 84F).

Weeds on me after completing the course.
Practical lessons included how to keep sight of the course, swimming around a buoy, and swimming in a crowd - all done within 20 yards of the shore. Then the last drill started. The goal: swim around a 4 buoys for a total of 400 meters (1/4 mile).

We all started about the same time. I was fine until I faced a field of weeds. Although I could swim over them, they wrapped around my legs and arms. I focused on my breathing and kept my sight on the buoy. About 3 yards to the first turn, I felt hands lightly touch my feet and that's when I really freaked out. I started doing the breast stroke while trying to compose myself. But I was so frazzled I started treading after turning the first buoy. Many times, I just wanted to stand up but it was too deep, Oh I wished for walls to cling to. I thought about rolling over my back but I was too frozen. I heard at least 3 people ask if I was ok and I kept saying yes.

My monsters.
After taking a long deep breath, I continued with breast strokes to the 2nd buoy while one of the coaches swam with me.  I saw the kayak approaching and I said I needed to rest. I swam to the kayak and held on to compose myself for about a minute. At this point, I thought of my options. Swim to finish, or swim back.

I hate to quit so I started swimming again - breast stroke almost all the way.  Coach Bill and kayak girl stayed with me all that time. Their conversation helped me relax. It's so much easier to stay on course with breaststrokes but it felt really slow.  I thought about switching to freestyle but I found advantages to breaststrokes: I can easily see my way, and I felt in control.

It took forever turning the 3rd buoy. I continued with breast strokes until after the 4th and final buoy, then swam a few freestyle strokes. The weeds are back. They seem to congregate near the shore, so I went back to breast strokes.

Whew, I made it! I had a lot of help which I may not have in the actual race. So what's next? More open water with a lot of distractions.

What new thing would you dare to try?


  1. This class would be great for helping me get over my fear of the open water swim! Do you feel more prepared?

    1. Definitely helped. It's one thing to know what to expect, but it's incredibly more helpful to actually experience it.

  2. Kudos to you for trying something you feared. I would love a class in open water swimming! It's so hard to see where you are going using free style, even though I know we should. I relied heavily on side stroke in my first tri. I feel more comfortable with it. Thank goodness it doesn't matter how we do it! Good luck on the next swim. Thanks for linking with us Patricia!

    1. Thank you Holly. Wish I could swim more often in a lake to truly get used to it.

  3. It's one of the cleanest lake in the country, the coaches said. I just need to get used to swimming with a crowd.