So my first Triathlon of the season is next Saturday night, a sprint tri to ease into the season of training and events. This sprint tri is a 500m swim, a 21K bike ride and a 4.8k run. The swim is in the Rideau river and since it is June, it is cold and I need to swim in a wetsuit. I have only swam in open water 3 times and never in a wetsuit so I was a bit worried at how I would do. First I needed a wetsuit, if you thought shopping for a bathing suit was tough, try getting into a wetsuit gracefully. I do not know what it is about triathlon gear, it is designed to make me look like the Pillsbury doughboy, it is all skin tight and shows off my rolls in all their glory. Well I guess that is how I roll ( literally and figuratively) so I had better get use to it. I will try to get a photo of me in the wetsuit next weekend.
I headed to the beach with my new wetsuit and a 'can do' attitude, well a fake 'can do' attitude since I had no choice, I had to try it before my race. A few words of advice from Coach and I headed into the cold water. I was not prepared for the feeling of the water filling the wetsuit, the wetsuit is tight and it is tight at the neck, wrists and ankle but water still gets in and it was cold! My feet and forehead were really cold and it was distracting at first. We swim out and around a small island and back, about 600m and my plan was to do it once, coach said I had to do it twice....we would see. Swimming in open water is very different then a pool, you do not have lane markers to guide you so you have to pop your head up every 10 or so strokes to make sure you are not going off course. When you do this you get a chance to see how much further you need to go, if you are use to swimming in a 25m pool, an island 250m way seems really really far. As well you have to deal with waves, nothing sends you into a panic faster then going to breath air and getting lake water instead.
So about 1/3 way back to shore from the turnaround island I started to feel panic, my arms were heavy, my butt felt like it was floating above my head (a wetsuit gives you buoyancy) and I started to feel claustrophobic. I started to think about SwimBikeMom's book (see like to my review of her book below) and her tips for open water swimming. I was trying to get the panic and the "I can't" out of my head and I remembered a part of the book about a expert swimmer doing a 2 mile open water swim from Alcatraz to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. She came across a swimmer who was struggling and offered to swim with her and encouraged her to do 10 strokes at a time, stop and do ten more. They eventually made it to shore and the struggling swimmer said she never thought she could do this, she said, "Everyone told me I can't do this". The expert swimmers reply was " Do you want to know where 'I can't' is, you left it back there at the start so if you want it you have to swim back to get it." I kept repeating this to myself when I felt the panic, I had left 'I can't' on the island and I was not going back to get it.
I not only did one circuit but I did another as well so I would feel better about the experience. I am so glad I did it again, the second time was so much better and I had no panic because I knew I could do it. I spent an hour swimming in the lake and left feeling really pleased with myself and knew I would be back next week for more, maybe I will try to do 3 circuits next week.
I have now conquered my first open water swim in a wetsuit, I have conquered my fear and I have my wetsuit hickey as a reminder this morning. I need to pack Aquaphor next week so I do not get strange looks after. I mentioned a wetsuit is tight at the neck so turning your head to breath caused chafing around the neck, hence the hickey. Today I will wear it with pride as a reminder of my accomplishment.
Book review of "Triathlon for the every women"