Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Open Water Swim is Good Stuff

Reindeer Mary and I have been trying to get an OWS in for a month, ever since temps started creeping up. Just when it seemed the planets were aligned, Mother Nature would turn mean and pelt the area with cold rain and wind. We decided we had to go for it, cold weather be damned. With temps in the 60s and a water temperature hovering around 59 degrees, Mary and I headed to Lake Petersburg, where the parents of a friend live. They are gracious hosts and always have beer.

This is their back yard. It's a gorgeous private lake (which means no idiot party cove types) with clean, spring fed (which means COLD water). I think that trout could live in this lake, it's so cold. You go down a very steep hill to a dock. The yard is full of oak trees so you are stepping on acorns and sticks and crap and wishing you had remembered to wear flip flops. At the dock is a pontoon boat, a motorboat and a kayak tied up.

And (right) here is Kenny, landowner and kayaker supreme. His awesome wife Bev helped him disembark on the little craft while Mary and I wedged ourselves into our wetsuits up on the back deck.

Xterra ran a sale earlier this year so we both bought the same wetsuit. Worked just great although getting the darned thing on is a little tricky. (left) Mary did a strange dance while (below right) I fought, in true straitjacket mode, to get my second arm in. I need to practice a bit.

Handy Tip: I had read somewhere that people swimming the English Channel used to slather themselves with lard for warmth. Not having any lard handy, I used plain old vaseline on my face, feet and hands. This trick actually seems to help keep skin warmer and I am not sure but it seemed like it made me slip through the water more efficiently.

Getting into the cold water was the worst part. I stood on the edge of the dock and stared out at the greenish-grey water and wondered just what it would feel like. Remember the movie Titanic where Jack is explaining how falling into cold water felt like "thousands of needles all stabbing you at once"? That line was going through my head. I sat on the edge of the dock and stirred the water with my toes, screaming silently inside "This is too fricking cold!!!".

Best to just get it over with, I pushed off the dock and plunged into the water. At first it was shocking. I had also read where putting your face into the cold water can make your lungs contract and induce panic. I think I need to stop reading so much because this DID NOT HAPPEN. I put my face in the cold water and...nothing! It was just like swimming in Eisenhower Pool (public pool in our area that is notorious for the heater breaking).

I heard Reindeer Mary splash in and make some comments about the cold. We griped for about a minute and then struck out.

It was amazing and awesome. Out in the open water, away from the crowded lap lanes and 25-yard limits, it was easy to stretch out and fall into a groove. We swam about 500 yards total, circling a buoy at the end of a cove and back to the dock. Not a long swim but I feel confident about sighting (siting?) and swimming in a straight line. I discovered that it is easy to sight when I breathe to the left and am not sure exactly why this is, but I can live with it.

We plan to test the water at Lake Carlyle Saturday afternoon when we get down there and also drive the bike course. I feel like I'm pretty much ready for this race. Starting to get the pre-race jitters.


Mike said...

Nice swim! The other wetsuit trick is to put a plastic grocery bag over each hand and foot as you put your wet suit on. I'm looking forward to the practice swim Saturday.

Kevin @ Half TRI-ing said...

PAM spray works good for putting on wetsuits. Here's irony: you are in a wet to swim in May and here in FL the water is 83 degrees. It's like nasty bath water.


Lena said...

Good job, Anne!!!!!!

Anne B said...

Thanks for the tip, Mike, I will pack some extra plastic bags so that my feet just kind of shoot through the legs!
Kevin - thank you for the Pam tip. I had heard of that but didn't know if that was one of those wives tales. Have also heard that they make some kind of spray specifically for wetsuits, but is that just expensive Pam?
Lena, thank you!!!! We dont' have much time until Racine!