Open Water Swimming

1

So, last week the time arrived to start thinking about the Tri Ferris Sprint Triathlon on September 2nd.

I needed to find the lake and I needed to try on a wetsuit and perhaps purchase one?

Corinium Fitness of Stroud were holding a Blue Seventy evening at Lake 32, so I dropped on by thinking I might be the only one there.
I was late and about 40 people were already in this huge lake, powering effortlessly through the water with swim hats.

I recognised Ann Marie from Corinium and asked if they had any big boy wetsuits to try.

I made a new chum in a very kind man called Alan who gave me some top tips on getting into the wetsuit with the aid of a poly bag ! It sounds wrong, but it worked a treat and soon (actually that is a lie as it took a while to get the wetsuit on in all the right places!)…..eventually the suit was somehow on and I walked into the water and promptly sat down to get wet and become acclimatised to the new environment.

What a flipping shock!

Too much buoyancy and restriction form the suit at first. I opened the neck to let some of the cold water in so I could arrange the suit on my large, sweaty body somehow better and to give more comfort. A bit of wriggling later and everything was better and felt OK.

Time to get going I thought and with that I swam off into the distance, with the suit pulling my head and shoulders down into the water and the buoyancy lifting my arse and legs so I felt like I was swimming down hill.

I had read about this in my ‘Total Immersion’ book, which had become my ‘book of choice’ recently and almost my holy grail of hope to become a better and less substantial multi sport athlete! This was the first time I had been in cold, dark water in a tri wetsuit and it felt really weird. the whole experience made me freak out a bit at first to be honest. There were many people on the lakeside watching me, wondering what on earth this lard arse was doing, was he for real or just trying it on for a laugh? I was a little paranoid and not comfortable at all. I recognised I was out of my depth on a number of fronts but swam on. I swam back to the shore to speak to Andy and Alan, telling them I was not that happy with life and how weird it all was. These guys offered their best advice, which was appreciated more than words I could utter back at them. Alan even offered to put his suit on and swim with me, such is the spirit with some of the triathlon guys I have met. Each one appreciating that every person has their own goals and reasons for doing what they do, be you fat, thin, rich, poor etc., triathlon and multi sport is a ‘personal journey’. From where and to where, is down to the individual. Each person has nowhere to hide in a race or training as you cannot hide behind a team mate or rely on another for assistance. The onus to perform is always stacked on your own shoulders to get out and achieve your goals. I think I was becoming to enjoy the need to perform ‘myself’ and was through PT and other supporting and training activities getting fitter and stronger and now able to do and achieve more of my goals.

I pulled the neck of the suit and let a little more water into the suit and lay on my back as Andy and Alan suggested if I needed and wanted to take a breather. This worked well and took me instantly from the position of a panty whale into a kind of serene ‘bobbing’ in the water. The evening was actually really pleasant. A beautiful sunset was forming as it set in the distance creating an air of warm, summery calm on Lake 32. I could get used to this, perhaps?

I plucked up a little more courage and started to swim. Sure the positioning was different form what I had expected and perhaps I was trying to swim with too much power, too quickly and not finding my rhythm or my ability to ‘float’ and make myself long, with my head in the water (everything I had been reading about).

I swam out to the first buoy and felt truly claustrophobic as there was no clear water or black line like there is on at the bottom of the swimming pool I was used to. Now I looked down to see weeds, rocky ground, sand and, oh for fuck sake…..FISH ! Just as I had got into the swing of things and settled down I got ‘eye balled’ by a gigantic tench about 6-10 feet in front of me, followed by a school of toddlers and a perch. This was a little disconcerting and really didn’t help me as I came up for air and started to tread water to get my breath.

I procrastinated with the idea of getting out, handing back the wetsuit and getting on with my life outside the lake for about 10 mins and they it happened. I ‘manned up’ and to quote the great Gordon Ramsey “grabbed my bollocks and shook myself”. I could after all swim and had been able to do so for about 30 odd years.

Slowly I started to swim a nice front crawl stroke. Slowing down the pace and trying to glide along, like a fish. The wetsuit was really helping and kept my legs at a really good angle, with my head and shoulders being pushed downhill slightly. The crawl continued and I got into a mid pace rhythm that felt comfortable as I approached the second buoy. Crikey, I really was ‘out and swimming’ in the lake now! It was a good 50-100m form where I had started and I was heading into the middle of the lake.

From the Sprin Triathlon in September I needed to swim 400m. apparently a full circuit of the course was 750-800m, so if I swam half way round and back to the start, that would be enough wouldn’t it? And that’s what I did.

Rounding the final buoy, I realised that actually this was one of the most exciting things I had done for a while and truly was ‘different’ form anything else I had ever done. I am about of an adrenaline junky and a ‘fad-ist’, always seeking the next best thing to excite me. I felt it strange that donning a close (but very well) fitting wetsuit and swimming with the fishes in a Gloucestershire lake could and had amused me and out a massive smile of my face.

So I had finished my half circuit and was told I had done well, swimming well over 400m and easily able to complete the task of the Tri swim in September. I promptly put my name down to buy a wetsuit and hoped it would arrive soon.

My wife had watched me as she walked the dog around the lake and had spoken with the guys from Corinium. I think she was impressed as she told me later, she knwe I was not happy and thinking of ‘jacking’ earlier on. I had persevered and felt proud of the mini achievement of that day. I was smiling, in fact beaming like a Cheshire Cat as I drove away from the lake, thinking about the next time I would swim there again. I wans’t sure when this would be, but I knew I wanted to go again soon, as I felt a little bit ‘hooked’ now!

Below are some photos of me, Team GB, the lake :

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The hat and the wetsuit, on the big fell at home, in order to check it fits. Perhaps the hat is a tad tight, but maybe a future ‘anti-aging aid’ as the wrinkles disappeared for a minute or two. BlueSeventy wetty from Corinium Fitness

To complete my triathlon ensemble, I bought a big bag to put all my crap and bits and bobs in. At the Gloucester try, I had used a plastic storage box and need to struggle with this, the bike and all my clobber for a decent distance to transition. The bag, I thought, would be a useful aid to avoid this in the future and also for training.

The bottom comparment is big enough for the wetsuit and all my wet gear, so is ideal for regular use. The rest of the bag is enormous and big enough for bike helmet, shoes, bottles, towel and other grub bins. A good and well priced buy form BlueFin WaterSports, bought on line.

20120820-173837.jpgI like this bag a lot!

34mins to bang out 1167yds. Not too bad for a muppet land lubber !?

20120820-173851.jpg

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Lake 32 is a beautiful place

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20120820-173936.jpg Tean GB’s Support team and fan club!

I knew that Open Water Swimming WAS GOOD and that I would be doing it again. With this in mind, I joined the Lake on line and paid my money. Now only lethargy, holiday or injury can stop me !!  🙂

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One thought on “Open Water Swimming

  1. Kate says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, especially as I can empathise totally with the ‘shock of the new’ of going open water swimming for the first time. Thanks for bringing the feelings back to life so eloquently!

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