Friday, August 31, 2012

Let’s Not Panic

I got up this morning at 5 AM to get in a swim.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but swimming is not my favorite discipline.  I want to get faster at it more to just get the workout over with faster than anything else.  I also make sure to get it in at least twice a week so that when I get in the water and I’m less than ten strokes and the inevitable anxiety sets in, I can tell myself, “You know how to swim.  Calm down.  You’ve done this enough.  Breathe.  Swim”.


Let’s travel back in time to my very first triathlon.  It was a super-sprint… swim .15, bike 10, run 2.  I had trained in the pool for the swim with no open-water swims.  What did I know?  I thought, ‘water is water, swimming is swimming, doesn’t matter where or the situation’.  WRONG!  I took in so much water, I immediately wanted to turn around.  But, since the swim was so short, I was pretty much half-way done.  I was kind of screwed.  I wanted to swim to the guy on the kayak and hang on for dear life but again, the swim was so short, it would have taken as much effort to get to him as it would have been to finish.  Well, I didn’t die.  Obviously since I’m writing this.  It was pretty awful though.  Even though the super-sprint triathlon wasn’t exactly well executed, I did like it and decided to stick with it.


My lessons learned from that was 1) stay to the side or the back of the crowd and ease into the water.  I wasn’t out to win first place, I just wanted to finish, and 2) get open water swim practice in before the race. 


Skipping ahead, I’d like to share my 2nd near death by water experience.  It was my first triathlon longer than a sprint, the Miami Man International distance tri, swim .6, bike 22, run 6.6.  I was able to get in some more open water experience with a couple more sprint distance tris and I also did a couple of open water swims before the race on my own, +1 point.  This was also my first wetsuit race.  I had learned my lesson and made sure to swim in the wetsuit a couple of times (for like 5 minutes in a pool), +.5 points.  Race day: I got this.  I get into the water and swim around a little to warm up.  I come out maybe a little too soon and stand around waiting for my wave.  I position myself to the side, but in the front.  I got this, remember?  The start gun goes off, I run into the water and start swimming.  One, two, three, four, five strokes, turn, breathe.  CRAP!  I can’t breathe.  The water is so cold and the wetsuit is choking me.  I pull on the neck and water starts pouring into my suit.  Great!  Now, I’m going to weigh myself down with extra water in my suit.  I tried to continue by breathing every three strokes, but still couldn’t catch my breath.  And, to top it off, some girl insists on staying right in front of me kicking right in my face.  So, I stop and just wade the water letting her get away from me.  I tried to swim on my side, but started to get a cramp.  So, I started to breast stroke to just keep moving forward and keep my head above water to catch my breathe.  Once I finally calmed down, I moved back to horizontal, trying to breathe every stroke.  Once I had that down, I moved to every 2 strokes.  Then every 3.  Then alternating 3, then 4.  About 5 minutes in, I had finally settled into a rhythm and was able to start passing some people.  I survived!  Final swim time – 18:49.  I also managed to pull off finishing 1st in my a/g.


I’ve only had one other race with a wetsuit, the Atlantic Coast Triathlon Half Iron distance.  It was much more well executed.  I did more open water swimming --- IN my wetsuit, warmed up longer in the water right before the race started and I didn’t run out guns a blazin’ like I did in the Miami Man race.  My sighting skills are still a work-in-progress.  But, I’ll take that shortcoming over panicking.  Final swim time – 43:26.  I was able to pull off a 4th place a/g finish.     


I was reading the Cook Train Eat Race blog and found a past posting about anxiety during the swim.  It’s definitely worth a read, siting an article from ESPN and mentioning Susan Lacke’s blog post ‘How to Survive Your First Open Water Swim: 8 Tips for the New Triathlete’.  After a few trial and errors my lessons learned can pretty much be summed up with the ‘seven ways to get over open water anxiety’ and Susan’s post --- which is entertaining as well as informative.     

No comments:

Post a Comment