The Open Water Swim, never to be confused with the Open Pool Swim

I’ve always had a decent level of confidence when it came to open water swimming. My sisters and I grew up spending summers on the ocean, near the lake or at the local pool. I’m thankful my mother insisted we all take lessons….and continue with it passed yellow. (Yes, I’m that old the Red Cross levels were in colours…I think I made it to Green. Green was pretty high, no bronze medallion like my sister scored, but not too shabby either). But the water…It went beyond swimming – I’ve played in some of the craziest waves Martinique Beach could offer, Snorkelling off a boat in Mexico, Scuba diving from the shore in Turks and Caicos, Surfing…you get the idea. Put me in any water and I’d be just fine. 

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Off the cruise ship and into any water I could access. Corfu, Greece was the nicest swim. 

So it came as a huge surprise to me, during one of my first open water swims 2 weeks ago, I started to panic. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, but I was faced with a shortness of breath, uncontrollable fear, and felt like someone had just put 30 wool blankets on my chest. I tell myself: “Relax. Take a few deep breaths”. In the throws of a panic attack – especially one happening 20 feet from shore – those words mean nothing. I did manage to calm myself down in fairly short order, with the assistance of the bestest friend in the world, floating on my back and taking it easy. 

Where did this come from?

It’s hard to say. Maybe my wetsuit is too tight. Maybe I just need more practice in the open water. Maybe all my “cool as a cucumber” talk about ironman is just a cover up and I’m going to go into a full meltdown on race morning.

I know a lot of triathletes have concerns about the swim portion, claiming it as their weakest sport and the thing that causes the most anxiety when it comes to race day. That was never me! I held back and let the crazy swimmers take off, allowing myself a less congested area to swim in and somehow managed to miss most of the head kicking. But now! Now I was just like the rest of the swim-fearing athletes out there!

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Despite the jellyfish sting, I felt pretty decent in the open water swim in June

By my calculations, you can’t pop an Ativan and expect to exercise (successfully) for 16 hours.

I know I can swim 3800M, but just to be sure I decided to do a little research on making life easier. Here are my tips I’ve learned:

  • Practise
  • Try swimming with my eyes closed in practice to increase the level of stress and learn how to handle it
  • Practice swimming in groups OR
  • Hold back in my heat, and let the swimmers fly! Head injuries are avoided in this tip. The only set back is that my swim is fairly strong and I wind up trying to pass some of these people I let get by at the start. 
  • I must remember that swimming is ~10% of the race. Don’t burn out in the first 1.5 hours of a 15-16 hour race.
  • Break the swim into different sections to make is seem more manageable (Via buoys or other sighting tricks)
  • Sight every 8-10 strokes
  • Get Anti-fog spray for goggles
  • Focus on technique – it’s easy to lose all focus on this when things get rolling
  • Breathe
  • If I can practice in open water, that’s best, 50 M is better and 25M as a last resource.
  • Practice swimming with what clothing I’ll be wearing. Don’t forget the anti-chafe glide for the neck!
  • I need a strong positive mental focus for those 90 minutes. Something to think about and calm me down. That will go into my Race Day Plan. (More on that as it gets developed).
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Proof of an open water swim, well done

So, I have lots of advice and I’ve been back in the water twice since my incident. Still not feeling 100%, but moving in the right direction. And I always swim with a buddy, for the record. 

More soon!

One month until Ironman!

One month. It’s hard to believe I’m this close to Ironman. My training feels strong, but the plan is never 100%. When I look back over my training some weeks are as low as 7-8 hours (!) But there is no point in focusing on that.

IMG_8125Packing. Oh the packing for a 14 hour training week.

       

Last week was a killer. A nearly perfect training week, less a bachelorette party resulting in my less than perfect bike ride on Sunday (I could have called that). Although I paced myself during said festivities, I still woke up with less vim and vigour then my usual self. I’ve turned into quite the lightweight when it comes to booze.

I'm proud of this week.

I’m proud of this week.

After Sunday’s ride – which was far from sunny and hot – I forced myself to dunk into the ocean for as many drinks as I consumed the night before. When I told my girlfriend (and fellow cyclist) what I had done she laughed and said “You’re hard on yourself!”. Isn’t she right?

I was NOT hungover in the ride. Snapped during the Heartland Tour – 100K around Peggy’s Cove 

But aren’t we all? This crazy sport of triathlon is much more mental then I ever knew. The thoughts that go through my head at the end of a 18K run, or the “you got this” to the “you don’t got this” back and forth for one large hill climb. The feeling of being the strongest I’ve ever been in my life – unstoppable even – to the self doubt of “Who do you think you are, going to ironman – have you seen these other athletes?” Sometimes my thoughts exhaust me more than the actual workouts. Other times – most of the time – I stay positive and enjoy the view. 

I really only have 3 decent weeks of training left until race day. What I do now will have only minor impact on race day outcome, assuming that I don’t push to hard and get injured. That leaves the mental preparation. I’ve not been overly nervous and when I talk about the race (and when people tell me I’m crazy), I let them know that the training is intense, I’m looking forward to my “vacation” and I’m looking forward to race day. That I will get through. (And I’m likely not going to win 😉 )

95% of the time I believe what I’m saying. But truly, I’m lucky that I have this opportunity to travel with my friends, experience their first, or second, or 20+ ironman. To visit a beautiful, new place, and stay in a wonderful condo with my best friend. To have amazing support and what I know will be an experience of a lifetime. I don’t want to blemish this event with a lot of anxiety and worry. That comes from a positive mindset and takes its own preparation!

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Inspirational ladies!

Over the past few weeks. I’ve enjoyed the training, especially the bike. I’m biking with a half dozen people on a somewhat regular basis. The other evening after some gruelling hills I wondered out loud: “Am I even getting better? Its hard to tell when everyone around me is getting better too!” But I know the answer…100K rides don’t seem scary (where they seemed near impossible less than 3 months ago), and while I still have a long way to go on the hill training, I’m no longer concerned that I will have to get off my bike and walk up a hill that is too steep. I know I can power climb through (the tears).

I still have some homework – cramming at this point! – I’m working on my run – still having knee issues that I’m working on with the help of an amazing osteopath – and I’ve discovered I have a new found anxiety when I’m swimming with my wetsuit on and my food. Always working on putting the best fuel inside my tank.

I have 4 weeks to work out these kinks! Wish me luck 🙂

A beautiful view from my not so beautiful run, A beautiful view from my not so beautiful run.