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on swimming

Perhaps you're already aware of the fact that I pretty much suck at open water swimming.

It took me -- I kid you not -- 40:44 to swim a half-mile at my last tri. (Honestly, I didn't think it was possible to do worse than my first tri, in which I managed a craptacular 32:28 swim. But apparently I'm really good at achieving the impossible.)

Forty freaking minutes to swim a half-mile. Dear god. No matter how you look at it, that is an absolutely atrocious time, and I should probably be whipped and dismissed from the USAT. (Just for the record, in a pool, it takes me about 20 minutes to swim that distance. I'm no Michael Phelps, but at least that is not as awful.) Open water destroys me. And it ruins the rest of my event -- I should be more of a midpacker, but instead, I keep coming in second-to-last in my age group, all because of my lack of open water swimming skills.

So imagine the level of freaking out that took place in my brain as I looked at the calendar and realized I have an Olympic distance tri just around the corner -- literally 11 days from today.

How the hell am I supposed to swim 1.5K (which is just a hair under a mile) in open water by April 22?

As I mentioned above, I like to think I have a knack for making the impossible happen.

So like any student who really wants to pass the test, I've been cramming as much as possible. I've been swimming at the pool every chance I can get. (It takes me about 40 minutes to swim 1.4K -- I'm getting there.) I signed up for Saturday's HITS Napa Valley Sprint at Lake Berryessa to get more open water experience.

And I've started swimming in the San Francisco Bay.

Yup, that's right. My desperation has officially driven me to insanity. I figure if I can swim in 50-degree water with extremely limited visibility and the possibility of large marine life with teeth, I can swim anywhere.

I took an open water clinic at Aquatic Park this past weekend, and then I went back to the city Monday night to brave the waters again during a coached workout.

Things I've learned:

When I wear my wetsuit, I do not sink. In fact, I can do absolutely nothing in the water, and my butt will just start floating upward, all because of the wetsuit. Also, if I really concentrate on my arms and on gliding, my wetsuit helps me go farther per stroke. Dear wetsuit: I love you.

Sighting. I can now swim toward the orange buoy and actually get to the orange buoy instead of swimming past it and into the vortex in the middle of the course.

To control my mind and not freak out, counting strokes helps. One. Two. Breathe. Three. Four. Sight. Breathe. Repeat – and coincidentally forget to think about marine life with teeth.

Ear plugs keep you from getting dizzy and walking like you’re drunk and/or almost falling over when you get out of the water.

Ridiculously cold water is really not that bad. Yes, it does feel like miniature knives are pricking your skin over and over, and if you stay in too long you start wheezing like you’re getting an asthma attack, but being in the water is not nearly as awful as the cold when you get out of the water and strip out of your wetsuit.

Tourists really enjoy taking pictures of the freaks who are swimming in the SF Bay.

I no longer backstroke all the time. In fact, I actually swim like a somewhat normal person – facedown in 50-degree water. (This is what normal people do, right?)

It's not that bad when people swim next to me or accidentally kick me. It’s also not that bad when I accidentally kick them.

And perhaps the most important lesson of all: I am still alive and did not die in open water.

Olympic distance tri, here I come.


Layla said...

You're improving! I think you might just survive that swim 11 days from now! I really hope you do, because I don't want to take pictures of your corpse -- I'd much rather be there at the finish and take pictures of you and your medal.

Michaela said...

I'll be really embarrassed if I die in front of you.