Friday, July 4, 2008

My First OWS!!!

That's Open Water Swim - for anyone not tri-lingual. :)

So after much procrastinating, the stars finally aligned and I went down to Sarsons Beach to try swimming IN the lake, IN my wetsuit, for the first time IN MY LIFE. Yikes - what a mental challenge to overcome. First off - I hate getting wet and I hate being cold so I waited until the air temp was 30C and the lake had begun to warm up for summer before I even ventured down to the beach. Second of all, I have an unreasonable fear of 'stuff' under water - of seeing 'stuff', stepping on 'stuff, or feeling 'stuff'. I freak out when I can see the bottom, and I freak out when I can't see the bottom, and I especially freak out when I notice that the bottom is dropping off. Finally, I am fairly self-conscious so I was feeling uncomfortable with the idea of heading down to the beach in 30C weather, with the sunbathers in their swim suits, and me all duded up in a wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap.

At any rate, I could put it off no longer - there were no more excuses available - so I waited until Erik was home from his ride and I got him to come down to the beach with me to document this momentous occasion, and perhaps save me from drowning if need be.
I put my wetsuit on halfway before I left the house so I wouldn't have to do that tough, pulling-up-tight-nylons extravaganza in public. At the last moment, I decided to bring my water shoes so at least I wouldn't have to worry about the rocky shore or the additional freaked-out feeling of stepping on slimy rocks, or worse. Erik brought the camera and lots of encouragement, I had my towel, goggles, swim cap, and watch.

I chose Sarsons Beach because it's close to home and is much less populated than Gyro where most of the triathletes practice. I really didn't want an audience, but as it turned out, most people didn't pay much attention to me other than to sympathize with having to wear a black wetsuit in 30 degree temps.

We got down to the beach and I finished dressing, put on my watch, and headed to the water. I was already so hot that I didn't even noticed the water temp so that hurdle was easy to get over. The first time I put my face in the water and took a stroke, I seemed to have forget how to breathe and immediately inhaled a mouth and nose full of water. A little coughing, get the heart rate down, and try again. It took about 3-4 tries before I could put my face in the water and take 3-4 strokes and breathe somewhat normally. No thought was put into my form - I just wanted to survive at this point.

I was out to about chest depth and was attempting to swim parallel to the shore. Erik wasn't ready for me to go out over my head because I'm a better swimmer than he is and he didn't have a nice warm wet suit to keep him cozy.
Unfortunately, it was fairly windy and there were some pretty decent-sized waves which made the going a bit tough at first. I have never swum in a lake before, and there aren't many waves at the YMCA so that was my first challenge. If I breathed on the shore side, I could take in air normally, but when I tried to breathe on the lake side, I kept getting a wave in the face instead. Of course, then I'd have to stand up and hack up another lungful of water.

I was starting to get frustrated and was EXTREMELY glad that I wasn't doing my first OWS at the triathlon like I know some people do. After several attempts, I finally managed to swim a steady 50-100m without stopping by breathing every second stroke so I wasn't breathing into the waves.

I felt buoyant and comfortable and relatively safe although I was still panicky looking at the bottom of the lake and was scared at the thought of going out over my head. That will be for another day when the water is calm I think.

I practiced coming out and going into the water a few times, trying to figure out at what depth I should stop swimming and start running. It was difficult to know how well I was swimming because there was no way to gauge how far or how fast I was going, especially with the waves pushing me around, but Erik said I looked pretty good and seemed to going fairly fast.

After about 20 minutes, I was ready to pack it in for the day. I ran out of the water to practice transition, got one arm out of the wetsuit, but had trouble with the 2nd arm. Oh wait, I still had the stupid watch on. I will definitely have to remember to take my watch off first, or wear it under the sleeve, or skip it entirely.

My first swim was behind me and I felt like I was relatively successful. Next time, I will go out when the water is calm and Erik said he'd come along in the boat or on an air mattress the first time I swim out over my head, just in case I freak out. I'm pretty sure that once I do it a few times, I will be able to keep calm and just swim. I've been able to overcome the rest of my fears so this one will be no different, right?

There's an "Across the Lake Swim" on July 19th which I have contemplated doing. I know that after a warmup, I can swim for a long time without getting tired, as long as I'm not sprinting, so theoretically I think I could swim 2km. My longest pool swim to date is 1500m. It would do a LOT for me mentally to successfully swim across the lake though, so that would be the most important reason to do it. I'll see how my next couple of lake swims go before I decide though.

Other Stuff

As an aside, I took a look at the current registrants for the triathlon and the woman who came in 5th overall last year, with a time of 1:21, has just moved up into my age bracket. I don't have a HOPE of beating her, that's for sure. And with my current running after biking times, I'm not likely going to be able to place anyway so maybe with that pressure off, I can just keep plugging away.

Still haven't created a 4 week training plan. More later. Oh and I ran 5.4 km this morning. Felt good after the first 1-2km.


Tri Chick In Training said...

Well done! OWS is a totally different beastie to the pool isn't it? The best solution is doing it often so that on the day there are no surprises. I swim in the sea rather than lakes but often will spend the first few minutes just bobbing around getting used to being there. You'll get the hang of the waves so stick with it, Just breathe to the side away from the wave direction so you don't get a mouthful!! Again, well done :-)

Paul said...

Finally! After a few more attempts you'll be doing fine. Just remember the Ogopgo stays more to the south end of the lake. ;)
Also, wear the watch under the sleeve of the suit.

RoadBunner said...

I am so dreading doing an OWS. I have a feeling my first will be at my tri in Sept :(

Kelownagirl said...

Hey thanks everyone! I went to the beach again this morning and swam when it wasn't quite so windy. This time I went to Gyro which is where all the "real" triathletes practice. :) The water was clear and comfortable and although I didn't go out over my head, I did swim about 800m with only a few minor panics. Next - I need to swim out to the buoys over my head.

It's weird - I'm fine if I jumped off a boat and swim around, and I'm fine in the shallows, but the whole idea of swimming out to the deep, freaks me out.

Roadbunner - try hard to get out for an OWS before your race - it's well worth it for the peace of mind.

Nicole Thomas said...

I've read that coming into shore you should keep swimming until your hand hits the bottom and then start walking/running. I always stop swimming sooner, but agree with this idea.


Kelownagirl said...

Thanks MD - that's what I tried when I was coming in and it made sense. The first time, it was purely by accident tho. LOL...