Mostly because sharks don’t normally go into the waterway, but still, they DO.
On Monday evenings, a group of people get together and swim in the intra-coastal waterway. I was one of them last night. Last week, my wetsuit came in the mail, so I knew it was time to face my fears, and get ‘er done. It was a really pretty day, so I suggested to my husband that he come along and take the kids to the beach while I swim. Maybe it was a small comfort knowing that if he heard sirens or about a “swimmer in trouble” he would at least be there and not sitting oblivious to “an urgent situation” while at home.
I got my wetsuit on and my kids were nice enough to remind me NOT to fart in it. Heh, heh, of course they would say that. It seemed fairly tight, and when I mentioned it to another swimmer, she basically said “that’s how we all feel”. I let it go after that. Turns out, it felt great in the water and I’m very happy with it and it’s buoyancy effect on my body. Wetsuit + salt water = floaties.
The tide was steady and low when we got in, the water wasn’t cold, and the breeze had died down, so it was pretty close to perfect when we went out, just after 6 pm. One of their friends was on her paddleboard, so it was nice there was someone watching out for us.
I thought the swim would be about .6 or .7 miles, and that made me slightly nervous. When swimming in the pool, I stop every 25 meters, if only to grab the side and turn (I have not yet mastered the flip turn, or any turn for that matter), but it does give you some time to come up for air. They told me where to sight to, which was pretty much useless on me, because I’m just trying not to end up turning in a circle and going in the opposite direction.
It’s strange going from a pool to open water. You can’t see shit. Then when breathing (because I can only breathe from one side at this point), the sun was glaring off the water, so I couldn’t see shit in or out of the water. Once we started going, I got into a rhythm of sorts, and it felt pretty good. Then all of a sudden the warmish water got cold. Then warm, then cold. It sort of freaked me out, so I stopped and realized I was headed for the docks. Oops. If I could figure out how to load my information from my Garmin, I would probably find my path something similar to this:
It made me laugh and I thought that it was too bad I couldn’t have a “sighter” on shore who could speak directly into my ear telling me “a little left, a little right”, you know, like the NASCAR drivers do. I’m sure the USAT would consider that illegal though.
The other swimmers knew I was a green novice beginner, so they stopped often and asked me if I was ok, doing all right, and that, which made me feel really good and less like a doofus. There was absolutely no pressure for performance, which is pretty unlike any running experience I have, ever. Especially when I’m alone.
There were three things I didn’t like: the water changing temperatures abruptly and often (ISN’T THAT A SIGN OF SHARKS OR OTHER SEA CREATURES?), boaters, and the dark water under the bridge. These are all things that I will get used to, and I was happy that I didn’t freak out or panic when what I assume was a seaweed thing got caught on my hand and when “something” touched my foot. I didn’t even stop to get it off as I knew that it would come off itself, which it did. At the end, there was what looked like the head of a venomous snake poking out of the water, blocking me from coming to shore. OMG WHY WOULD A SNAKE BE RIGHT HERE??? I took my goggles off and alas, it was just a piece of Styrofoam. A very scary one.
I made it to the shore and I was surprised to see that, per Garmin, I swam .93 miles in 33 minutes. Hmmmm, if I can do THAT, what can I do in October? A sense of relief came over me, and I know that I can do this triathlon thing. No, the conditions won’t be easy like they were last night, training for and doing the thing won’t be easy, but I have many days of practice ahead of me, so I will be able to handle whatever happens that day.
I’m going back out on Wednesday evening to swim with another group, headed by my running coach who just happens to be a total kick ass swimmer, where she is going to help beginners like me learn the ropes of open water swimming. I’ll eventually learn to sight, how to breathe on both sides, and how to deal with less-than-perfect conditions. I’m on the couch-to-5k swim program. It’s interesting and I could really like this open water business. As long as the sea creatures and Styrofoam snakes stay away.
The icing on the cake for last night was finding my boys hanging out on the beach on a beautiful evening.
Trying something new isn’t bad at all. It can open up a ton of avenues and possibly bring you joy along the way. Last night was a clear reminder of one of my favorite quotes:
“If you want something you’ve never had, you have to be willing to do something you’ve never done.”
I took my first step.