Testing New Skills

By , Jun 3, 2015

I was told early on to “expect to get elbowed and kicked” during the swim. Not sure if my hockey instincts or flight instincts would be more dominant, I figured the only way to make sure was to test it out. After all, in the big race, the swim is first and if you don’t finish it, you don’t get a shot at the bike or run. Bolstered by my single day open water swimming experience, an open water swim race was just the ticket to cross the final training hurtle.

The closer the event came, the more tactical the advice from friends and other racers became. “Think about your line in corner.” “Some people put their cap over their goggles to make sure they don’t get kicked off.” “Just stay focused and calm and you’ll be fine.” The best advice I got was from a fellow Canadian who said “don’t stop to apologize or make sure they are ok.” Damn Canadian instincts.

The first event was a 750m swim. It’s was big rectangular course with the first corner 150m from the start line. I started to do the math in my head and needless to say there wasn’t a lot of room for thinning of the pack from the start line to the first 90 degree turn.

There sure is a lot of room at the start

There sure is a lot of room at the start of the 2250 race.

The race started and I lost all semblance of form and tactics. It was as if I was back swimming on the first day of my training again. Focus and calm were out the window and replaced with enthusiastic, but naive thrashing.

I cannot claim to be surprised or even ill prepared for what happened in that first corner. If I thought the first 150m was chaos, for a split second it got way worst. It was like being in the middle of a school of fish, but flailing 170 lb fish who lacked natures majestic coordination. I remember being completely vertical with two fully grown guys on my back, pausing, looking at the safety guy in a kayak and thinking that getting that guy out of the boat would be way easier than swimming any further.

I instantly regret this decision

I instantly regret this decision

With a bit of patience and a lot of will power I eventually rounded the corner. The next corner 100m away was still messy but now I was “experienced”. And then after a long 300m stretch, the third corner was a breeze, before the last stretch to the finish. I was pretty excited as I made my mini zig zags towards it. When I finally grabbed a handful of mud indicating it was time to stand up and run, I couldn’t believe I made it.

To say it was the best preparation I experienced for the big race would be an understatement. Completing two laps (1500m) half an hour later was the icing on the cake in giving me the confidence I need to get out there and race in less than two weeks! While it hasn’t completely resolved my jitters and I’m sure my heart will be racing at the start line, experiencing that last hurdle and finding it more manageable than expected has me counting the days to June 14!!