Was that a fish?

Lake Onteora

After who knows how many times I cancelled my open water swims due to work or fevers, today I finally had my experience swimming in a lake….Seven days before my race. Not too late at all, right? Don’t misunderstand me–I spent every summer of my youth at Lake George, so I’ve had plenty of fooling around and water play. Never, though, have I actually swam in a lake for swimmings sake (remember, up until November I swore I’d never swim). I was meant to do this last week, but the “mysterious disease” I’ve been suffering with for the past month would not allow it.

Today, at eleven o’clock, I met my coach once and for all at Onteora Lake which for people who are unfamiliar with the area, is somewhat close to the Ashokan Resevoir. Actually, if you are unfamiliar with the area, you have no idea what the Ashokan Resevoir is, so never mind. That comment was meant for people who do live in the area. I’m pretty sure there is a fair amount of mountain biking around the lake which I’ll need to check out once this dreaded race is over.

Here’s how my experience went:

I met my coach, who met me bright and early at a picnic table that is located next to the waters edge, carrying in her arms body glide, neoprene caps, a flotation device, and my wetsuit.

“You look tired, are you feeling okay?” Were her first words. I guess it’s obvious to nearly everyone I meet nowadays that I look like crap.

“Meh, not really, but I need to get into the Lake at somepoint before the race.”

My coach herself is doing a pretty popular, tough triathlon next weekend (and mountain bike race on Sunday—I want to be her) so she was going to watch me and not enter the water. After discussing my new baby and life, she went through the motions of putting on a wetsuit. I’ve only ever put a wetsuit on once before in my life and if you’ve never been in one before, it’s very…ehh… different. It took me about eight minutes to actually get into, even with the tri-spray D. used on the inside and body glide. The tri spray helps lubricate the inside of the suit, which makes it easier to take off. The body glide is for your wrists, neck, and ankles to help prevent chaffing.

“You have to inch your way with each leg, then the arms. At the race, you make lots of friends and will need to have someone zip you up. You are going to feel like you cannot breath at first in this, so that is a normal feeling,” D. said as she zipped the back of the suit up for me. There is a sequence that needs to be followed as to how you get into this suit. Holy crap, this is tight, and I cannot breathe at all!

Once the suit was on, I sat on the bench and put on my booties. Now, for race day, you need to remember in what order you put things on–if you put the booties on first and then the wetsuit, in transition, you need to remember to take the suit of first and then the booties. Apparently, Mooseman has people who help strip the wetsuits off you.

However, if you are doing a triathlon and the water is not 56 degrees, then you don’t even need to worry about wetsuits and hypothermia. I really have no idea why I chose to do a triathlon in New Hamphire at the beginning of the summer when the water temperature is in the 50’s. You know what, I really don’t know why I signed up for a half ironman distance triathlon either. I would strongly advise if you are going to try a triathlon, have your first one be (1) in warm weather so you don’t need to worry about a wetsuit and the feelings of claustraphobia associated with being in a suit that makes you have a better appreciation for batman and catwoman and any other superhero in skintight clothes and (2) don’t do a half IM distance one. Please. Listen to me. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever stop making silly mistakes, like signing up for insane races. Parts of me thinks I’ll have a normal thought process after this. And then there is a small part of me that will never learn. I’ll let you know how it goes in 20 years, if I survive Mooseman.

Back to wetsuit application. Once the booties were on,two caps and goggles, I followed D to the water where I continued to listen to her directions and try not to freak out because I felt like I could not breathe.

“Tie this around your ankle. Just incase,” She handed me the flotation noodle thing. Thank goodness she is prepared for if I possibly drown. The water was not too cold, and the fact I was sweating profusely in the skintight thick wetsuit helped me deal with the water temperature. As I tied the noodle to my ankle, I felt something nibble at my fingers.

“Ahh! I think a fish bit me!” I extracted my hand from the water.

“Ohh no! I should have warned you about the fish,” D. said.

My heart rate tripled. Not only was I going to drown, I was fish bait too.  No wonder I waited so long to enter this non-chlorinated water.

At first, I swam to the middle of the lake and back to my coach, mimicking how we would start the race. Then, my coach had me swim out for 5 minutes and then back to her, just enough to get used to swimming outside.

I started swimming when I heard my coach yell to me, “Molly, put your head under the water.”

I’m not sure it was because I’ve been sick and was afraid I would not be able to breathe under the water, the fact I could not expand my lungs enough to breathe in the wetsuit, my fear of what I would see in the murky darkness that loomed underneath me, or a combination of everything that stopped me from putting my head under the surface.

My wetsuit gear and tri suit

“Okayyyyy” I yelled back at her as I continued to keep my head above the water.

After another couple strokes I finally put my head in the water and began to swim normally. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, breathe. Stroke, look ahead and breathe. It took awhile to get used to the swimming rhythm, and despite the limited movement I had in my arms from the wetsuit (you are somewhat constricted in how you move your body in something really tight), I got back into my rhythm quicker than I thought. Mind you, I have not swam in a couple weeks due to the mystery illness, so it’s what I remember of my rhythm. It helped that the water was murky and I could not see too far ahead of me. When I almost reached the lake’s edge, I heard my coach yelling for me to come back. That’s when I turned around and realized that the breeze was facing me. I usually like breezes, but not when they cause currents in the water which you need to swim against, especially the first time you’ve ever swam in open water. That’s one nice thing about pool swimming–you don’t need to swim against currents. I was pretty sure seeing little waves coming towards me that I would never make it back, get really tired, and drown. But, eventually, I made it back to my coach.

“How was it?”

“Different,” I panted, out of breath.

“Okay, let’s go through what you’ll do at transition.”

I jogged back to the picnic table as I unzipped the back of the suit. Finally, expanded oxygenated lungs! The tri-glide and whatever other body lubricant I used for the inside of the wetsuit helped it slide off my body with more ease than attempting to get each of my large feet into it. My coach and I then continued to talk about transitioning and triathlons until it was time to leave.

I bundled up my two caps, wetsuit, booties and caps and balled them up on a towel in the back of my car.

“So this is it, Moll, you’re big race is in a week! Try to get a couple more OWSs in if you can, it would be best if you did not swim alone (uhh ohh, me having to wait for someone in order to do something?Not sure if that will be happening) and good luck! You’ll do awesome.” My coach stated as she got in her car.

To be honest, I could not be more anxious/scared/nervous about a race than I do now. My training these past couple weeks, as I’ve mentioned in a prior post, has been slacking do to exhaustion from working 12-15hr nights, lack of sleep, and sickness which I seem to be unable to get rid of. This race is freaking me out. Not necessarily the bike and run portions–I know I am capable of running and riding those distances. It’s the swim which terrifies me. Hopefully I’ll be able to breathe through my nose at somepoint before the race. I will keep you posted mid-week about further triathlon plans.

After a much needed nap, the grill was started up by X (yes, I have a grill and do not know how to use it. I do, however, know how to re-start a stopped heart if that makes you feel any better?) and we had a fabulous picnic feast outside in the humidity and heat.courtesy of Ironman events

So, Mooseman, after debating on whether or not I would actually go ahead and face you, it’s hard for me to give up. So, I’ll be seeing NH in a week!

I had this song in my head on the way to the water. It’s actually good for tempo keeping on a bike too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Looking Back on a Year of Tri Training « A Rendezvous with Sneakers

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