Small craft advisory or The joys of open water swimming

The tears had already started. So had the thought of dry heaving. And it was only 9:30 in the morning.

This is what open water swimming can do to me.

I was in panic mood en route to a complete nutty. Tonight would be my first open water swim since racing Texas 70.3 in April. As if that wasn’t scary enough, I checked the weather forecast. You see, 20 mile per hour winds do not make for great open water swimming conditions. On the plus side, the force of the wind and waves means no dead fish. On the negative side, you are pummeled and pushed by the waves so you feel  just like those dead fish.

My next triathlon is quickly approaching and while my pool swimming has been adequate I know that I need more open water experience. Instead of thinking, “Hey! This is great! Experience in a bad environment will only make me more confident and stronger!” I thought “Oh crap! I have enough trouble swimming in a pool. Remember how long that swim took me in Texas? Don’t you remember how much you suck?”

And on my mind went in that downward spiral where my perceived inability to swim well on this particular day would somehow be a referendum on how I would swim in my Iron Distance race in Montreal in three months. I was starting lose any grip I might have had on rational thought.

Then came this email exchange with Mark:

The small craft advisory for tonight does sound a little scary.

Seriously? There is a small craft advisory?

I’m not joking about the small craft advisory. Insert link to the National Weather Service advisory here.

Believe it or not, this made me smile.

Because there was no freaking way I was gonna be able to actually swim. There would be no chance for me to get in a solid workout. If it was going to be hard going for small water craft, it would be hard going for me. My definition of quality changed quickly. Today would be about playing in the water, not swimming in it.

Upon my arrival at the swim site, others asked if we were really going in. The one thing you learn quickly about endurance athletes — we can be a stupid lot. So in we went, despite the fact that there were white caps inside the break wall. (See the video for proof!)

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I climbed the ladder into the water and bounced around. Or was pushed around. I tried to swim breaststroke. Um. Nope. I’ll just wave jump. My friend, Jen, was in the water with me.

“Hey Jen, stay there,” I said. “I’m gonna swim over to you.”

Alright. Here I go. One stroke. Breathe. Two strokes. Ha! I’m there. Success!

Yes, I was happy with swimming two strokes. Sure others were swimming 100 meters. Seasoned swimmers were getting in full workouts. Me? I was floating between two ladders, the distance of which was about 10 feet. It was my own unique stroke combination where my legs are aqua jogging and my upper body is doing a breaststroke. I felt a tad bad at the end that some people whom had never been in open water before actually did some swimming while I did my version of wave jumping and body surfing. I should, after all, be getting ready for the Welland Triathlon.

But some days, you just have to let the waves crash into you, over you and around you. Some days, you just have to play.

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