We loaded up the car, grabbed our respective bottles filled with hydration solutions and took off down the New York State Thruway. Ah yes. Road trip! It had been some time since I left the comfy confines of my regular Buffalo-area routines for a day of training and the change of pace invigorated me. Seriously, I was so excited for the day trip I was tweeting all about it for a full 24-hours prior to our departure and text messaging my good friend Hitch like a giddy school girl.
Hitch and I drove out to Kershaw Park in Canandaigua, N.Y. to meet up with other tri peeps — Corey, John and Mary — for some open water swimming. Hitch, in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid, was then going to take off on a long bike ride while John, Mary and I were off for a long run. I was thrilled to be spending time with people who make me laugh heartily, feel at ease and unknowingly inject perspective into my day. I was, however, slightly more thrilled with the fact we would be swimming in Canandaigua Lake. See, with all due respect to Lake Erie, my home Great Lake, it doesn’t have many easy access points for open water swimming. And, well, Lake Erie, you can be skanky. Sorry. Nothing personal. But the typical access point I use collects dead fish, tons of debris and smells like motor oil. I needed to get in water which helped me enjoy swimming, not water which encouraged me to practice my gag reflex.
Canandaigua Lake is beautiful. It’s main selling point is that it’s clear — I could see the bottom of the lake. The other key selling point was its depth. Where we swam there was plenty of distance available within the confines of the buoys yet even I (who is about as tall as a Smurf, three apples high) could touch the bottom the entire way. On this glorious Saturday morning the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the water was warm. I slowly swam out to to our far buoys and was ready to work on gaining my open water confidence.
Hitch, who had some intervals to do, took off on his own. Mary also kicked my butt in her first open water swim — ever — as she prepared for the mini-Musselman, a sprint distance triathlon next weekend in Geneva. Me? I tried to not make the weekend a referendum on the pending Musselman race — a 70.3 distance which has me all sorts of nervous. Our group swam buoy to buoy at a leisurely pace. At one point I asked John for a critique of my stroke.
And then it happened — the best confidence boost I could imagine. John was hesitant to say too much a week before my race. Tinker with too much and I would be swimming backwards come race day. But there were things I could work on immediately. My head was moving too much. I needed to keep it down and turn it only to breathe. Also, my legs were too far apart, they should be closer together. While on the topic of my legs, I was kicking far too much. Kicking less, particularly over distance, will actually increase my speed. John proved this point to me by having me swim to the next buoy without kicking. I was faster. Seriously.
This. Could. Change. My. Life.
There are other things to work on, particularly when it comes to the pull of my right arm, but the nitty gritty of that is for another day. If I concentrate on reaching with my arms, keeping my head down and swimming lady like (i.e. legs together) I feel much more glide-y. I feel like I move as fast (if not a bit faster) with less effort. Very key when your swim is followed by 56-mile hilly bike ride and a 13.1 hill-pounding run. “It’s like college,” John said. “You put forth the least amount of effort to obtain the same level of results.”
John was kind enough to also jog along at my easy pace for a 12-mile run. (Mary forgot her running kicks at home. She really could have swum home and returned with them before I made it back to shore, she is that good in the water.) The run was hot and increasingly uncomfortable, but it still felt good, like I was sweating out the anxieties from all corners of my life which had built up over time. There is nothing like a good workout to cleanse my soul, or at least expose it so I can deal with the areas which need attention. The shower and nap back home capped off a great day, one in which I was fully engaged, being myself, learning something new and taking on a challenge. Oh Canandaigua, don’t tell Lake Erie, but I may love you.