What lies beneath

On the long and bumpy journey towards being a triathlete I have officially passed a major milestone; my first open water swim. Incidentally I did consider calling this post Free Willy, making a somewhat tenuous connection between me swimming free and the movie where the whale famously was set free, but decided that might give the impression I’d joined a naturist open water swimming club. Let’s be honest the lake is cold enough without exposing that part of your anatomy to it also.

But discussions about willy’s aside I have to say open water swimming is bloody awesome. I’ve always loved being around water, I think it’s where I’m most at peace and I spent a good chunk of my teenage years fishing on various lakes and rivers. I hoped it would feel like trail running does; free and natural which is why I run on trails and not roads, but I was a little nervous that I would hate it and it would put a big dent into my triathlon aspirations.

We got down to the lake at 6.30am, the sun was just coming up and it was peaceful apart from the other 6 swimmers who were already out splashing around the lake. Wetsuits and swimming hats were pulled on (it’s really not a glamorous sport is it?!) and we gingerly waded out into the lake. It was cold enough to take your breath away a little and make your face ache for the first few minutes but actually once you’re moving it was fine.

Wetsuit on ready for swim

The lake is a crystal clear gravel pit in the Cotswold’s and only about 3m deep at the deepest point so you can see the bottom most of the time. Within the first hundred metres we saw a couple of big tench swimming about on the bottom seemingly un-bothered by us splashing past.

It’s quite an odd feeling just having a big expanse of water to swim about in when you’re used to the regimented lengths of a pool and clearly you need to be a confident swimmer but it sure beats trying to overtake the inevitable person swimming breast stroke in the fast lane at the pool. I got a bit disoriented at one point when we turned a corner and there was a bit of a chop on the water. Every time I breathed a wave hit me in the face and I had to stop a couple of times to regroup. Better to learn how to deal with that now than in August!

Swimming in a wetsuit is going to take some getting used to, I think mine is tiny bit short but should be ok, it was cheap of eBay and I’m loathed to change it for one race. I also got to test out my Suunto Ambit 2 on a swim outdoors and it worked really well, didn’t lose signal and although the route looks a bit straight lined for what I actually swam it’s nice to have the data. It also gives me a good idea of the sort of pace I might be able to do in the race.

The plan now is to get in the lake every Saturday morning now, will help to start building up endurance and being used open water swimming. It’s also quite honestly just a pleasant thing to do, love getting down there so early and being able to get a good swim in before most people have even woken up. This week we also did a quick 2 mile loop of the lake afterwards, the first brick session and also something worth doing when I can even if it is just a short run. Start getting those legs used to transitions!

Does anyone have any top open water swimming tips? In particular how to stop the inevitable wetsuit rub?

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