Vacation Chronicles: The Open-Water Swim


Last year I did my first, and so far only sprint triathlon. The 800-meter swim portion was in a pool. Pool swimming is pretty easy for me. If the race atmosphere causes nervousness, one can always grab the side of the pool to collect oneself.

I’m registered for a sprint triathlon this August. The swim portion is in a lake. Different story. There’s no concrete pool side to grab. Once I’m out there, I’m out there. Prior to going to Florida, I’d not practiced an open-water swim.

My August triathlon involves a 600 meter swim. I figured vacation was a perfect time to practice swimming in open water. Hubs agreed to walk the shoreline with his Garmin hiker’s GPS. We got to the beach around 7 a.m. before the sun worshipers arrived. I would swim 300 meters in one direction and on hub’s command would turn without touching the bottom and swim back. At hub’s suggestion I agreed not to go out too far from the shore. He wanted me to be close enough in so that I could hear him. So I walked out somewhere between waste and shoulder deep.

I was wearing a black lap suit, a black swim cap and goggles. I looked like an Easter Egg with a bad dye job. Thanks Heavens hubs didn’t bring along a camera. I would have hated to have drowned him.

When pool swimming, I can go a mile with no problem at all. I figured 600 meters would be a piece of cake. After all, the minimum distance I swim is 1,200 meters. At my request hubs was timing me so on his go I set off. I envisioned myself using a strong free style stroke and cutting through the water like a pro.

Um, no. What I didn’t anticipate was the waves tossing me around like a toy boat. The water was extremely clear and I could see the bottom moving back and forth under me. I have vertigo. Not good.

I hadn’t gotten very far before I realized I was going to have to use the breast stroke in order to get my head up and out of the water. This helped a little bit. I swam and swam, feeling more queezy with every stroke until hubs FINALLY gave me the cue to turn around. Actually, he pretty much yelled at me to turn around. I thought that was strange. After all, what would be the harm if I swam a few meters extra. But I didn’t think to much about it because I was so glad to be at the halfway point. And I was dizzy.

Once I finished the 600 meters I staggered back to shore. I didn’t stagger from fatigue, it was the dizziness. Hubs informed me that the reason he yelled so loudly wasn’t just to let me know I’d made it half way. Turns out I almost swam into some fishing lines that had been cast. Perfect.

It’s been almost two weeks since that swim and I still get dizzy when I think about it. Thank goodness I won’t have oceanic waves to contend with on my lake swim. And hopefully no one will be fishing.

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