Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Got My Ass Kicked....

.....By The Ocean

Six of us met up tonight at the beach in Barrinton for an open water Ocean swim.  The idea was to swim an approximation of the Barrington YMCA sprint course which is a half mile swim.  In the end it was Me, Cass, Kevan, Batla, Eamonn, and John there.  We all suited up and headed out into the ocean.   From the shore it didn't really look all that bad when I got there as you can see here.

However once we walked towards the water you could tell it was a little bit choppy.  And as soon as you got in it you quickly realized it was going to be an interesting swim.  It was actually quite choppy, and there were a lot of swells as well.  Or maybe there was no chop and lots of swells, or no swells and lots of chop.  Hec whats the difference anyway?  So..   we headed out to the first buoy and took a right.  This part wasn't so bad.  We stayed together pretty much till the buoy, made sure everyone made it and then headed right along the line of larger buoys near the swim area.  This is where it got weird.  Now the swells are hitting you on the side of your body and the chop is worse out this far from shore.  It was like trying to swim while someone is shaking you all about and then shooting water in your face every time you try to breathe.  It was pretty disorientating, uncomfortable, and very unfamiliar.  But I did my best to press on.  Every time I tried to relax and get in a good rhythm the ocean would drop out from underneath me.  Thats what it felt like.  You would be swimming along and go to rotate your left shoulder down into the water and the water wasn't there.  It was much lower than you expected it to be in the valley between swells.  It kept throwing me off.  I just couldn't get comfortable and get a good groove going.  But I pressed onward.  At least when I would pop up to sight I realized I was still making forward progress.  But there were many many times when I popped up to sight that I stopped completely just to catch my breath and get my bearings again.  This was not a lake swim that I'm so used to.  Not even close.  Fortunately for me Batla and Cass were swimming at the same pace as me so when I'd pop up I could usually see them close by and that always make it seem a little less frightening and kept me grounded.  When we reached the furtherst point to the right where I thought we were going to turn into the shore (maybe .3 or .4 miles out?) it was decided that we would swim back the way we came instead.  At this point I paniced a little in my head.  I was so ready to turn into shore and I was feeling better thinking I'd be on shore again soon, and now I had to fight my way back through this crap again?  I wasn't happy, but I knew the part of me that wasn't happy was that evil part of your brain that makes you not want to do anything hard.  So I fought it off and turned back to swim that way.  I had a brief moment of panic not much longer when I realized my sighting was off and I was swimming even further away from the shore.  I was also at this time the furthest person out from the shoreline.  I can't say I enjoyed that feeling.  I got my bearings again, took a 10 second rest to tread water and swam really hard back towards the line of buoys.  My stupid brain started flashing images of the tide sucking me out to sea.  I can't say I enjoyed those either.  But this is what happens during these first swims in these conditions.  And I did my best to fight these silly thoughts off and press onward.  Eventually I reached the magic buoy that meant I could turn left into the shore.  Now I was much happier.  Now the swells were pushing me closer to the beach and they weren't splashing me in the face when I was trying to breathe or dissapearing out from under my shoulders when I was expecting them to be there to support me.  It wasn't much longer and I was standing on the beach again.  Out of breathe, disoriented, and feeling like I had just gotten my ass kicked.  For perspective though this is how I felt after the first TT, after my first 25 yards in a pool, and after my first open water swim.  And now those things feel so simple.  So this was just my first open water experience in the ocean when it wasn't super calm.  Today the ocean beat me a little bit and it got into my head.  The next time, and every time after that its just going to get easier and easier.  So rather than stay away from it I'm going to attack it head on.

Maybe this is what happens in all open ocean swims but I must give a lot of credit to Kevan and John who were the more experienced swimmers in the group for waiting for all of us to reach the buoys that marked the turnaround points, or the turn into shore.  Each time they were there doing a head count and making sure everyone was ok.  It was nice to know you weren't out there on your own.

After I got my bearings back again it was time to shift gears and get some transition practice in.  In the end it was just Kevan and I that went through it.  And I think Kevan was just doing it so I would have some company and not be the only one there going through it.  So thanks for that!  I setup my transition area with everything I'll have at the race on Sunday, and then put my wetsuit back on.  Here's what it looked like.
With everything in place Kevan and I walked about 100 yards from the transition area in our wetsuits to simulate the run down the beach.  We ran into transition, stripped out of the wetsuits, on with the sunglasses and helmet, grab my bike and go!  A quick run with the bike to the "mount" line and my bare feet were on top of the shoes pedalling away just like I've practiced again and again.  A few seconds later and both feet are inside the shoes and the velcro is closed.  I rode down to the other end of the beach parking lot and then rushed back while at the same time undoing the velcro and getting my barefeet back on top of my cycling shoes.  A nice dismount just before the line and I'm back running with the bike into T2.  T2 went really quick as its just a matter of getting rid of the bike helmet, transferring my garmin to my wrist from the bike and grabbing my hat which has my race belt and waterbottle inside it.  While running out of T2 I put the racebelt on and my hat on and I was off.  Kevan and I ran around the block at a pretty good clip and then on the way back he said to me "now get on the bike again".  So I did just that.  back on with the helmet, off with the running shoes, grab my bike and I mounted it, rode off, and then came back and dismounted it again. 

This whole process didn't take very long and it was so worth it.  I feel so much better about the transition now.  I've done small parts of it in practice but I've never put it all together.  Now I know I have the confidence to fly through it.  I'm a little bummed that the tri I'm doing won't have transition splits.  I'll only get a swim time, T1/Bike time, and a T2/run time.  So I won't know how fast I've done it.  But both transitions will be around 30 - 40 seconds I expect unless theres a really long run from somewhere to get to them.  This is assuming I can find my bike of course.  But once I do I'll be quick!

Next up...  tomorrow I'm off to the beach in the morning with a friend of mine and then I'll spend the afternoon getting ready to head up to my OWS clinic in mass and packing up my transition bag again.  Should be a nice day off.

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