Thursday, May 30, 2013

Out in the open water

Last night I headed down to St. Pete Beach to meet up with Tori and the Mad Dogs Triathlon club for their Wednesday night open water swim. It had been beautiful all day, but there was a forecast for storms in the area later on in the afternoon. My drive down there was just under an hour, and because it started at 6 I didn't want to get caught in traffic. I ended up leaving at about 4:40 to make sure that I got their in time. As I was driving over the bridges across the bay, I noticed how hard the wind was blowing, the white caps in the water, and the dark clouds heading towards the area.

I kept going, because the way Florida summer storms work, they can hang around for 15 minutes and then pass just as quickly as they came.

When I got there at 5:35, though, this is what I saw...
It was not a pretty site, and I thought the swim would be cancelled. I saw Tori and we walked over to the place where the group congregates. Everyone was pretty set on swimming, and I was pretty surprised. It sprinkled for a second, there was one boom of thunder, and then slowly for the next 15 minutes, the clouds moved far enough away that we decided to walk to the beach and go for it.

It had been a long time since I swam in the ocean. When I did the mock triathlon a month or two ago, we swam in the inner coastal, which felt a little more protected in some way. I was afraid for what the water was going to look like when we crossed over the sand dunes and onto the beach. But much to my surprise, but not to the surprise of those that knew the effect of winds blowing from the east, the water was calm. There were hardly things in the water that could even be called waves. It looked almost like a swimming pool!

We walked the mile down to the Don Cesar, got in the ocean, and it was time to go! It was surreal swimming a mile without touching a wall. I've never swam that far not in a pool, but I really liked it! The thing that sometimes gets in the way of having a relaxing swim is the desire I have to count laps. I always feel the need to know how far I go, so this helped to know that the course was already marked out one mile.

And I just swam and swam and swam. I tried not to focus on the bottom, because I was afraid I'd see a sting ray or something (we'd seen them when we were walking). Instead I just did my best to practice siting and going in a straight line. I know I did a little zig zagging, but for the most part I felt like I stayed pretty straight. By 3/4 of a mile in, I was ready to be done or to at least feel a wall. I wasn't overly tired as much as I just wanted to relief that we as swimmers sometimes get when doing a flipturn and a long streamline. My arms just needed a break!

Eventually I got to the clump of trees, steeple, and American flag that I had been told to look for, lifted my head, stood up, and saw an unbelievably gorgeous evening! It's almost hard to convince someone that it was the same day!
I wore my watch so knew my time and heart rate, but the number analyzer in me wanted to know my exact distance. If I didn't have a list of things to buy for my bike a mile long I'd be thinking of adding an upgraded Garmin to my list of things to purchase in the next month or two...maybe I can ask for one for a birthday or something...

And then it was time to head home again. It was such a great night, and it was really nice to be able to swim without thinking about much more than staying straight and thinking about my stroke. Between this group and the swim team practice that I went to two Wednesdays ago, it seems I'll always have somewhere to go on Wednesdays for a great swim! And I'll be doing that from now on! Even when I'm back to running I plan to continue my swimming and biking to prepare for my upcoming triathlons as well as any others that might pop up on my calendar.

Do you get in the ocean when you go on vacation or does it make you nervous?
Do you open water swim? Where?
If you've done or plan to do a triathlon, how frequently do your incorporate open water swimming versus pool swimming into your routine?

9 comments:

Lora (Daily Southern Sunshine) said...

Good for you! I've been meaning to go to a St. Pete Mad Dogs event! Let me know the next time you go--it will give me an excuse to get off my butt and make it! There's also a swimming class on Thursdays at the North Shore pool that I'm about to start going to! I can send you info, if you'd like!

Kiersten P said...

Congrats! I did my first ocean swim tri last summer, but ocean swimming still scares me a lot! I am anxious to get in the water and start practicing, but up here in Maine the water is way too cold!

Beka said...

Crazy how FL weather changes minute to minute.

Way to go on your open water swim - I would be pretty nervous about looking down too!

Kat @ Sneakers and Fingerpaints said...

You're a braver woman than I am! Open water scares me!

Lauren said...

I so fear open water but that is awesome you did it :-)

Karen said...

That picture of the path to the beach is gorgeous! Water around here is really really cold, everyone wears wetsuits. I'm assuming FL is warmer?

Kristen :) said...

I am petrified of open water thanks to a rather unpleasant jellyfish experience when I was younger. But I'll sit on the beach!!

Emily said...

Great job, congrats on the swim. Open water swim would be one of my fears too because of the sea creatures :)

Theodora said...

good for you! I did an open water swim yesterday...and freaked the hell out.