Boy was that an experience! It started at 9 and it’s at Hagg Lake in Gaston, Oregon, so it as a good hour drive. But the area where we swam was beautiful. We were treading water in the lake, surrounded by beautiful trees and blue sky (and thankfully, no rain). I was going to get pictures before I left, but did I remember? Damnit.
There were several experienced open water swimmers and some of us who had never done one before. Thankfully, the experienced out numbered the inexperienced. I’ve never been what you would call a worrier. Sure, I worry about some things, but I don’t wring my hands or overly fret over things ususally, but this swim had me really anxious. I was sure I was going to be the only inexperienced person there. So when I saw other people had never swam in open water it made me feel a lot better. My anxiety level dropped a lot.
Jeremy was in charge of the open swim and he went over several things before and then we got into our wetsuits, and then we all helped each other get into our wetsuits. I actually managed to get it up over my butt and then this dude had me make a fist and put it against his (bare and hairy) chest and he pulled the arms up and over my shoulders. Worked like a charm! Once I was all zipped up and I put on my googles, I donned my got my hey-you-won’t-lose-me-in-the-water-wearing-this-hot-pink-cap. (Something I learned—if your google straps are on under your cap they can’t get knocked off.)
We went down to the water and got in and splashed water in our faces, necks, and then slowly submerged to get used to the cold water. Nothing like that cold water trickling down into your wet suit the first time. That’ll wake you up.
He had us pick buddies to swim with and when we were done we had to find our buddy. Carmen was my buddy and her husband took a picture of us together. I never want to see that picture. Ever. Then we started to swim. He wasn’t joking about getting kicked, hit, people bumping into you, you hitting people. It was a melee. Like football in the water. There were about 20-25 people there and even though he had us go in waves of 6, it was still a melee. Holy shit that was an experience! Towards the end he had us simulate a mass start. There was this one lady who was alsmost always last. He said he didn’t mean to single her out, but pointed out to her that maybe being right in the front wasn’t the best place for her to be, and said that on race day we need to make sure we are some place we’re comfortable with.
At one point he had us use him as a buoy and swim around him and back to shore. I got back and was really dizzy and out of breath. They started the next wave, with him going farther out and swimming around him again, but there was no way I could it yet. I was still too dizzy and out of breath. I think what the problem was that I was swimming to keep up with people and not really paying attention to my form or breathing. Things got better after that because I started swimming at my pace. But nothing like an arm hitting you across the back to mess up your rhythm.
The last thing we did was swim out to a tree and back. We had one woman who seemed to be really struggling with distances. We were swimming out and I was towards the back and I knew I was by her. I probably would have passed her, but she kept bumping into me. She was all over the place (maybe I was all over the place too, but I don’t think so, not like she was anyway) and I felt her arm come down across my back so I stopped swimming and she stopped and she apologized. Jeremy was there and seemed to have this big smiled on his face that said “I told you people would try and swim over you.” I was going to catch my breathe and I swim on, but she was really breathing hard. I thought we’d go on ahead together, but the next thing I know Jeremy was saying to swim back to shore together. Huh? I could have swam to the tree just fine. I’m not sure if he thought I couldn’t do it, or if he just wanted someone to go with her. But whatever his reasons, I didn’t get to compelete the total distance. :/
But I have to say, I am completely hooked on open water swims. Sure I struggled some, but it was fun! FUN! Loved swimming under the sun and surrounded by those trees! The tri club has an open water swim every Wednesday and so I think I’ll try and do one before the triathlon. I wish I could do it all the time, but until I can get my own wetsuit it’s not feasbile financially. I think I could swing it starting in July.
So here I sit, smelling like lake, my face a little sunburnt, my hair a mess, but a happy smile on my face. I did it—an open water swim!