Sunday, June 21, 2009

Open Water Swimming Makes Me Hungry

This morning I got up early in order to get ready and packed for my open water swim and run clinic with the Terriers. Drew was kind enough to get up early too and go the grocery store so that he could make breakfast for us. We had eggs, turkey bacon and toast. Seemed like a well-balanced meal to start the day.

I left my apartment around 9:30, because I knew it could take an hour to get out to Coney Island and with slower subway service on Sundays, I didn't want to be late for the 11:00 start time. I ended up getting off the train with about 12 minutes to spare. I started walking to the meeting place and luckily saw Lisa, so that was a nice surprise to see a familiar face.

Of course, as we were waiting for everyone else to arrive, it was raining lightly. At least there was no thunder, so it wasn't a problem swimming. Everyone else got there right around 11:00. Robert, the coach, talked to us all for a few minutes before we headed down to the beach. He asked who was nervous about swimming and reminded us that as kids we would have been dying to get into the water, but as adults we all become afraid, which is sort-of an interesting thought.

Robert said that it was really important on the day of the race to make sure that we get in the water before the race in order to acclimate our bodies to the water temperature. Once we got all suited up into our wetsuits, we all headed out to the water. Those first few steps into the water made me lose all feeling in my toes. Then, once I stuck my arms in, they were freezing as well (I have a sleeveless wetsuit). However, after staying in the water for a few minutes and swimming around, I felt a lot better. My face still felt cold when I had to stick it back in the water after taking a breath, but it wasn't horrible.

After we got used to the water temperature, we all got out of the water so that we could practice getting into and out of the water for races. Getting in for beach starts, he explained, we should run until the water level got to about our knees. After that, we should do a few dolphins, kicking off the bottom, until we couldn't touch any more. Then we could start swimming. The dolphins really make your heart rate go up, so I can see if you weren't already acclimated to the water temperature, you could be easily flustered. Once we had started swimming, we would swim for 20 or 30 strokes and then turn around and head back. The exit from the water seemed a lot easier. You swim until you are hitting the bottom with your hand, then explode up out of the water and start running. You should make sure to take off your goggles right away so that you can see. Then start unzipping and peeling off your wetsuit. By the time you reach the transition area, the wetsuit should already be below your hips. We practiced the getting into and out of the water several times.

Next, Robert had us do some sighting work. The first time, he told me that I was doing it backwards. I was taking a breath and then looking to sight, when I should be looking and then taking a breath. At first when I tried to do it his way, I was getting a little confused, but after the entire practice, I realized how much more efficient that his way was. And In fact, made it easier to sight in general. The swimming area that we were in was between two jettys that were about 200 yards apart. We would swim in a triangle - from the beach to the end of one jetty, then from jetty to jetty and finally back to shore (each triangle was about a quarter mile).

Every time we got into and out of the water, we were still supposed to be practicing what we had gone over earlier with the ins and outs. We then practiced swim starts in deep water. For those, you would be treading water (or holding onto a rope). The key to a good start here, Robert explained, is to be horizontal, or nearly horizontal by the time the race starts. So, during the countdown, you should start leaning over into the water. Once we had done those a few times, we then swam in a rough triangle again. This time, instead of using the second jetty to sight, we were to swim around this guy who had been in the water the entire time we were there and appeared to be doing some sort of testing. I tried not to think too hard about all the rain we've had and how clean or dirty the water might be and instead focus on the actual swimming. I think the guy was pretty shocked when we all swam around him, but since he was just standing there, I hope he didn't mind too much.

After getting out of the water that time, Robert then talked to us about drafting and how great it can be if you find someone who is sighting properly to swim behind. That way you're doing a lot less work and don't have to sight yourself as often. All you have to do is stay on their toes and follow along. We did the drafting in small groups (mine was a group of three). We each led for a leg. We swam out to the end of the jetty, and then back and forth between the jettys. By this point, we had been in the water for about an hour and a half and I could tell that I was getting hungry and losing a bit of steam. We then headed in towards the beach.

This time, Robert had us take off our suits completely. He gave us some pointers first and reminded us to have it below our hips before we get to T1. Then he told us to yank them down as fast as we could and use our feet to step on the suit in order to get it off completely. I actually think I did very well on that part and had my suit off rather quickly.

We then all headed back up towards the boardwalk to rinse off our wetsuits and change into our running shoes. I had to eat one of the bars I had brought with me as well as drinking some fresh water. I had had enough salt water for one day, I think.

We were supposed to run for 40 minutes. 20 minutes there and 20 back. The only problem with that was that by the time we got 'there' to the end of the boardwalk, we had only been running for about 10 minutes. By this time the day had really warmed up and all I really wanted to do was to get back in the water. I also found running in the boardwalk to be very disorienting. The slats were all at a diagonal and something about it made me feel a bit dizzy. Now I'm a bit nervous about my run next weekend, since part of that is also on a boardwalk. I also don't think I can wear these speed laces that Laura let me try out. They're too short. I did lace them further up my shoes, but my feet were feeling numb almost right away. When the rest of the team got back to where we had started from, they all kept going on the 40 minute run, but I had had enough for the day. I think not having enough food/water on the swim just caught up to me. I ran for 22 minutes total (about 2.6 miles/8:27 pace).

All in all, although it started with a little rain, it was a perfect day for the practice. There were very few people out at the beach and boardwalk, which was great for us. I was really proud of all the effort I put in today. Now I'm dying for a cold smoothie and a warm shower!

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