September 15, 2010

Open H2O

The mystery of the unknown. Visibility of only a couple feet. No line to follow on the bottom. Unknown creatures. Currents to push you off course. Cold temps. These are just a few of the pleasures of open water swimming.

With my triathlon coming up this weekend, I'd been thinking a lot about (ok, dreading) my open water swim in Lake Tahoe. I've sort of made peace with the fact that I didn't swim much leading up to this race and am most definitely under prepared, but I also know I can finish 400m, even if I have to resort to doggie paddling. On the other hand, swimming in a lake is not like swimming laps in a pool. For many triathletes, the open water swim is one of the biggest challenges and many often find themselves in a panic on race day, so I wanted to make sure and get at least one under my belt before the big day. So Sunday at work I got fit for a wetsuit to borrow for my practice swim, and Monday I headed out to the Sac State Aquatic Center at Lake Natoma for my first open H20 attempt. The plan wasn't to get in much distance - I had no way of knowing how far I was going anyway. I just wanted to get a feel for being in an open body of water with limited visibility, practice sighting (looking up occasionally to keep yourself in a straight line), and get a feel for swimming in a wetsuit.
Sac State Aquatic Center at Lake Natoma
So I pulled on my wetsuit as best I could and slowly walked straight into the deserted lake. The night before I had read a few tips on open water swimming, and one of the biggest was not to go alone. Considering that I'm not the best swimmer, I couldn't help but wonder how smart swimming solo was...but I survived : ) I swam out to a white bouy in the middle of the lake, practicing sighting on the way. When I reached it I happily grabbed on - I'm used to being able to grab the ledge after a lap in the pool. Once I had caught my breath I turned and headed back, only this time against a mild current, which was frustrating! Eventually I made it back and decided that was enough for one day. The wetsuit made a huge difference in terms of buoyancy, but I think I didn't have it on properly because when I got out the whole things filled with water! The swim was uneventful for the most part. Once again, I realized how little endurance I have in the water, but at least I didn't panic! I have no idea how far I swam, but I feel like I was in the water for about 15 minutes. I kept it short because I was doing a ride after then had to be at work by noon.
I swam to the circled buoy!
I had brought my bike with me (using my bike rack for the first time - my blood pressure was sky high watching it bounce up and down on the freeway!) to do my first swim-ride brick workout. After climbing out of the lake and stripping off my wetsuit, I had a mini panic attack when I couldn't find my car key that had been in my shorts. Luckily I found it on the ground back where I'd taken off my wetsuit. Phew. I went through my transition steps, taking my time, then set off on my bike for a 15 mile ride.

From the get go my legs were shot. The night before I had done another long ride of 21 miles and really pushed my speed, and my legs were definitely feeling it. Even the mildest inclines made my quads burn. I struggled to maintain the same speed as the night before and felt like I was getting slower with each passing mile. Around mile 7 I found myself looking at familiar scenery and realized I had rode to that spot from the opposite direction on a previous ride starting from my house! Just before the turnaround I did something really stupid. I bent my neck sideways to stretch and crack it, but went a tad to far and strained it pretty good. I was in a whole lot of pain on the way back, and coupled with my tired legs I was just so over that ride. I was so glad when I was finished, but then had to race home and get ready to head into work for a full shift.

Work was miserable and my neck hurt so bad it made me feel nauseous at times. I couldn't bend it or turn it to one side, making it difficult to fit customers. I iced it and put some heat on it that night, and it's slowly started to feel a little better. I just need it to be healed by race day!

My running has honestly been pretty lackluster lately. I hadn't run since my 15 miler on Thursday since I've been trying to fit in more biking before my race and because I've had such long work days lately. This morning I set out for a 5 miler at a faster pace and felt good til about halfway in. It was rather warm out and I was just tired. My legs were still fatigued from my back to back rides and felt heavier than usual. I pushed through it though and finished the run with an average pace of 9:41 min/mi. Then, like usual, it was a quick shower and off to another long work day.


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