Thursday, 12 December 2013

Open water swim ..............heeeeeeeeeeelp!

After swimming for many years not competitively in the early years but did on the 23rd march 2003 complete the swimathon a 5000 metre pool swim in 1hr 57 min and 11 seconds , this was at the time of my enforced 7 year sabbatical of many sports due to my Ankylosing  spondylitis condition (if interested read  my first blog). In 2008 after discovering I could run again without much pain I entered the Bournemouth intl sprint  triathlon , well sort of  the swim was cancelled due to bad weather so it became a duathlon which I now know is normal practice in adverse weather.
This opened up a whole new world to me, introduction to endurance sports, once you're in it grabs you by the b####x good and proper, the list of distances/events/disciplines becomes endless and if you're like me " COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE" you really have entered a whole new world. After a couple of pool swim triathlons Bath and Arundel it was my time to join the BIGGER BOYS & GIRLS open water swimming!, as usual for me out come the books/ blogs/ internet research on open water swimming, wow this sounds proper!.
Speedo triathlon wetsuit gets purchased £345 ish, I was a bit green I might be wrong but think I may of had my pants taken down!!.
Looking at holidays for the summer
I liked the look of this, great part of the world , it was an open water swim, the bike leg wasn't up and down 10 times, and the run was very scenic, still things I look for when I enter triathlons today. Pointed this out to the "first lady" booked were on holiday.
Worked hard on my fitness over the next 3 or 4 months, read lots of books on open water swimming, my only problem is I had read them but not practiced what the books had preached, had not put on the wetsuit had not experienced the change in temperature of the sea had not joined the back or side of the pack, (I was never in contention to win it so why be up the front)!
As usual I had to be the last to visit the toilet pre race (nerves) we was 5 mins before the sound of the horn , for my age group race I found myself scampering across Swanage bay in full wetsuit nothing on my feet, nervous, excited, and extremely out of breath.
I remember looking across the bay and thinking to myself the bay is flat not a ripple in the water, no waves, why am I thinking im not going to make this, I do double at least in training every swim session I do,  I was entering the sprint it was 750 metres.
Out of breathe I was straight up the front of the pack brave as a lion!!! or was I?.
The horn sounded we were off, I never experienced anything like it, out of breath already from my run across the bay, there I was trying to get into my rhythm with every two strokes I was about to take in air, either a wailing arm or a wave caused by someone else's wash ,Ive heard it been described as like being in a washing machine, I think that's about right !  I had stopped for a  bit of breath stroke to take in air and settle myself down, this went on for a few minutes but my mind had gone, the confidence had drained from me, the self belief had disappeared  , I was a mess, I looked to the right there was canoe spotter and further to the right of my eye line was the RNLI, I had to do it I could no longer be in this situation, I wanted out, it still hurts me to admit it today but with a little wave the RNLI sped over and piped me aboard!!!!!!.
I've got to say I don't think I've ever felt that disappointed in myself, I've got no one else to blame I had read all about the difference in pool swimming and open water but totally ignored it , the mind set alone is totally different. tired in the pool or out of breathe you can hang onto the side, no such luxury
in the middle of the sea. Unless you  think you can win the triathlon stay away from the front, go to the back or the side, the front of the pack is for the "big boys! and they will stop at nothing if you get in there way, and why shouldn't they, if I was that good id be the same.
I  constantly read  books/ blogs/ twitter on everything triathlon endurance biography's etc .
Its quite comforting to know Jenson button a keen triathlete and 4 time ironman champion Chrissie Wellington have also suffered the dreaded open water swim fate.
There's plenty of open water swim sessions about have swim workshops and in the summer months I have been heading down to during the summer in the heart of believe it or not Stoke Newington 1
I really believe the Sunday mornings I trained with them last year  helped me through my Vitruvian finish last year .
Happy swimming

Stuart Blake

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