The Chicago Tri is 13 days away and I had my first group, open water swim this past Saturday. And by group I mean I swam with Brian and my friend Nicole. Nicole competed in Ironman last year and is an EXTREMELY strong swimmer. So it was nice to get in the water with her to get some tips and pointers. I had wanted to get in the water with more people than just Brian for some time, but it’s so hard to coordinate schedules. But I had wanted to do it because I wanted to get a more realistic feel for swimming in a group – and while two people doesn’t necessarily constitute a group, trust me, I got the full “group swim” experience thanks to those two.
Let’s just say my first group swim was terrifying. I hated every single minute of it, but it’s what I needed to prepare for the triathlon. Nicole, unlike Brian, who’s my husband and who can’t tell me what to do unless he wants “the look” that all wives are capable of when their husbands piss them off, kicked my butt. Nicole, being the friend she is – the one who calls me on my shit – was the perfect one to do a group swim with because she wouldn’t let me off the hook.
First, she said I had to take the lead swimming and that I was going to be responsible for sighting, which typically doesn’t happen when I swim with Brian. And when I say it doesn’t typically happen with Brian, I mean it’s NEVER happened with Brian. I let him take the lead and sight. I figure I have enough to worry about just trying to swim, I don’t need the extra pressure of trying to sight too. I always make Brian swim to my right so I can see him and then when I can no longer see him, I stop – pop out of the water – realize I swam off course and then readjust. So this time Nicole was making me take the lead. Let’s just say we did not hit the mark I was given. But I did practice sighting. But I really shouldn’t call it sighting as much as I should call it, stopping all momentum as I pick my whole body out of the water to look around and then completely readjust where I am swimming. As I explained to Brian and Nicole at one point when they were asking me, what landmark I was going to use to keep me on course and I said, “the dock”… but I told them part of my problem with sighting is…. I can “see” the dock from here and from over there and from way over there – so while I’m seeing it and sighting it, I’m still swimming off course, because I can still “see it”. I just take a really curvy way to get there. But I was not too concerned about not being able to sight well because I soon realized sighting was the least of my concerns.
Besides having to do my own sighting, I was also supposed to do my best to treat the swim as the real thing, that included reacting or not reacting to “other swimmers”.
The first time Nicole came up from behind me and bumped into me while swimming, I stopped, panicked and looked at her like “what the fuck!?” (I may actually have said it too – I can’t truly remember). She said, that I need to get used to it because that’s going to happen. And then I panicked some more. She asked me what I’m going to do if that happens on race day and I said, I’ll stop and let everyone go around me or get away from me! Well, apparently that’s not a real plan. I thought so, but Brian and Nicole did not. So when Nicole told me I had to deal with it because it was going to happen on race day, I truly wanted to quit. And while I fought back the vomit, a tear or two may have escaped. I was truly panicking on the inside and wasn’t doing too good of a job hiding it on the outside either. Let’s not forget that I’ve only been swimming for two months! Having people bump into me while swimming is such a fear inducing act, it’s almost indescribable.
But if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen so I had to keep swimming.
Long story short, I spent the entire 1/2 mile swim having Nicole and Brian throw everything at me. They swam right next to me so I couldn’t complete my stroke, they bumped me, they cut in front of me, they swam right behind me so I’d kick them, they kicked water at me, they swam in front and then promptly stopped in front of me so I’d have to swim around them, etc. I’m not going to lie, it was HORRIBLE. And besides feeling panicked, I was also just so pissed. I wanted to just be able to swim and not have to deal with all of this. Swimming (and now sighting) is hard enough for me, why couldn’t they just let me be and let me swim????
But I know why, because on race day, the other swimmers aren’t going to just “let me be”!
And this is what I have an issue with. As I was talking to them about it later, I don’t understand why swimming into other people is acceptable. I mean, I don’t run into other people. When running, even in the most crowded spaces, runners do everything they can to NOT run into another person. And we certainly don’t bang into each other, rub tires or throw another biker off course. Why isn’t it the same with swimming? Brian and Nicole said it’s because you can’t see while swimming. But I can see!!! I saw them in front of me, I saw them alongside of me. I could see!!!
So, while I hated every single, fricken stroke of the swim – I’m so unbelievably happy that I experienced it. I’m going swimming with Nicole again later this week, and while the thought of having her run me over while swimming makes me a bit sick to my stomach, I know in the long run – I’ll be better off because of it. It’s just definitely not something I could ever look forward to. But it is good practice. Which makes me think, that all coaches and blogs talk about making sure that triathletes get out of the pool and do enough open water swims to prepare for race day. And while that’s true I think the biggest miscue by the experts is not making people do group swims. And I don’t mean group swims where everyone spreads out nicely and goes about their business, I mean group swims where your husband and friend deliberately try to scare and drown you! Okay, maybe they weren’t trying to drown me, but it felt like it at the time.
So to any newbies out there that may be reading this blog, make sure you have a spouse and friend that love you enough to try to drown you! You’ll thank them for it!
Until next time,
Gotta run (and swim and bike)