Forgive me that this is the best picture I could come up with, as I didn't take any of my own to mark this "first" in my tri journey, but it is what it is.
Anyhow, I have been really anxious to get into the open water as Daybreak Tri is just over a week away and it is an OWS (open water swim) and I have NO experience in this area. I consider myself a decent swimmer, but from from everything I have been reading on BT (Beginner Triathlete) it is something not take lightly, and to get as much practice on as possible, BEFORE races. And there have been tons of posts lately about people freaking out in OW, so I was really starting to wonder about and be worried about "not knowing what I didn't know". Though it doesn't scare me or intimidate me, I kept thinking, "How do I KNOW it doesn't scare me? Maybe there is something about it that will, but I don't know till I go".
So, I got a facebook message from one of the triathlon groups I follow telling about an OWS clinic at Bountiful Pond from 6:45-8:15. I jumped on it, registered, and went and got a wetsuit ( a whole other experience) and was excited to go!
I picked up the wetsuit and tried it on in the dressing room of Salt Lake Running Company. Man, when I heard that getting into and out of a wetsuit should be the fourth event of triathlons, they weren't kidding! It is really something if you have never done it before! I broke a sweat just getting that sucker on and zipped up! And then I looked in the mirror and decided it is the ultimate "Does this make my butt look big?" outfit!
I met up with the others attending this clinic at the Bountiful Pond. My coworkers told me I had now completely lost it to swim in this particular body of water, as it isn't far from the city dump, and one offered to bring medicine for giardhia, as his wife is a physician. Ha ha, guys! Anyhow, when I got there and checked things out, other than that bird crap encrusted boat dock we were entering off of, it wasn't bad! Sure it was a murky green/brown color, but aren't all ponds? It was a gorgeous evening and no wind, so I was excited!
I met the others and the coach, Jamie. She had a fishing inter tube she was going to follow us around in. She jumped in and told us to meet her out in the middle of the lake. Some of us weren't even fully zipped up yet! So much for taking it slow and easy! I didn't want to look like a complete pansy, so I went in like the rest of them. I swam with the others until we met Jamie out 100 yards or so from the dock.
I immediately noticed a few things. One, the cold water was really refreshing. Two, having trees, pretty sky, and the outdoors around you while swimming is awesome as well. Three, when your head is in the water, you can't see crap. Literally or figuratively. Even with goggles. Just brown. This might be what freaks some people out, but for me, I took it as what I don't know (or see for that matter) can't hurt me! I also noticed that even though I didn't think that I was swimming that fast, my swimming felt more labored. I was out of breath a ton faster and was breathing every other stroke. I got out to Jamie with the others and when I explained this to them they explained that is the wet suit and how it does compress your entire body, even your lungs. Alrighty then, something to get used to, but good to know.
We spent the entire clinic doing basic open water skills like learning the different ways to spot on shore, and into the sun (I really didn't do well on that, the glare in the goggles made it virtually impossible), doing turns in the open water around buoys, and practicing different types of swim starts. It was really fun, the people that were there were really cool, and I learned so much!
I walked away from the experience thinking that it was a very positive milestone for me on my path towards triathlons. I loved it! The people were great, the water was refreshing and though it is pretty different from pool swimming, it isn't something that should be feared, though I can see how it could be by some. I just embraced it with an open attitude and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Now I have added a wet suit to my never ending wish list of tri gear. I have the one I rented for almost two weeks, and I plan to use it as much as possible in that time frame, and not just for the Daybreak Tri!