posing before my first open water swim

280 to 70.3: Open water… panic inducing.

I had purchased my wetsuit on a black friday deal. I was still loosing weight and I was really cold, so it stayed in my closet until spring. That is when I wrecked. So there it sat. We then went to Italy. We didn’t have much room to bring stuff, so it stayed home along with my bike. A few months later I took a trip home and came back with my bike and the wetsuit. I wanted to swim in some of the amazing mountain lakes. Especially near Piangaiano where my great grandpa grew up. Just as it was warming up… COVID19. So it sat some more. 

Now, several months after returning from Italy, we went to the lake to use our kayaks and have some fun in the water. I brought along my wetsuit just in case the water was too cold for my swim. I am glad I did. It finally got wet and the water was freezing.

I have logged many lengths in the pool. This was my first dip into a lake for some real open water swimming. I figured I would be able to do 800 yards then see if I could do more. I didn’t want my expectations too high. As I slid into the water I couldn’t feel the cold on the bottom half of my body so I dove in. I watched the bottom of the lake fade into green nothingness as the cold wrapped itself around and through my torso. It took my breath away and made it hard to keep breathing. It was kinda like that feeling as a kid when I would get the breath knocked out of me. A few shallow breaths later I started swimming. My lungs just didn’t want to inflate out in the water. My heart started pounding and I paused to look up. I realized I was far enough away from the shore that if something were to happen no one could help me. I saw a small island not too far away and decided to swim to that instead. It took a lot of effort to calm myself down and I swam the rest of the 100 yards to the island.

Once I was close enough to the island to stand up I found my footing and looked around for my kids who were paddling around in the kayaks. I asked them (It is amazing how well your voice can carry across the water) to come over to me and paddle next to me while I swam back to shore. It was easier and quicker to make it back to shore. I was able to calm down because I knew that if I needed help an oar was close by. The flashes of thoughts of sinking or of fish coming up and taking a bite of me started to subside. 

Once I was back on shore near my wife I got up and tried to walk but kept finding myself tilting to my left side. I am not sure why. After a few minutes of sitting down I was fine and took off the wet suit. It was time to call it a day… 200 yards is a lot less than 800, but I felt like it was a good first try. I took off my wetsuit and picked up a paddle and we went out for a quick spin on the lake.

After getting home I looked online for a swim buoy. It was something that I was wanting before, but this trip just sealed it for me. It is on its way. I know it isn’t meant to be a life saving device, but it is something you can hang on to if you need a break, get a cramp, or something happens and it also lets boaters know you are in the water. I think for me, I expect the peace of mind will help me to overcome the anxiety of swimming out in open water so I can calm down and relax as I swim. I will write up how it goes when I get it wet.

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