Monday, August 24, 2015

World Marathon Swimming Day

Nothing great is easy. -- inscription on the memorial to Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the English Channel
 A group I participate in, the Marathon Swimmers Forum, has declared today World Marathon Swimming Day.  In 1875, Captain Matthew Webb swam the English Channel.

I could say I did an open water swim today to commemorate that, but honestly, I'd already planned to do it.  That isn't to say that I didn't think about it today.

This particular swim is rough on me in a way other swims aren't.  I'm always last in this crew.  Always.

I hate being last every single damn time.  Sure sure, you can say the whole "dead last is better than did not finish" or other platitudes, and it's not that they're wrong.  There is some level of nobility in never, ever quitting.

But sometimes that's also a cold comfort.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Spotters, Sharks and Swimming in the Ocean

My family did their weekly Beach Week last week.  As always, we had a great time.

For some years I'd been meaning to try to swim from Rudee Inlet to the Pier (or vice versa depending on the current.  Yes, I'm a wuss)

It turned out, you kinda can't do that and obey the Safety Rules of the Beach.  They've extended the surfing area to 5th Street near Rudee Inlet. *shrug*

For that matter, I didn't swim all the way to the Pier, either.  People fish from that.  Forget the bait drawing larger animals that might take a chunk out of me. Have you ever had to cut a fishook out of your flesh?  I'll take reasonable precautions to avoid that, thanks! So, what I thought was going to be close to a mile swim was about half that.  Yes, baby swim.  Laugh it up.

I was going to do the swim the minute my husband got to the beach, and have him be my spotter on the shore.  That might have been a safety overkill, since I was swimming less than 25 yards from shore and in water that was never more than neck deep.  But anyway, I wanted a spotter and I really wanted my husband.  He's familiar with my swimming style and would be able to spot quickly in the unlikely event I got in trouble.

As it turned out, his knee was giving him enough trouble that while he was willing to walk on shore as my spotter, I was not willing for him to do it.  So, for the first swim, my son was my spotter. The second swim, which I hadn't entirely planned to do, my father was my spotter.  (He seemed so eager to do so. I think he just wanted to see me swim)

I found out several things during these swims.

I found out swimming through swells is pretty fun and comfortable.  While I'd picked moderately calm days to swim, it wasn't exactly Lake Atlantic (a term my family uses to gripe when the waves aren't big enough to body surf).  That actually surprised me.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm a very experienced body surfer and have been playing in waves quite literally since before I could walk.  I just figured that the waves would be an irritant and difficultly for proper forward motion doing the crawl.

Nope.  Not at all.  Though I find I am very glad I'm good at bilateral breathing.   Made it easier to spot on shore and check for waves!

I'd been swimming exclusively in fresh water lately -- pools and lakes.  The extra buoyancy of salt water makes a significant difference in how I balanced in the water -- but it also was a speed assist.  Well, some.  There was another, more dramatic factor.

I broke a speed record on both swims by  an extraordinary amount (as in those 40 minute miles I've been grinding my teeth about).  Do I think there was an assist from the current?  Yeah, a whole bunch!  But it was still cool.

I also discovered something else.

After one of my swims, my brother asked me if was afraid of sharks.  My answer was a short and clipped, "Yep" before he started regaling me with stories of some great whites that have been tagged and go up and down the East Coast.  He even asked me if I ever look them up on the tracking website.

I do and I shouldn't.

I'm *really* scared of sharks.  I was swimming North, so every time I looked to my right, I kept peering down into the water to look for shapes.  Visibility wasn't great (never is there) and that made me even more uncomfortable.  I was swimming juuusst at the dropoff between shallow and deeper water and yes, I know enough about shark hunting patterns that it made me nervous -- especially with bull shark sightings being all over the Hampton Roads area news for the summer. It didn't help that I didn't see a lot of dolphins on that trip.

I did ask the lifeguard where they did their PT and when he said, "Right out there in the water." I figured it was a reasonable risk, gritted me teeth and did the swim.  Any sharks that were close to me (and statistically I know there were) were either not hungry, not human aggressive, or didn't see my shape as a prey silhouette.

It was very interesting to me that the part of the swims that were actually the hardest (and in reality they were totally easy swims) was my own imagination.