My Tri Club sponsored an Open Water Clinic last night at Lac Lavon Park, located in Burnsville MN.
My swim coach, Dave, was the facilitator and there were about 30 to 40 triathletes of varying ability that attended including my friend Angel, who is in training for her first IronMan.
I've been feeling much more confident in the water -- well, perhaps better said,"The Pool". You know -- nice clean water, marked lanes, walls you can get to in a hurry where you can cling for your life whenever the going gets tough.
This clinic was at The Lake -- and not your regular triathlon-type lake with a nice, sandy beach start.
No, this lake was pretty much your average Minnesota park lake. No real shoreline where we enter the water. Tiny fish hanging around the shoreline hoping to find a bug or a leg in a wetsuit that looks tasty and easy to swallow. Oh, and the weeds. Since we've had so much rain (and so many homeowners use that fertilizing-crap on their lawns to help them look "nice", which then runs off in to our lakes and streams...) the weeds were huge.
I was not as excited about the workout when I saw the lake. Open water makes me a little nervous. When I did my tri's last year, I pretty much "got through" the swim portion, happy to emerge from the lake alive and relatively unscathed. I had been thinking that, because of my lessons, that the swim portion this year would be something that I'd enjoy more. That thought is currently still up for debate.
Angel and I got in to our wetsuits and in to the water to loosen up before the Clinic started. Angel is a very good swimmer. She got out in to the water and swam past the weeds easily. I got in and got panicky. Pretty much reverted to my dog paddle and back stroke, not liking this whole idea of swimming at all.
We got out and waited for the clinic to begin. Dave got there and we got rolling. He shared some great tips for siteing, water "ettiquette", placement, drafting, etc. It was also the first time I actually got to see him in the water. He is a great swimmer -- fluid, fast.
He also engaged the participants by asking questions and helping us joke through our fears. I was very relieved to hear that many of the folks attending also had some level of dread about the swim portion.
Then we did some drills -- getting in and out of the water "mass start" style. This is the portion of the tri that most people hate. You do indeed have people that swim over you, you do get kicked and jabbed. Eventually the field clears out and you find your place in the water to do your thing.
We then swam out and past those dang weeds (which really weren't so bad) and did some stroke and siteing drills.
In a triathlon, there are lots of people in support vehicles (surf boards; kayaks; canoes) watching the water for swimmers in distress. Swimmers also have the option of holding on to a support vehcile if they panic or need a break. I like that A LOT.
During our Clinic, however, we did not have that luxury. I was concerned that I'd get out there and get over-tired treading water. I forgot the beauty of the wetsuit. That helped keep me more like a bobble than a rock. Phew.
I did not do my best with all the drills, however. My goggles got foggy, leaked a little bit and then I got blindsided by the setting sun and couldn't site. I got way off course and panicked again. Fortunately, Angel was keeping an eye on me and really helped me through that rough spot.
I was also S L O W. (What else is new?).
I left the Clinic very happy I went (and got through it) but also still pretty concerned about my ability to get through that .9 swim at LifeTime.
Angel and I and a couple other tri friends have made a pact to get in to the open water more frequently in the weeks to come. This should help my overall comfort level. I'll also have some race practice when I do MinneMan on July 1st. Fortunately, that swim is relatively short -- only .3 miles.
Time will tell if I'll be able to sink or swim...