Sunday, May 07, 2006

First open water swim!

Ransom Canyon, Texas. Race Report.

I love Texas. I was born there. I love the way they talk, and how friendly they are, and how they call me, 'girl.' They are ever so helpful, too.

"Hey, y'all, gather round if this is your first lake swim, or if this is your first triathlon, now listen up. Sometimes when you git in that water you might just start to panic, that's okay. Happens to the best of us, happened to my wife and she's had eleven years of triathlon, just do the breast stroke if you have to or swim on your back until you feel better. An' try to get away from everybody; you might get slapped or punched by accident by people swimmin' by ya, just remember it's nothin' personal, there was a guy at one triathlon I was in somewhere else one time, they think he got punched in the trachea by accident, didn't find him in the water until Thursday after the race. Alrat that's it, lets have a good swim!"

For the next five minutes I stood in cold, waist-deep water and perseverated on what I had learned.
They didn't find his body until Thursday after the race. Thursday, after the race. The race was on a Sunday, and they didn't find his body for four days. He must have sunk like a stone. Four days it took them to find him. They didn't even notice he was missing. Didn't find his body for four days. Missing. Dead. Oh, my, God.

Then the gun went off.

I took Karen's advice and counted to five, then dove in.

and then I forgot how to swim.

Holy cow, that water was cold. It didn't matter that I was up to 3000 meters on my long swim. That nice, calm heated indoor pool didn't prepare me for the choppy waters of a cold (65-degrees) spring fed murky lake on a cloudy, windy day. It also didn't matter that I was wearing my new ironman instinct wet suit. I found myself swimming with my face straight out of the water, sputtering, arms flailing, while everyone around me seemed to be doing the same. One woman near me would swim a few strokes, stop, and turn completely around around with a look of panic, and then do it again. People near me cursed freely about how cold the water was, how this "was shit" and how much they hated it, "this sucks!" et cetera. One older woman, wearing a shorty wet suit, had to be pulled from the water. She just couldn't make it.

and I just couldn't seem to remember how to swim.

Finally, after about a fourth of the swim, I forced myself to stop and calm down. I sat in one place for a moment, treading water. Think! take a deep breath. Now, put your face in the water. Exhale. Stroke, stroke. Turn your head. Inhale. Repeat. WHO KEEPS GRABBING MY FOOT? It's FREAKING ME OUT! which I don't need!! Okay, now I'm getting into my groove. but holy cow, that water is cold..the swim is estimated to be anywhere from 500 to 600 meters...why do I keep ending up toward the right of the buoy when I'm swimming toward the LEFT? Oh, I get it, I'm drifting. The water isn't quite so cold now. Isn't that the first sign of hypothermia? Oh, I get it. The water is MOVING. Finally, here's the ramp next to T1...where they grabbed, hauled me up out of the water, and yanked my wetsuit zipper down. Swim time, 15:17, T1 time, 3:37 (Takes a while to get that wetsuit off, dry your feet,).

Then I headed out on the bike. I was whooped. I just couldn't get up that hill. It was an 8% grade hill about a quarter of a mile long, and about halfway up, I finally stopped and walked the bike the rest of the way. Once I was near the top, I got on the bike, struggled the rest of the way and out onto the flat. There was about four miles of that, and then the decent into Yellow Horse canyon. I was still pretty whooped from that swim, so as I rose back up out of the canyon, once again about 50 yards from the top I had to get off and walk my bike up another 8% grade hill. I'd be ashamed if I wasn't so grateful that we're allowed to do that. Then on the flat about another three miles to the turn around (this was a 30K bike) and then back down through yellow horse canyon again.

This time, freshly fortified by water from my aero bottle and a Hammer gel, I was determined that I would RIDE UP THIS HILL. And I did. Back on the flat, and then back down into Ransom Canyon. Husband lept out and took a picture. I noted with satisfaction that I was exceeding the 20 mph speed limit as I careened into the canyon.
Then I remembered the caution of "you might like goin' that fast, but remember, you gotta stop." So, I started applying my brakes and came to a gentle stop right at T2. Bike time, an hour and twenty-five minutes.

The 5K run was uneventful except for the funny guy who announced that I was "almost to the hurdles".
Ha ha.

Maybe I could have run faster, but I knew that the only other Athena was already ahead of me and there was no catching her. I also knew there were exactly two people far behind me. I was determined to enjoy the rest of this race, so I would run for 4 or 5 minutes, and then walk for a minute. Run time, 37:40.

  • Results: Overall, I wasn't first, and I wasn't last. Athena, 2nd place.
  • Friendliness rating: A+, like nearly all of Texas.
  • Funky smell rating: (Lakes can get a little stinky sometimes, especially after sitting all winter)


  1. OMG... was that really the opening speech?!?! LOL. I think I would have turned around and left :P


  2. This post reminded me of my first open water swim. I waited until race day to get in the lake. When the gun went off, I got in the cold water in September, and freaked out. First, I was the only on without a wetsuit. I had one of those neoprene shirts. I froze my ass off. There was wind and waves and for some reason, I couldn't swim free-style to save my life. I literally breast stroked 90 percent of the race. I was one of the last swimmers out of the water. My wife was getting pretty worried. Just so you know, your experience was pretty consistent with most peoples first open water swim. Don't get discouraged. Better swims are in your future. Take care


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 I'm no longer involved in multisport or endurance sports. I've started my own business, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety d...