Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Neoprene Ninja

Open water swimming conjures up all sorts of images in the mind; vaseline covered men in speedos heading for the channel, angry fish biting your toes, leg entrapment in killer weeds camouflaged beneath the murky surface etc etc.
Despite all the fears of an untimely water-related death, my follow swimmer buddies always speak of open water with such enthusiasm and a dreamy look in the eyes as if they wish they could be gliding in slimy, squalid scum as we speak.
With the Club Relays in less than eight weeks and a 550m open water swim (which I admit I didn't realise was an open water swim until I was already registered) to contend with, I knew I had to get in some practise.
The first thing of course was to get a wetsuit - which is compulsory for the majority of triathlons in UK water. After scanning the web and trying to figure out sizing charts that disappointingly require your body to be in proportion, I gave up and headed to the local shop to be properly fitted.
Word of Eggy Wisdom here: If you're going to buy a wetsuit, do it in winter and do it on a day where you aren't planning to do any exercise. I had been for a run earlier and was still hot and bothered, especially as it was a particularly warm British Summer day! I sweated more trying to squeeze myself in to the blasted thing than I sweated whilst out running. Good grief it was tight, either that or I have the bottom of a giant (no comments please...). I discovered fat deposits I didn't know existed as I crammed myself in.
It was a good thing I had been fitted by a pro who took one look at me and judged the size perfectly. I think I may have cried or at the very least had a nervous breakdown if I'd needed to try on a second one.
Now, armed with the wetsuit, I had no excuses. To be honest I was acually feeling very excited about getting out there. A good swim session in the pool last night gave me a last minute boost of confidence, so I came home and carefully packed my bag before bed to reduce the risk of forgetting vital things like knickers and goggles in the early morning rush.
The alarm went off at 5am and I had time to scoff down a little bit of brekkie before going off to meet AJ, who was not only giving me a lift but had very kindly agreed to stay with me and see me through my first swim. He is an absolutely ridiculously awesome swimmer too, so I knew I was in safe hands.
When we arrived at the lake the sun wasn't quite up above the treeline yet, but already steam was coming off the surface. It looked very inviting indeed. I pulled on the wetsuit over my swimmers (which I had worn - thankfully - after a chat with AJ last night, who informed me you have to take off your wetsuit outside at the end of your swim so going naked underneath is generally not advised) and in the cool morning temperature it went on like a dream. Tight, yes. But not sweaty, red-facd, stressed-out tight.
On stepping into the water I was really surprised how warm and how clear it was, no questionable floating gunge or anything!
My challenge was to go from "green buoy to green buoy" which is around 375m straight down the middle of the lake, and then come back. It was ideal as there is a wire you can follow so you don't need to worry about looking where you are going or ending up lost in the expanse of water.
The great thing about the lake is that you can't get to the end, stop, have a rest and a chat etc. You just have to keep swimming! Once I settled into the rhythm I was away - and I swam further without stopping than I have ever swam in the pool, it was brilliant!
As the sun rose and glistened off the water, it hit me just how much better this was than the pool. Less convienient - sure, but no dry-haired old folk taking up all the space, no stinking chlorine-flavoured hair and above all, way less chance of catching verucas or other nasties from vile, disease-ridden children - perfect. Everybody should be doing this! I'm glad they're not though as that's more space and solitude for me.
I exited the lake as a newly appointed neoprene ninja.. refreshed, relaxed and ready for the day All of this before most people had gotten out of bed!
Verdict: Amazing start to the day, amazing start to open water and quite frankly, amazing that black neoprene is quite so slimming (once you're in there!)

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