Sunday, July 6, 2014

Open Water Swimming

I don't think most triathletes do enough open water swimming.  Some don't really need to, I guess, if you're an uber swimmer.  But most triathletes are not uber swimmers.  It has been a pretty rare occasion for me to get in open water swims in the years I've been racing triathlons.  I usually get some good OWS in when I'm at my parent's lake house as I've wrote about before.  I have only swam one time around home.  That was when I first got my wetsuit and did a mile to test it out before the race.
Sunday Evening Stroll
 So this past week presented a couple of opportunities for some OWS.  I was in Michigan for my niece's wedding and then we spent a day at my parent's lake house in northern Indiana.  I got short one mile swim in there.  I was pretty tired from all the wedding activities the day before, so it was pretty slow.
Satellite View
Then the Rock Hill Masters group had a big OWS planned on the Fourth of July over at Niven's Creek.  That is where I first tested out my wetsuit.   The masters swims are very organized.  They line up quite a few paddlers, kayaks, and SUP's for the support crew.
Nivens Creek Boat Ramp
 They also recommend the "Safe Swimmer".  I actually had purchased one a few months back in anticipation of participating in some of these OWS.
All the Stuff in the Package
The concept is pretty simple.  You basically tie a float around your waist.  The cool thing though, is that you can stuff things inside the float.  It comes with some plastic bags that you can put stuff in you don't want to get wet (like a wallet).  You can also put some keys in there and maybe a shirt.

You then roll the blue section over 4 times and clasp it together and it then becomes air and water tight. You then blow it up like a balloon.  You put the belt around your waist and then when you swim, it just gets towed along.  I really didn't notice it while I was swimming.  I was afraid the belt would rub, but it didn't.
As I mentioned these swims at Niven's Creek are pretty organized.  They have several groups setup based on the distances you want to go.  Everything from 600 meters (round trip) to 2 Miles.  The 2 Mile swim is out to the "Island".  There was a large contingent that showed up for this holiday swim. I counted 34 in the pic.  There were only 7 in our group that went out to the island.  I got there a little early as I didn't want to be late.  I hit a couple of GU Gels as I waited.  On a side note, the new GU Chocolate Peanut Butter Gel is the Freakin' Bomb.  Anyways, we started at 7:45 and the island group went first.
The Fourth of July Group
I wasn't really sure of the exact route and was told to just hug the shore.  Since everyone was ahead of me I had plenty of people to sight off of.  Between all the bobbing orange safe swimmers and the kayaks, the sighting was pretty easy.  We stopped at the "Gazebo" at 1/2 mile and regrouped.  And by regrouped I mean they waited for me.  It was the same thing when we got out to the island.  They were all waiting for me.  When I got there I could tell they were anxious to get started again.  I told them I was good and we took off.  So I spent about 30 seconds at the island.
"The Island" well, more like rocks and bushes
We didn't stop on the way back. I got a few cramps with about a 1/2 mile to go.  They subsided a little after about 5 minutes and I was able to make the final push to the end.  I felt pretty good at the finish.  This was the farthest open water swim that I had done without a wetsuit.  My garmin had it a little short on the way out (0.91 miles) but I then clocked 1.02 miles on the way back.  So I guess it's roughly 2 miles.
Satellite View of Nivens
I definitely need to get some more of these swims in.  They do them almost every weekend.  I am so slow without the wetsuit that it's really good practice for me to do long swims without it.  Ironman Chattanooga may not be wetsuit legal, so I need to be ready for that.  But, for the love of all that is holy, the Tennessee River will be 75 degrees the morning of September 28th.
Auto Lap set for 200 yards
12 Weeks to Ironman Chattanooga.  But who's counting?