Sunday, July 1, 2012

Putting my fish on: success!

You remember how I said a few weeks ago that I was terrified of open water swimming? It surely still stands true when I imagine myself at a triathlon start and getting thrown inside the "washing machine", but this week has been certainly memorable because I got my first taste of lake swimming and got pretty drunk on it. Lemme explain.

On Monday, I talked my youngest son into going to an open water swimming clinic for kids as a local coach member of my tri club is trying to put together a triathlon club for kids. The swim was at Kelso Lake, about 30min drive from our house and we were told that 4-5 other kids all between 10-13 yr old were going to attend. The day was a bit on the chilly side with temperatures in the low 20s Celsius, but it was beautiful outside and a shame not to go for fear of a cold swim. Although I had not planned on swimming, I threw my wetsuit in the trunk, just in case, and off we went.

When we arrived there, I noticed a lot more adults than kids carrying backpacks and didn't quite know what was going on until we arrived on the beach and they all started stripping and putting on their wetsuits. My son got ready to swim with the other kids and jumped in the lake whereas me, I was standing there puzzled, not sure what to do. I realized that the male coach, Dave, was about to give a private lesson to all the adult folks, while Lorene, the female coach, was going to teach the kids. So I asked for permission to put on my wetsuit too. I was in a hurry to join them since they were already in the water going over the basics and the dolphin dives... and pulled too hard on my wetsuit and put a nick in it. Oh well. Shit happens, it wasn't all the way through to the fabric and it was only one inch long. I tried not to freak about it and went in the lake to join the lesson.

Kelso Lake
It was supposed to be my rest day, but the coach had a plan for this clinic so to hell with my rest day. From then on, we did a lot of back and forths (one length was about 120m) across the lake learning the following:
- 2 lengths sighting
- 2 lengths turning around buoys
- 2 lengths drafting off another person's feet
- 4 lengths with water exit after the first loop, run on the beach and back in the water for the second loop
- 2 lengths with water exit and quick removal of wetsuit

Total 1500m of most valuable experience in a group where I got the right amount of kicking and pulling and being swum over and drinking water and untangling algae from my arms. It was a pretty awesome day and I am extremely glad that I had the intuition of bringing my wetsuit with me, even though I messed it up a bit. It's the life of the neoprene, what can you do. I did, however, learn a great tip for putting it on, which made all the difference on Thursday for the second open water swim of the week, but I'm getting there, hold on.

Before we move on, I guess it's worth mentioning my "wardrobe malfunction" when I removed my wetsuit at the end of the clinic. See, my regular swimsuit exploded the last time I went to the pool, growing 4 sizes bigger by the time I came out of the water. The fabric disintegrated even further when I removed it in the dressing room and I had to throw it directly in the garbage as there was no way to salvage it. When I went to the lake on Monday, I had with me an older swimsuit from the times I was 8 sizes bigger. It was ok while under the wetsuit, but when I peeled the wetsuit off, the swimsuit top (it was one of those tanktops with a separate bottom from a Plus size shop) went down as well as the fabric on the straps gave up under the wetsuit's suction force. Nice!! The guys were having a good chuckle while I was being assisted with the "situation". Anyhow, long story short, after Monday, I had no more swimsuits left, so I had to go shopping.

I had two missions before my Thursday official open water swim: to find neoprene glue and a new swimsuit. The first mission got delayed as I had a lot of work in the office and it just seemed impossible to find any in a physical store around me. Eventually I found someone who suggested to try a scuba shop and BINGO, found one last container of Trident neoprene cement (with more warning labels than rat poison). I was now just hours from the swim, so I drove there at lunch and back to the office and took care of the boo-boo on the spot, hoping that 4h of drying time would be enough.

I also went to a swim shop and found an "aqua suit" (as opposed to a regular swim suit, go figure). It's made by Speedo and it looks just like the one on this skinny woman on the right (that is not me, I don't think her thighs touch like mine).

So... where was I? Missions, right. Two out of two complete!! Thursday night could not come fast enough, so I drove straight to Professor's Lake, our neighbourhood "beach" with all amenities and lots of fun for the entire family.

Again, I felt lost for a few minutes, but decided to go in and ask for the open water swim group. They quickly directed me to the marina where many of the group members had already stored their stuff and were already swimming. Once more, put on my wetsuit, while being very careful not to make another boo-boo, pulling from the inside as I was taught by the tri coach. It worked like a charm and after a quick talk with the swim organizer who showed me the buoys and the direction of the swim, off I went.  A loop was 750m, he said most of the people were doing 2 loops. Put my head down and tried to relax, a bit overwhelmed by the experience - that lake looked bigger than ever! - but finished the first loop in 18 minutes and I was no longer scared at all. I could hardly contain my excitement for being there, having the whole lake for myself  in one of the most beautiful evenings of this summer.

My coach Dave (are all coaches named Dave? not to be confused with the coach from the beginning of this post) had given me 1h of swim practice for that night, so I managed to fit in 3 loops for a total of 2.35km in just 56 minutes, the fastest and farthest I had ever swum. The whole experience was so surreal, I didn't want to leave the place, so I took this picture right as I was leaving.

Professor's Lake at sunset with lonely buoy and lifeguard
Here is the Runkeeper workout, with GPS map and all, thanks to my new Garmin 910 XT watch, w00t w00t!

Needless to say, I came back home ready to eat my young. I settled on a bit of cow instead and one hour later, I went out for a 50min run as well. I never felt so lethargic as during that run, it was still extremely hot and I wished I'd gone aquajogging instead. My arms were also cranky for the rest of the week, reminding me that I had asked them to do over 1500 strokes each to drag me all across Professor's Lake. Last but not least, I also got my first chaffing ordeal because of my Xterra Vortex 4 wetsuit. Not sure how I could fix it, it's at the base of my neck, due to the overlapping pieces of neoprene making up the zipper protecting flap. I will try some PAM next time, maybe that will do it.

Neck chaffing, 2 days after
Any other ideas to stay away from chaffing on that particular spot? Thanks, Internets.


  1. Try using on your neck.... I apply it before putting my wetsuit on, and it works like a charm.

    1. Dustin, thank you for your suggestion! I have actually tried body glide and other anti-chaffing products, but I guess they were not good enough for what was causing of the chaffing. I just recently discovered the cause, it was the lanyard that I was passing behind and over the flap. This was constantly moving across my neck and chaffing it. In the last swim I simply let it hang down without "securing" it behind the flap and eureka! No more chaffing. ;-)