This summer, I took the plunge – literally. After months of throwing myself into the pool and getting comfortable with swimming almost 2000 metres continuously – but slowly – I decided it was finally time to do a triathlon. There is a big difference, though, between swimming in a pool and swimming in open water.
Before I participated in my first tri, I only had one open water swim. Between long days at work, the cooler water temperatures in the spring and my nerves, timing was never right for a swim at Kelso, one of our local conversation areas. Dave and I went one Friday night, 9 days before the race, and I swam a kilometre; it took a few hundred metres for me to warm up and wrap my head around the fact that I was in a lake, but I did it and that gave me the confidence to swim the 750 metre race distance.
However, my swim at the race at the Rose City Triathlon in Welland did not go the way I expected. Actually, I didn’t really know what to expect. Since we were still at the end of the pandemic, the size of the waves were restricted to about 15 people, which meant I didn’t have to worry about people swimming over me. That was a good thing. And we were able to seed ourselves, so I put myself in one of the last waves – another good thing. I warmed up, had my breathing under control (asthma can make this tricky in the water) and I started. But, about 200 metres in, I panicked. I wasn’t ready. I rolled over and floated; I watched the clouds blow across the gray sky. I started again and I rolled over again. And I did it one more time. Enough was enough. I found my focus and swam the rest of the distance without stopping. And I didn’t finish last. Yay!
Thanks to more consistent swimming in the local pool and some training in Lake Ontario with my tri club, my swimming improved. I got better at sighting (swimming in straight lines) and felt a little more comfortable every time I was in open water. My pace was still slow but I could swim the distances I needed, and that was all that really mattered to me. Over the summer, I participated in two more sprint triathlons and the swim in each was better than the one before, which has given me the confidence to go after some bigger – and scarier – goals.
I am not where I want to be yet, but I will get there, one stroke at a time.