Back in March I signed up for an open water swim in Lake Tahoe in preparation for the Triathlon in San Diego. I figured it'd be a good way for me to get my feet wet (ha, ha, ha - sorry) and to get more comfortable in an open water swim setting. Finally, the weekend of the swim was upon me. After a dreadful first swim in Manhattan Beach, I went to a swim clinic in the San Francisco Aquatic Park with Swim Art where I was able to calm some nerves and work on a few issues I was having in the open water. The time finally came to put all the practice to use and swim a steady 1.2 miles with others in Lake Tahoe. Spoiler alert - it was AMAZING.
The swim was on Saturday so my husband, our dog Bailey, and I drove up on Friday and camped at Sugar Pine Point Campground in Tahoma. The swim was held across the road from the campground at Sugar Pine Point State Park on the lake. After checking in and getting marked for the swim we headed back to our campsite for an evening of cards by the fire.
Since this was another event to travel to I wanted to be careful about what I ate and didn't want to eat out before the swim. The night before we left we cooked up some potatoes and black beans to make breakfast burritos in the morning. We filled spinach wraps with potatoes, black beans, and pineapple salsa and had them for breakfast. I also packed more spinach wraps filled with shredded broccoli, carrots, green onions, spinach and sprouts in a peanut dressing for lunch. That night we dined on Backpacker's Pantry Pad Thai and a shredded cabbage salad.
Waking up bright and early at 6am I had a quick morning breakfast of coffee, water, and a Blueberry Crisp Clif Bar before starting our walk to the shore. It was about a 3/4 of a mile walk which helped warm up my muscles and joints for the swim.
My ever-cheering fan club, Tom and Bailey, set up camp at the base of the lake while I changed into my wetsuit and lubed up on BodyGlide (I forgot my TriSlide at home and had to make a quick stop at REI on the drive up to replace it with BodyGlide - it worked great!)
There was a triathlon start before the swim so I had a bit of a wait while the other racers got started. Once they were out it was time for the group swims. There was a 2.4 mile group, a 0.5 mile group, and my group, the 1.2 miler. After the 2.4 milers set off on the course I waded into the CHILLY water to try and adjust my body to the temperature. I'm really glad I went in before the swim because it was quite a shock to the system, but after 10 minutes of wading and swimming and going under water I started to adjust to the chill of the water. I waded back into shore while the 0.5 milers got going, but continued to splash water on my face so it would stay adjusted to the cold.
Then, it was our turn. Here's our start (that's Bailey whining in the background - he was jealous and wanted to go for a swim with us):
I hung out in the back for the start to try and not get kicked in the face or trampled on. Luckily it was a small group so it didn't take long for us to spread out. We headed out for the first buoy before turning right and heading further into the lake on a diagonal.
One of my favorite things about this swim was how clear the water was. We were swimming in about 15 feet of water most of the time and I could see directly down to the bottom. It was mainly sand with a few large rocks or trees, but other than that, it was crystal clear. The sky was also clear and the sun had come up over the mountains warming up the day and shining bright above us. I would breathe to the right and see the shore and trees and then breathe to the left and see the rest of the lake and the huge mountains. Sighting was no big deal - I just would pick a peak to focus on and head that way.
Of course I was nervous at the start and felt myself gasping for air for the first hundred yards or so, but once I calmed myself down and focused on my settings it just felt like I was swimming in a giant pool. The water was cold at first, but soon I adapted and felt refreshed in it. As I swam past the kayakers in the water I wanted to wave out and yell, "isn't it a beautiful day!" I had experienced the runner's high before, but it had been a long time since I had experienced the swimmer's high.
After rounding the last buoy and heading towards shore I was a little sad it was over, but also glad I hadn't signed up for the 2.4 mile swim (meanwhile, the guy who won the 2.4 mile swim passed me at the end - yeah, that made me feel good). Suddenly it was too shallow to swim and I had to stand up - this was the hardest part of the race. My equilibrium was a little bit off and standing up was a challenge. It also was incredibly rocky and hard to walk even without swimming a mile! It took me a full minute to get out of the water and up the shore. I felt a little silly until Tom told me everyone was falling over as they were getting out of the water.
I was back on dry land and was amazed that it was over already. Success! I did it! The swim was fantastic and I couldn't have asked for a better day. I'll definitely be signing up for this swim next year and who knows, maybe I'll get the courage to swim 2.4 miles!