This past weekend I traveled down to Manhattan Beach to do a full brick workout with Marci. We thought it would be a good idea about halfway through our training to get together and do a training session. We were so excited to train together for the first time in almost a year and our fears of waves and sharks were temporarily put aside due to our euphoria. I was most excited for the swim. I love the water, I originally wanted to do a triathlon mainly for the swim, I love the ocean, I felt extremely confident with my swim training, and I couldn't wait to get out there. Then the reality of the ocean set in.
Knowing this was going to be my first swim in the ocean I called up my friend Gregg who is a master swimmer and has competed in lots of open water events including the San Francisco 10k bridge to bridge swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge where he finished second in 2013. Gregg gave us a mini swim clinic before we even got in the water and gave us tips on how to get through the break, how to watch for surfers, and tips on sighting.
Originally we decided to swim a mile, the swim length in the triathlon, but as soon as we got 200 yards out past the pier and headed towards our first buoy, Marci and I started to feel a little rough. I immediately had an unexpected minor panic attack when putting my face in the ocean for the first time. Every part of my body and mind screamed for it to get out. I was completely thrown by this because I have been swimming my entire life in lakes, pools, and yes, even oceans (more frolicking than swimming in the ocean, however). I ended up swimming my first hundred yards or so with my face out of the water until I calmed down and was able to put my face in and swim normally. Once I overcame that, the swell of the waves had started to make me feel nauseous. Marci felt like she was stuck in a rip tide at one point and couldn't move. She'd flip over on her back and backstoke from time to time to catch her breath and kept wondering, "why is this so much harder than last year?!" (She had done the Malibu Nautical Triathlon in 2013 and swam in the ocean then.) Once we reached our first buoy we paused to catch our breath and to calm down our overactive senses. Gregg swam with us the entire way, always looking back to make sure we were following closely behind and kept encouraging us to continue.
I started to feel better after the first quarter mile and felt like I was actually swimming again. The nausea, though, was getting stronger and I wasn't sure how much longer I was going to be able to stay out in the water. We swam back to the pier and decided to head back into the shore. Marci was starting to feel nervous again as we made our way back through the break to the shore, but Gregg talked us through it the entire way and gave us tips about how and when to start looking behind us for the waves and how to even surf one back in. Marci caught one and zoomed past me while I got pummeled by one. All in all we swam about 0.6 miles, not quite the one mile we had hoped for, but as it was our first ocean swim together, we felt ok about it.
My biggest issue in the water was wearing a wetsuit for the first time. I have a sleeveless Vortex suit and while there was nothing wrong with the suit itself, I had never worn one before and felt like a fish out of water. Wetsuits make you buoyant - so even when we were out in deep water, we just had to let our feet drop below us and float, no treading water required. I'm used to my body sinking or controlling it as I go under a wave - the wetsuit made me pop up and kept pushing me to the surface. It was a new feeling to get used to. I also was not used to how high the neck of the wetsuit is on my neck. I'm used to a regular swimming suit where my neck is exposed. In this wetsuit the collar is right up on my neck and I felt a little choked. Reading up on it now, I realize I probably didn't have the suit up fully (you have to really pull on it) and that it should be above my ankles to have the top fit correctly. I also read that applying TriSlide in copious amounts around my neck can help as well.
While the swim wasn't what we thought it would be and we didn't swim very well at all, Marci and I don't feel discouraged. In fact, we feel incredibly thankful for the day and the opportunity to go through all the pains and fears so we now know what to expect. Marci and I are actually really excited to get back in the water again before our race so we can fine tune our open water skills. If anything this just proved once again that preparation is incredibly important.
Stay Tuned for Manhattan Beach Brick Workout: The Bike.