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swimsuit addict

Black Friday? Beach Friday!!

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Today I went out to Brighton Beach for a special Friday CIBBOWS swim. It was unseasonably warm (50s) for late November, and very sunny, but today there was a strong wind out of the southwest. I got there a few minutes before the 11am meet-up time, and lay on the beach while I waited for the others, listening to the rattle of sand hitting my parka hood.

There were about a dozen of us out for the day. The water was choppy from the wind, with some whitecaps, and tide was at its low point. When others asked me what my plans were, I said I didn’t know—I’d keep on swimming as long as I was having fun. I did plan to start out swimming into the wind, towards the pier, so that I wouldn’t be surprised by the difficulty of swimming into chop on the way back, and also so that just in case I got too cold and needed to get out and walk/jog back I wouldn’t be heading into the breeze.

Our tide-and-temperature expert Cara thought the water temp would be about the same as yesterday. (She later confirmed that it had indeed held steady overnight at 50.) I went ahead and got ready and waded in. It took me 20 breaths today in knee-deep water until I dove in and started swimming. The first few breaths in cold wavy water always seem hard on my neck—although I don’t do heads-up freestyle, I think it takes me 20 meters or so until I’m truly whole-hearted about putting my face in. Until then, my neck muscles stay stiff, and it feels like my head gets a little battered by the waves. Once I relax and let the water hold it up things seem much easier.

The water was a beautiful deep green in the sunlight, and I enjoyed swimming along and seeing the shore go by. It was very choppy though—not the rolling chop that carries you up and down, but the truly choppy chop that can randomly wash over your arms and head and create the illusion that it’s pushing you backwards. Sometimes I hear swimmers talk about having to fight against the chop, but I don’t much like that metaphor—I always like to think I’m looking for ways to work with the water, or at least play in it, even when conditions are difficult. But today the play seemed more of the sort of a cat does with a mouse it’s caught. And I was the mouse!

Often when I’m swimming by myself it takes about 10-20 minutes for me to feel comfortable in the water—until then, I’m on high alert. I want to sight often, I’m on the lookout for any unusual noises or sights, and am easily spooked by buoys or shadows in the water. Today there was a boat near the jetties that I was worried about—it didn’t seem to be moving, but I kept on looking up to make sure it wasn’t, since I knew it would be difficult for a craft to spot a swimmer in the chop. As I got closer I could see it had a dive flag on it, and was actually inside the jetties, so I assumed it was anchored, and it was. I’ve seen dive boats around there before—my fellow CIBBOWSers told me there are the remains of an old pier that burned down in that spot. But I spent a fair lot of fretting and sighting before I determined that.

After I passed the boat, I managed to get distracted by a low-flying helicopter, and then a very noisy boat which was in fact quite far away (I do always stop and look t see what’s making noise in the water, to ensure that if it’s a jetski I’m well out of harm’s way). But at the same time I was beginning to really enjoy swimming along—by this point I had gotten to the fanciful part of Coney Island, with the WonderWheel and the rest of the rides off to my right. Their colors were brilliant in the low bright sunlight, and I looked up at the boardwalk and hoped that there were others out enjoying the glorious November day.

I swam to the last jetty before the pier, and then a bit further before stopping. I paused only to look up at the pier for a moment—just a couple of folks up there, and they didn’t seem to be fishing—then turned around and headed back. Suddenly the swimming became super-easy—the chop was with me, and I felt like it was carrying me along without much effort on my part. I stroked tranquilly along, enjoying the sun on my face and back, and marking my progress by noting the landmarks along the shore.

As I neared the diveboat on the return trip, though, I started feeling really tired. My arms and body seemed heavy in the water, and looking at the sun when I breathed seemed disorienting. I didn’t feel any colder than I had a few moments before, but I started worrying that I was getting too chilled and that the fatigue and confusion might be symptomatic of that. When I’m OW swimming, I often fear that any unpleasantness I experience is a trend, but it usually turns out to be a passing sensation. I hoped that would be the case here. Still, in case the fatigue got worse, I decided to swim a little closer to shore, which involved making crescents inside the jetties. I also went to a bi-lateral breathing pattern, so I wasn’t looking into the sun on every stroke. I stroked along counting my breaths for a while—1-2-1-2-1-2-3-and so on—and soon I began feeling stronger and happier. Once I got past the last big jetty I was able to remain close to the shore, and I could also see my group up on the sand, so I stopped worrying and just focused on maintaining the breathing pattern. Before I knew it I was back where I started.

When I was even with the group of swimmers already on shore, I dove down, turned over and looked at the water’s surface from underneath, and contemplated whether I wanted to stop or continue. I decided to keep going, and immediately felt a burst of energy. I picked up my stroke rate and swam to the next jetty, then on to the white building. After spending much of my first mile feeling jumpy, and my second being worried, I finally just felt peaceful and blissy in the water. Sometimes it pays to persevere.

At the eastern end of the beach I turned around quickly and headed home. I was swimming into that same chop again, but now I felt really strong and relished the challenge. I was also feeling warmer than before, probably because I was working hard—kicking to stabilize myself, keeping my strokes quick and short, and minimizing the amount of time my hands spent above the water recovering (and therefore the chances that they would get stopped short by the waves). I swam hard back and was welcomed up onto the beach by the rest of the swimmers—I was first one in and last one out today.

I dressed quickly and jogged up and down the beach a few times to keep the shivers at bay. Unlike yesterday, where conditions were perfect, today’s loop was a tough one. But I’m glad I rallied and stayed in—the experience of that last mile made it all worthwhile!

I was hoping to do a double tomorrow—Asphalt Green pool workout in the morning, then right to the beach. But I’ve swum so much these past two days, and the beach is so enticing, that I might skip the pool workout. These November beach days are precious indeed!

And oh yeah--CIBBOWS was featured in the Wall Street Journal today! I swim with celebrities!

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  1. gigi's Avatar
    YOU are a celebrity! I always love reading about your open water adventures, and today's read was one for the ages. I am putting a CIBBOWS swim on my "to-do" list for 2012 - but I'm just traditional enough that I'm going to wait until spring. Nov is a little late in the season for this lady.
    Happy Thanksgiving!
  2. swimsuit addict's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by gigi
    YOU are a celebrity! I always love reading about your open water adventures, and today's read was one for the ages. I am putting a CIBBOWS swim on my "to-do" list for 2012 - but I'm just traditional enough that I'm going to wait until spring. Nov is a little late in the season for this lady.
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Thanks Gigi! You definitely have to come swim with CIBBOWS, at one of the official races or just our casual weekend swims, or both! And yes it would be hard to jump in at 50 without spending the fall acclimating . . . but I will expect you next spring!

    Nice job on the Holiday 5k!