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Of Swimming Bondage

A tale of two lakes -- part 2

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by , May 13th, 2012 at 01:45 AM (89 Views)
I'm a week overdue on posting this ... and maybe that's a good thing because I can boil down my experience trying to swim dam-to-dam in Canyon Lake to one word: preparation. Or, more accurately put, three words: lack of preparation.

The crux of my lack of preparedness was for the water temperature: when we jumped off the boat to swim to the starting dam, the boat's thermometer read 62. The guy driving the boat's exact words, though, were, "It's 62 ... and falling." I was unprepared for this in many ways:

  • Equipment: having swum the previous day without a cap and expecting the water to be roughly the same as Saguaro, I hadn't brought one. Dave Barra, though, threw me a CIBBOWS cap. Kurt, however, was even smarter as he also had earplugs.
  • Pre-swim warming: again, anticipating water temperatures like the day before, I had stripped down to my suit for the boat ride from the marina to the starting dam. By the time we got to the place to jump in, after driving through the canyons before the sun had crested many of them nearing 7am, I was already shivering. In any other prep for a colder water swim, I would've been bundled up and trying to generate body heat. In retrospect, the sweaty climb down the hill in advance of the Saguaro swim was the perfect warmup before getting in.
  • Acclimation: the closest thing I had done to acclimating to colder water were the pool swims in 74 degree water, clearly a far cry from 62 degrees and insufficient.

I got the chest compression the cold water usually gives me upon getting in and had to swim backstroke most of the way to the starting dam. It was definitely cold, but I figured I could make it for awhile and that, once we exited the shadowed canyons and got some sun on our backs, I'd warm up enough to do the swim. Kurt, Shauna, Gordon (Starbucks) and I started off together, stroking at a much faster rate than what Kurt and I had done the previous day.

Through the 1st 30 minutes, I was cold, but still thought I could make it. We stopped for a brief feed and I realized another preparation error -- all of my water and Heed was either frozen or chilled. I could've really used a hot feed. At that feed, Kurt and Gordon seemed to acknowledge the cold, but weren't complaining about it. Shauna and I were already complaining. I could see some sun ahead, though, and figured we'd feel warmer soon enough.

It was not to be. Over the next 20 or 30 minutes -- still not exactly sure when we got out -- my hands and feet went numb and I started to shiver while swimming. I don't think I was yet in any sort of risk area for hypothermia, but the concept of a long swim was turning into a painful swim and I just wasn't enjoying myself. This points to another preparation area -- mental. I was not mentally prepared for the cold, nor experienced enough with cold water to know if I was really at risk or just really uncomfortable. It didn't really matter, though, to me at the time. I flagged our kayaker and asked him to call the boat. Shauna followed. Once we made the call for the boat, though, it seemed like an excruciatingly long time to get on board as then we were just hanging on the kayak in the cold water.

I'm not proud of my performance, but, even a week later, know it was the right thing for me to do on that day. I shivered for about 45 or so under four layers (short sleeve t-shirt, long sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt, parka) before I finally started to warm up. I was hunkered down for the first 20-25 minutes in ... well ... not quite misery ... but feeling pretty miserable, both physically and emotionally for having given up. It was great to have Shauna and Katie Kenny, a woman who swims a lot in the lakes, there to talk with. Glenn, driving the boat, and Joe, acting as general purpose crew guy, also lightened up the mood. I think after an hour or so, I started to peel the layers off.

So, there you have it: 7 went into the water, but only 5 made it the full distance. I'm very impressed with Kurt, Gordon, Dave, Janet and Kent as they not only battled cold water, but also currents as the dams were pushing water back against them through large portions of the swim. The swim was not a loss for me, though, as I learned a lot. I'm not sure if/when I'm jumping back into water that cold again; I think I know that my limit without better preparation is probably in that 65 range for a shorter period of time. But, I do know this: I do want to attempt that swim again at some point in the future.

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Comments

  1. qbrain's Avatar
    On the positive side, that was probably the best strategy post I have ever read.
  2. Sojerz's Avatar
    Thanks for posting Patrick, espeically so the rest of us can learn from the experience too. The next attempt will be the charm and something for you to look forward to.
  3. jaadams1's Avatar
    At least you made the correct decision...problems in cold water can be serious. I know exactly how you felt...at least about the preparation phase of the swim. My one OW swim last summer I was ill prepared in many ways, both physically and mentally. I too got out of my swim early, and later after watching the others completing the race began questioning myself about it. At least I was able to get a crash course in the sport, and will know more of what to expect the next time I do it this September.
  4. aztimm's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sojerz
    Thanks for posting Patrick, espeically so the rest of us can learn from the experience too. The next attempt will be the charm and something for you to look forward to.
    I agree!

    Thanks for posting this Patrick! So often I just assume that a super fast swimmer like you can do pretty much anything you want. It is kinda nice to hear that you're (somewhat) human, like the rest of us

    Let me know when you try this again. If you don't mind someone slower, maybe I'll join you.
  5. pwb's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by qbrain
    On the positive side, that was probably the best strategy post I have ever read.
    Thanks. Strategy is this: just do the opposite of what I did!
  6. pwb's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sojerz
    Thanks for posting Patrick, espeically so the rest of us can learn from the experience too.
    You're welcome. The better advice, though, is this: swim your OW in warmer waters!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sojerz
    The next attempt will be the charm and something for you to look forward to.
    I sure hope so!
  7. pwb's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by aztimm
    Thanks for posting this Patrick! So often I just assume that a super fast swimmer like you can do pretty much anything you want. It is kinda nice to hear that you're (somewhat) human, like the rest of us
    I was very humbled by this experience, to say the least. I've always respected open water and have seen plenty of evidence in OW races where guys I could beat in the pool handily took me in OW ... but this was yet another lesson. I failed to mention that, after Dave and Janet did both the 9 mile swims on Friday and Saturday in Saguaro and Canyon, they then got up and did another 10 miles in Roosevelt.



    Quote Originally Posted by aztimm
    Let me know when you try this again. If you don't mind someone slower, maybe I'll join you.
    I definitely do want to do it again, but be better prepared. In the meantime, I think I'll stick with 4K to 5K swims in more temperate waters.
  8. pwb's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jaadams1
    At least you made the correct decision...problems in cold water can be serious. I know exactly how you felt...at least about the preparation phase of the swim. My one OW swim last summer I was ill prepared in many ways, both physically and mentally. I too got out of my swim early, and later after watching the others completing the race began questioning myself about it. At least I was able to get a crash course in the sport, and will know more of what to expect the next time I do it this September.
    James, I think if you stick to 1 mile to 3 mile races and keep the water not too frigid, you'll like it. I still LOVE OW swimming and am going to have a focus on it after Omaha, but I'm not sure I'm ready to jump headlong into long distance OW events in cold water any time soon.