Yesterday (saturday) I was able to kayak and see my first open water swim from a fish eye view (hehehe.) I was in my kayak paddling along the course as a support person. This was something I had looked to do as a way to ease my discomfort at doing my first open water swim in two weeks and having never done one in a race. I've done swims in Jordan Lake, in the ocean and several other lakes, with and without goggles, but never with several hundred of my closest friends trying to hit, kick elbow and drown me all at once. I've done enough reading about open water swims in the last several years to know that I wanted a couple races under my belt before even attempting one.
For those of you who aren't aware, what happens at the front end of an open water swim is often called "the human washing machine." I won't use the phrase that my dad would as I like to keep the blog with a pg rating, so we'll go with an adaptation. It's all elbows and ankles. The swim waves I saw yesterday they started five swimmers at a time with a 15 second gap between swimmers. It still turned the perfectly calm lake into a choppy body of water.
The early swimmers went as I expected they would, the only way I expected any issues in the early waves was if someone had seeded themselves too high. It didn't appear to happen. The first swimmer was out in just over 9 minutes. That's pretty fast for a 750 yard swim. It was a clockwise swim, out to a buoy, right to the next buoy, right and into the ramp and up into transition.
The first 10-20 minutes was as expected... a couple people seemed to get winded from going out too quickly, they rolled over to their back to recover, caught their breath and off they went. About halfway through the swim, I heard my first call for help. It was near another kayaker, but shortly after that I had a swimmer hanging off the front of my kayak. Seeing as this was the first time I had supported a swim, I was briefed before the event to direct the swimmer to either the front or back of the kayak, but not the cockpit as it would flip me into the water. Everyone was great. I had the same guy on my kayak several times, we also had several small buoys in the kayak and we were able to hand those out as well. I ended up following a single swimmer towards the end. I picked this gentleman up at the first buoy. The poor man looked up at me as he rounded the buoy and says, "I hate swimming, I thought this was supposed to be fun." No goggles, he was winded and his poor eyes were red. He was my second hanger on of the swim and I remained with him until he finished and I was happy to see him finish. He passed 4 people in the last 200 yards and after all the kayaks were out of the water, we (my friend and I) were invited to join the kayak team for more tri's later this summer.
After that, we headed up to watch some transitions and catch a little of the race and met up with another volunteer who happened to be a triathlon coach. The gentleman was great. Most coaches wouldn't tell you anything if you weren't paying them, yet this man asked me what race I was doing and then proceeded to ask what my concerns were and then alleviated every single one of them.
I have never done an open water swim before and that is one of my concerns. The good news is that White Lake is crystal clear (spring fed) and beautiful. It is my understanding that the max depth is 10 feet and from the time you hit the water you'll be able to see where the buoy is without doing spotting. Just look for the anchor line attached to the bottom. Another concern is the previously mentioned "washing machine effect" in the start. This gentleman advised me to start at the outside left of the wave and then work my way in towards the buoy. I may swim an additional 10-20 yards, but by the time I get there, it will be thinned out and I likely won't get hit or kicked. That was one of the things I saw yesterday. There was a guy halfway through his swim, basically quit swimming and looked around and then looked at me. When I asked if he was okay, he said, "Yeah, just tired of getting hit and kicked." I was sitting in my kayak and thinking, "HELLO, you are doing an open water swim, you've gotta expect to get hit or kicked or swam over during a swim."
Today was going to be a training day with a brick, but a migraine derailed that plan. I spent my afternoon sleeping off my migraine meds and yet it is still hanging around. Hopefully it will be gone when I wake up in the morning. y'all have fun... tomorrow is a double work day and tuesday is the second day of changeover from Easter to Mother's Day. The blessing and curse of working for a greeting card company. Unfortunately there is only two weeks between Easter and Mother's day which means I have two days to change over 8 stores from Easter to Mother's day. Holy Schnikes.
Remember, you never know until you tri.