An Unexpected Swim Focus

Due to the whole stress fracture thing, running, biking and generally using my legs was out for much of the summer.

Cue a focus on swimming.

I actually had something of a light bulb moment on my swim stroke.

I always find it amazing that I can be told something so many times and not be able to put it into practice, then, along comes someone new (and totally unrelated to swimming in this case), explains things slightly differently and BAM, suddenly it works! In this case it was a boot-camp instructor who, whilst patiently trying to get me to isolate a muscle, casually commented that I probably use it to swim.

“Hmm, nope.”

But next time I was at the pool, I gave it a try.

“OK, this is interesting, feels weird, but does seem to work….”

The next time the coach attempted to correct my stroke all of those things they had been telling me for months started to make sense – success!

OK, let’s not pretend I suddenly became an awesome swimmer, or even a very good one, but I did improve.

Across The Lake Swim

So, I set about training for the Across the Lake Swim, a 2.1km swim across Okanagan Lake. This seemed to be going well. Although I didn’t feel much faster I could definitely feel that my stroke was more efficient, and I was more comfortable in the water than I’d ever been. I has hopeful of beating last years time of 53 minutes.

The day before the event was really windy with a wildfire was burning across the lake, but on the morning of the swim, the water looked like a sheet of glass. The temperature had dropped though – particularly notable for a no wetsuit freak such as myself.

Everything started off well. The water was cold, so it took a few minutes to get into a rhythm, but after that I felt I was making good progress; my sighting was good and I felt relaxed.

Around the midpoint the water got a bit more choppy.

Interesting, but not a problem.

But then it all seemed to go wrong…

My sighting was off and I didn’t seem to be making progress anymore.

“How am I going to explain to all my swimming friends? I’m obviously the only one that’s screwed this up so badly”

I was convinced I was the only one struggling this much. As the beach stubbornly refused to get any closer, I made the mistake of looking at my watch – Bad Move.

Almost an hour and a half! I must have been too cocky, gone out too fast at the start and now I’m paying for it.

Finally a support boat paddled past me checking swimmers were OK. She commented on how bad the current was.

“CURRENT!? Wow, OK, that makes sense…..I thought, and What’s a current like that doing in the lake?

Well then, all I needed to do was beat this current and I’d be home free. I swam hard, and slowly (oh so slowly!) the finish line started to get bigger. It was painfully slow, like swimming in an endless pool. Eventually I saw weeds appearing on the bottom – I have never been so happy to see the dreaded weeds!

I got into the beach feeling great, I even had a burst of energy to sprint to the line.

2:02:49 more than double my goal time of 45 minutes. The mood at the finish line was subdued, people were tired and cold, over 100 had to be pulled out by rescue craft.

On the contrary, I was pleased. I had no idea I could swim like that for two hours and without a wetsuit. Though I would definitely have eaten more breakfast if I had known I was going to be going that long!

“If I can do that, what else can I do….?”

Apparently the high winds in the days before the event caused an unexpected current – a seiche wave, Google it, it’s a real thing!

Rattlesnake Island Swim

My next challenge was the Rattlesnake Island swim, 3.1km from the island to Peachland swim beach. My goal was under an hour and a half.

I went into this event fairly confident, after all, at Across the Lake I had swum I-don’t-know how far on a treadmill for two hours. I had also been out with a couple of friends two weeks before and made the swim, so I knew I could do it. It had taken 1:45 though, so I’d need to move quicker than that to meet my goal time.

The swim started with a boat ride out to the start. WE all jumped off the boat and I focused on keeping moving to stay warm (as, again I was doing this with no wetsuit) and beginning to get into a rhythm so that my start would be smooth. The horn went, and we were off.

It felt like I was swimming all alone forever, but finally the buildings on the hillside began to take shape and get bigger. I recalled, slightly deflated, that during the practice swim, this had happened around the half-way point. Nevertheless, the swim was going well and was uneventful compared to Across the Lake, even a bit boring maybe.

Coming into the finish was almost an anticlimax, strangely underwhelming.

“OK, Good, just wanted to prove I could do that…”

I walked out of the water and looked for my friends. I had actually beaten a couple of them, which was a first for me – maybe I am getting faster – and at 1:27 I even made my goal, guess I need a faster goal.

New Goal: I kind of signed up for a little swim from Alcatraz next summer….no wetsuit, obviously….. Like I needed a bigger challenge.

Note to self: Stop being so impulsive.

By the way……….Can I run Yet?……….How about now?

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