Venturing into the world of open water swimming has never taken my fancy, despite being a reasonably strong swimmer. I have a high respect for the sea given its unpredictability and am often scared of what may lurk beneath, as you may have noticed if you read my earlier post on kayaking; but this week, I was somehow lured for a morning swim by a colleague training for a triathlon.
I woke at 5.30am, prised myself from the warm duvet, into my swim suit and busied myself in eating a Goldilocks-sized bowl of porridge. I figured that it’d keep me going and wane the potential embarrassment of not swimming as fast as the triathlete trainees. Embarrassment took a different form however as I was the only one in a swimsuit rather than a wetsuit; highlighting my rookie status, but I didn’t care.
Our instructions were to swim out to a buoy around 200m offshore and return for the next set of tips and instructions. The only problem was that swimming pools and splashing about in the surf on weekends hardly prepared me for this challenge. I enthusiastically got into the cool water only to be met with a salty taste in my mouth. Although disgusting, I pushed on to keep pace with the group for the first few missions to the buoy and back.
Next up was something I’d stupidly not expected, but it has given me a larger appreciation for those competing in triathlons. We ran a short distance along the beach, but far enough for someone who cannot stomach running, and plunged back into the waters and to another buoy positioned even further out to sea. The purpose of this exercise was to try to regulate your breathing after moving from one discipline to the next.
It’s easy to become anxious with other people swimming on top of you while your lungs fight for air and you desperately try to not drink in the ocean. In a moment of weariness I switched to breaststroke, but soon found myself falling behind and in the worst place of all: alone and in deep water where every wave becomes a fin. I can see why those marooned at sea turn mad and I’d only been swimming for 50 minutes by this point.
I fear being unable to see the sea floor and in a bid to make up the distance, I pushed on with my eyes shut for a few seconds while taking care not to steer off course. The panic soon passed as I made it back to shallow water. On arrival I discovered that conquering my fear of deeper water alone had saved me from a nasty jellyfish, which stung not only my friend, but a number of others in front of me. Karma I say for leaving me trailing!
So the big question – will I be returning to the sea? Yes, but only for a paddle, of that I’m sure.