Saturday, 23 April 2022

First Open Water Swim event

This morning I participated in my first Open Water Swim event - a one-mile distance in the Swartvlei lake in Sedgefield.

I started doing a bit of swimming in December when my friend Marcelle and I would paddle out to a quiet spot at the dam, swim a bit more than a kilometer and then paddle back. We had about three such outings over the Xmas / New Year period and it was awesome.

In mid February, it must have been, I discovered the Fish Eagles Masters Swimming club here in George when I went with Carine to a casual open water swim at the dam. I did about 1km, enjoying the experience and swimming for the first time with a swim buoy towing behind me.

My mom expressed an interest in swimming so we joined the club at the end of February and we went together to a bunch of sessions at a nearby school pool on Friday and Saturday afternoons. My attendance was good for a few weeks but now I haven't been since late March - a combination of working late, rainy afternoons, other commitments and being away.

When a note about this event popped up on the club group - a fundraising swim in nearby Sedgefield, it looked like an opportunity not to be missed. I'm glad that Carine gave me a nudge to commit to it as she was planning to go along too.

I hadn't done anything that could really be called training, but I'm a decent swimmer, I'm generally fit and I figure that 1.6km open water is easier than 1km in the pool with tumble turns (I still think it is).

It was a small group of swimmers - not more than 100 - stood on a beach at Pine Lake Marina on this slightly chilly and overcast Saturday morning. I don't have a swimming wetsuit so it was to be straight swimming cozzie for me.

At first, the water was quite numbing and it took my breath away. I had to focus on my breathing as I started off in the shallow water. I liked seeing the grasses and creature holes in the sand as these passed beneath me. It took a while for the water to get deeper.

The route was a triangle - clockwise from the beach to a buoy, then the hypotenuse across to the second buoy and then back to the beach.

I felt very much on my own. I caught some swimmers and then only occasionally saw the aquamarine-coloured cap of another lady on the secon and third legs. 

I'm not that practiced at keeping an eye on where I'm going. My technique is not too bad. This time I was looking for the kick splashes of the swimmers ahead until I could see the buoy clearly. 

My friend Mark, who was swimming just behind and to the side somewhere of me apparently, said I did zig-zag a bit (I thought I'd been mostly on track). 

What I did find is that I would zone out, enjoying the meditational feeling of being in the dark water with regular metronomic strokes. Mid-stroke, I would look to see where I was going and then I'd swim normally. I had to keep reminding myself because I would think, "Ok, next one" and then miss it because I was just so connected to the swimming. I certainly left some of the intervals too long before taking another peek at my destination. It doesn't help that aquamarine cap was a bit offtrack - she definitely went too wide and I had one eye on her off to my side on that second leg.

I almost felt like I was swimming better as the distance climbed. Smooth, relaxed and enjoying it.

Back on the beach at the finish, children from the children's home for which the event was a fundraiser handed me a medal and they were cheering swimmers as they emerged from the water. Very sweet.

Coming out of the water, I wasn't that cold. The brisk temperature proved to be not as bad as I'd expected and I seem to have retained sufficient heat. At the finish there was a hot drinks vendor and pancake vendor (thank you Gerrie for the pancakes). A quick change into warm clothes, hello to some club members and other friends who were there and then we were off home to George. Back by 11am - a good morning out.

My shoulders feel like they've worked but otherwise no adverse effects. It will be interesting to see if and where I'm stiff tomorrow.

I'll definitely do other swim events but, with winter now on the way, I think I'll be waiting for the new summer to kick in.

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