Main image for Lake Swim #1 Time to Read: ~4 min

On Thursday July 2nd I attended my first Ithaca Tri Club group swim. I had failed in my first attempt to group swim (it was cold, I arrived late and there was some confusion about whether the group was going out, so I didn't go) so I was determined to make this one. I put on my long sleeved wetsuit that I got from my friend Allie (part of the reason I didn't go in on Monday was that I had my new sleeveless wetsuit on) and I headed down the stairs to Francesca and Kent's house. I was brave! I listened to race music on the way and just finished reading Shane's blog about his amazing adventures in his Trans Mass Ultri Tri.  My head was in the right place and I was ready. I walked down to the dock and prepared to meet people before the swim.

How long do you think you'll take?

One member of the group asked this completely innocent question. She was trying to decide who should go first. A simple and fair question to kick off the evening. I responded,

I'll need the full hour and most likely will be plucked out before we reach our destination.

Another swimmer said, "45 minutes" and someone else replied with "38 minutes." Conversations turned to races recently completed and upcoming events. Discussion about nerves in the water, cold water and dark water were had. It comforted me that even people who participate in Ironman events sometimes have bouts with nerves. I still felt ok about this evening. I had been upfront that I'd need the full time. I was ready to go for it.

The Canoe

The canoe clinic prepared us to paddle alongside a swimmer. I hopped in the front of the boat knowing that meant I wasn't responsible for steering. I wish now that I had taken the back because if I had to steer my energy would have been used for that instead of worrying about the swim. We were pacing a speedy swimmer and still that distance seemed extremely daunting. I was starting to get psyched out. Suddenly finishing the distance seemed unlikely.  The current seemed strong and the water was choppy. However, they had set it up nicely; the slower group would go 2nd and have the benefit of going with the current. Soon, we arrived at the Girl Scout camp and it was time for my group to go.


Normally I swim with my tempo trainer attached to my goggles. It has never fallen off in the pool, but we were in a lake so I decided to stick it under my cap. Upon pulling it over my head my cap promptly ripped. "That's ok" I said aloud, right after muttering that my cap ripped. I would just put it on my goggles. Francesca said I could use her cap and I happily obliged. I reminded my canoe handlers that they could pull me early. I wasn't interested in making anyone stay late for me to finish. "Pull me as soon as the first group finishes," I said. They agreed. There were 4 of us swimming in this group and I knew I'd be in the back of this pack.

I set the trainer for 1.21 (the tempo I used for the Tri for the Y and what I've been using for my mile swims). I started off rather well thinking, "I can do this." and "this is fine." and then I hit a cold patch. "Yikes I'm in a lake" flashed through my mind. I was wearing booties with my wetsuit (the water was 64 degrees). The first time I looked at my watch 2 minutes and 34 seconds had elapsed. I was breathless, freezing and terrified. The zen feeling I had after reading Shane's blog was long gone, and my can do attitude had shifted to, "maybe I won't do the CLT this year after all." However, I also thought back to the first lake swim last year that lasted less than 2 minutes. After a year of swim lessons I had to be able to do better than that! Carry on. For the next 10 minutes I alternated between relative calm and complete panic. I approached the boat two or 3 times, took the booties off at the suggestion of one of the boaters, floated on my back, flipped back over and swam a bit etc. Ultimately, I stopped because I just felt so bad for my boaters. This is where my personality gets in my way. My friend Anne recently posted on her blog that she enjoys solo travel because she can relax and not worry about others' happiness. I was worried about the poor people freezing in the canoe. They were giving up their Thursday evening to slowly paddle next to me while I alternated between swimming and drowning. Even though I knew that as I had paddled up next to my swimmer (when I wasn't thinking about my swim), I was enjoying the views of the lake and the sun on the water.

12 Minutes - Success!

I went out with 7 people for a group swim. 6 of those people swam 1.2 miles. Some had nose plugs or a nose covering, some were really fast, one wore fins to help with staying afloat, and everyone was friendly. I learned that many of these very strong swimmers had struggled with the water at some point. The woman I canoed the first leg with with took lessons from Shane several years ago. When she started she was completely terrified of even being in the pool. Francesca said that on her first lake swim she didn't make it all the way either and suggested that I continue to come assuring me that each time it would be better. The people that took me back in the boat were so sweet and helpful, and they also suggested that I keep coming. It is this support from these wonderful people that helped me realize that 12 minutes is SUCCESS. I swam for most of those 12 minutes, and last year on my first lake swim with Jenny I came back in less than 2 minutes screaming!! No, it wasn't what I had hoped, but it was a successful outing, if only because it happened over a month from the date of the CLT. Now, I have a full month to improve.