X-cellent open water swimming

Heather at the New Balance Half Iron

Unlike some people (ahem… you know who you are), I love open water swimming.
My favorite thing used to be to show up at the lake alone, quietly slip into my suit at the “dog beach”, jump in the water and be on my way (I always considered it a good omen if I didn’t have to ask a random stranger to help with the zipper).

I loved the peacefulness of being alone in the water, yet my inner “pusher man” would still make me get a good workout. Trev always teases that I am a mono-speeder. I just get in the water and I want to go fast. As more than one coach has told me, my form sucks when I am going easy so that’s likely part of it (we in the Wurtele family like to blame our excessively long limbs and low body fat).

Open water swims were my time for long, steady workouts. 3 laps around the big island, or a foray under the little bridge to the upper lake, and I emerged tired and satisfied.

Funny how things can seem hunky dory until you expand your frame of reference and realize what you’ve been missing. After Team X, open water swimming with never be the same.

The first day I showed up it was pouring rain and rather chilly. Out in the lake was a large loop course set up by a stoic Steve Chater, who was obviously there enduring the elements a lot earlier than my 6:50.

Oooh. Those swim buoys really got me going! As people trickled down to the beach, I ran into the water and started the warm up. There is something about the race element of having a course set up that is super motivating to me. I also discovered in my first race as a pro, not long before, that people swim really hard around the buoys to try to drop you! This was a bit of a shock to my mono-speeder self, and I was keen to practice kicking up the pace and givin’er around the buoys.

My desire to practice elements of racing was more than fulfilled when Steve announced that we were going to practice some swim starts. “You’re in the hands of the starter”, hard to the first set of buoys, tread water for a minute. Then: deep water start, hard to shore with a run out… repeat. Awesome! I got some tips on how to hold your body and kick in the deep water to get going, and how not to stand up too early when running out from shore…
Then there came some sets of tempo to the far buoy, easy around the outer perimeter, hard to shore etc. I had some speedy feet to try to hang on to and I can honestly say that I have never worked so hard in an open water swim practice. It was fantastic!

I have enjoyed every practice and have learned a wide array of things from how to sight looking into the sun, to how well I can recover from an anaerobic sprint start, or from kicking it up a notch to stay on some feet. I have also learned that it is nice to swim with other people.

I’m not the most talkative, especially in the morning, but it is fun to be surrounded by the friendly banter and to share the morning hours with fellow aspiring triathletes. Steve’s workouts are great and his words of encouragement when we run out of the water during sets are golden. It always makes me think a little more about my stroke when I know someone is watching, and I feel truly privileged to have such a dedicated someone there to make these swims possible.

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~ by trevorandheather on July 26, 2007.

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