Last weekend I attended an open water swim clinic hosted by the NYC triathlon group I train with, Terrier-Tri. Coach Robert identified why open water swimming freaks so many people out. Triathlon is composed of 3 things that little kids love to do, swimming, biking and running around; but when adults do these 3 activities and competition enters the mix the enjoyment leaves and panic sets in. Coach Robert wanted us to "have fun in the water," and "just play in it." I thought back to how I used to swim underwater, backwards in my parent's pool or how my friends called me the walrus when we would wrestle in that pool or swim in Lake Mahopac. So for the first 10 minutes of the clinic I floated on my back like a fat seal and just kicked around; this allowed me to realize that just because it's a race doesn't mean you can't enjoy it like the guy they used to call the Walrus. Once I started to have fun in the water again the fear of open water swims went away.
We then built to swimming 20 yards out and 20 yards back at Conney Island as a crowd began to form wondering what all these people in oh so sexy latex body suits were doing. From 20 yards we built to 60 yard triangles to incorporate some turns and judging how the tide affected our stroke. Then the big test came, if we deemed ourselves "comfortable" in the water we could swim out past the breakers, take a right and swim a 1/2 mile down and a 1/2 mile back. 2 weeks ago I would have needed a new wet suit from the thought of swimming a mile in the open water; last weekend I had a huge freaking smile on my face and thought it was awesome to be just swimming out there all alone in the ocean.
The clinic also presented the opportunity for me to analyze how open water swimming affected my blood sugar. Between each set I ran up to my bag, tested, took a sip of my sports drink and then returned to the water. Each test greeted me with a blood sugar of around 170 - absolutely perfect. This helped ease my biggest fear, having a seizure in the open water. Up until this point I had no way of analyzing how my blood sugars reacted to a long consistent swim; thankfully I now have a base line to work with going forward. Cliff Scherb, the type 1 aspiring professional triathlete I work with here in NYC also suggested I keep a carb gel tucked into my wet suit or swim cap "just in case." That is an idea I'm without question going to utilize at Mooseman.
Back to this weekend - Mooseman is kind of like a "mini-Placid." The hills are shorter, a little steeper, the swim won't be quite as hectic and the crowd won't be as large. But the tests at Mooseman represent an excellent measuring stick for my preparation for Placid. Over the past 3 weeks I've really focused on hill work for cycling. I've been driving up to Westchester on the weekends to attack the hills of the Hudson Valley since the 2 hills on 9W aren't really representative of what I'll be faced with at LP. Plus I get to spend some quality time with this guy after my ride:
My only goal for this race is to enjoy it, enjoy the journey, push myself and not worry about my place, or my time. In the past the things I've achieved great success in have been driven by a desire for success but the underlying enjoyment of the challenge is what made me succeed. When I stand on that beach Sunday morning I need to remember that, I need to remember that the clock doesn't matter, that the battle is between my ears as I want to have as much fun on the course as the pooch above is having with that bucket. Sunday, the test will be passed if after the race I can truly say, "I had a hell of a time." For if I can say that, everything else will have taken care of itself.