First Few Open Water Swims of the Season

Ray and Hilary in the open water

By the time you read this blog, it will probably be the end of June. When I wrote this blog, it was June 2 on day 3 of open water swimming. The water temperature is in the high 50s, low 60s. The air temperature is around 62.

The first swim

The first swim was uneventful. I thought it was going to be worse than it actually was but it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t feel like I had to learn how to swim like I typically do.

After the initial shock of the cold water, I started to get a feel of my stroke. I found that I was going back to the old stroke that I used before my coach gave me direction to change it up. I tried changing the stroke. It was hard, especially in the full wetsuit. Total swim time: 45 minutes

The second swim

This was a little better but not much. The water was much colder than the week before. We had heavy rains and winds over Memorial Day weekend which impacted the water temperature. It burned when I put my face in and it took a little while before I warmed up. Total Swim time: 45 minutes

The third swim

My coach wanted me to swim 2.25 hours today. But after hearing how cold the water was, she gave me an out. I didn’t want any part of it. I need to get into the water as often as possible so that I can be fully prepared for the 5.5-mile Cross Bay Swim.

I only have four hours to get in 5.5 miles. I need to swim at least 9625 yards in order to accomplish this and at Tobay, I’ve been swimming a lot slower than where I want to be.

On this third swim, Ray, my swimming buddy, and I got to Tobay at 5:15 am. No one else was there. We were surprised since there is so much action on the Tobay swimming page on Facebook.

I struggled with what to wear. I put on my new Finis Thermal top that I bought from and put on my long sleeve Roka wetsuit. However, it was very uncomfortable. I decided to do what Ray does — wear the thermal under the no sleeve Roka wetsuit.

It felt more comfortable. But I was hesitant about how it would be in the open water with the temps so low. We both put on our booties and our gloves and set out to do a 2-hour swim. (Well, it was supposed to be 2.25 but I wasn’t going to tell Ray that.)

Once in the water, I could feel the coldness circle around the exposed skin on my calf. I tried not to think about it. But the real shocker was getting into the open water. I dunked myself in and started to scream. “Maybe we should leave,” I said to Ray.

He calmly said, “whatever you want to do.”

We went out about 10 strokes doing a Tarzan. When I was ready, I started to dip my face in the water. It was cold, very cold. I started to get a burning sensation on my face and around my body. “Can I do this? My coach did give me an out,” I thought. But I shook it away.

We went out another 10 strokes, this time with our face in the water. “What do you want to do?” Ray asked me.

I told him let’s keep going.

We arrived at the Bonsai tree and took a break. “So, what do you think?” Ray asked me. I told him let’s do this. (He was just along for the ride. His big race is in October in Montauk so he was just following my lead.)

We swam back and forth and back and forth. He speeded past me like I was standing still.

I started to get nervous. Can I do this 5.5-mile swim within the allocated time? Will I get pulled from the water?

Soon, 1000 yards, became 2500 yards. And 2500 yards became 4000 yards.

When we got to the Marina for the third time, Ray said, “let’s quit. I have to get to work.”

I felt a little disappointed. But, I knew I was all beat up from the water. I feel the chaffing on my skin.

We got to the beach and did a high five. I felt good. I felt like I could keep going but when I stood up, I was very dizzy. My equilibrium was off.

At the showers

I took a hot shower and pulled the wetsuit off me. This was followed by the booties, the gloves, the thermal shirt, and my tri kit. As the warm water hit my body, I was screaming in pain. My whole body was chafed! I didn’t put on anything on at the beginning of the swim to alleviate the chafing. I didn’t even think about it.

I put my towel around me and two other swimmers/triathletes were with us. I had to take off my tri kit and my bra. I couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Being a triathlete is like how a woman is after having a baby,” I said. “you just don’t care. You do what you need to do and that’s that.”

Ray chuckled. When I mentioned to the other two swimmers that I plan on driving home in a towel. The woman said to me, “don’t get pulled over.” The thought of having a police officer pull me over when I was bare naked under a towel made me laugh.

Getting home

As soon as I got home, I took a real shower. The water was burning me. I slathered my skin with chamois cream and the burns started to feel better. I was chafed all over my neck, my arms, under my arms, my belly. You name it, and I’m sure I was chafed there!

All I kept thinking

My husband said, “I just don’t understand why you do this.”

And all I kept thinking, when am I going back in?