When Things Go Wrong in the Open Water

Hilary Topper wearing Magic 5 goggles

There are so many variables in the open water. You deal with the current, the chop, the flies, the flying fish, the jellies, and the sea lice. And, by the way, do the sharks come on the bay side? There’s always something to be concerned about.

One day this past summer, I had a 90-minute swim.

The first thing to go wrong

I decided to wear a long sleeve wetsuit. I’ve been struggling since I had Covid with getting sick and was just diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctor said it was okay to swim and bike. She didn’t say to what extent so I thought a 90-minute training would be okay.

After about 30 minutes, I was absolutely sweating in the long sleeve wetsuit. I felt like I was suffocating. I couldn’t breathe. I felt so restricted and so warm that I had to run back to the beach to take it off.

The second thing to go wrong

I come back from the beach to the water. Now all I have on is a bathing suit and fins. I jump in. As I started swimming, I opened my mouth to breathe and a huge fly went down my throat.

My throat shut down. I coughed hard and out came the fly. But then my throat was irritated. And, since I had been coughing a lot, it made it worse. I could still feel the fly in the back of my throat.

I kept swimming.

The third thing to go wrong.

After about an hour into the swim, the current changed directions. It was disorienting and yet, fighting the current felt harder than normal, probably because of pneumonia. But I fought it. I remembered what a friend once said, “just go with it. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, just take your time and enjoy it.”

That’s exactly what I did.