I am a strong girl.

I am a strong swimmer, and I’m fit.  The ocean kicked my ass today.  I’m not over it yet.

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I’ve been a little freaked out about the ocean swim in the race in May.  Between the temperature, the turbulence, the saline, the sun…I have known there is a vast difference between the swimming I’ve been doing in the indoor pool at Sports Com and the actual swim in the ocean during the race.  How right I was.

I drove down here yesterday, with my mom in tow to serve as my shore buddy.  My precious brother has a condo down here (Panama City Beach) and it’s coincidentally where the race is to be held in May.  I have purchased a wetsuit and intend to practice this weekend and a weekend in April before the big event.

So today’s air temperature was around 75 – perfect – and the water temp was around 63…rather chilly.  I donned the suit, goggles, and cap,  positioned mom on the shore with a cell phone, and into the surf I ventured.  The flags were flying yellow, which is between green (not much undertow) and red (beaches are closed to swimming).  That was good to practice in, since I don’t know what the waves will be like on race day.  I waded out to waist/chest level, then as the waves began to crash over me near my head, I raised my feet and commenced swimming.  Let me rephrase that:  I raised my feet and began to flail about fighting the waves flinging me back to shore.

I could see before I entered the water that as soon as I crossed the breakers the sea was calm.  So as I struggled against the waves, I was determined to get past them to calm water, which I ultimately did…but at a great price.  I was so fatigued, and my heart rate was so elevated, once I passed the whitecaps, I had to spend several minutes treading water/floating on my back to catch my breath and settle down.  After I accomplished that, I was able to begin swimming in almost my regular pattern (water still a bit cool and affecting my breathing).  I made the decision then to focus on that breaker-crossing rather than the rhythmic swim I had planned to rehearse.

Back to shore I go, struggling once again through the force of the tide, got out and walked to where mom was keeping sentry, wriggled myself out of the top half of the wet suit, rested a few moments, and then began again.  The effort was a fraction easier this time out, but just as I was reaching calm water, I got overconfident, turned my back to incoming surf, and was immediately hammered right in the head with a tremendous wave.  My goggles went flying, and it knocked me silly for a second or two.  I didn’t exactly choose to rest, but I found myself lying on my back getting my bearings again…my goggles float gently past me, and I watched them for a moment before I snagged them.  It took me a few minutes to recover from that event, then back to the routine.  Swim a while, get my groove on, then back toward shore.

I repeated this effort one more time, then dragged my sorry, exhausted ass up the sand to collapse on the beach surrounded by hormonal spring-breakers.  (Why the funnel?  Why not just drink a beer if you want one??)  I’ve spent the rest of the day ruminating on tomorrow’s plan of attack for the same beach/waves/ocean.  The kid in the lifeguard stand suggested diving through and under the waves on the way out instead of riding over the top…I’ll try that.

after the swim
after the swim

So, ultimately, it was both easier and harder than I anticipated…the swim was easier, crossing the breakers was harder.  In the actual race it is a long oval I think, so I only have to pass through the gauntlet once on the way out, and then again on the way in.  And swim 1.2 miles in between.

No iPod today, but lots of words of support and encouragement echoing through my brain as I took to the water.  Thank you for every one of them.

sunset in Panama City Beach
sunset in Panama City Beach

Thanks for reading…