So I swam in a lake.....kinda a big deal for me.....

I hope you have all enjoyed a wonderful weekend. I definitely had a great one. Actually the whole last week has been very eventful for me. Since I have been writing a lot about the past in my running posts here and here, I want to share a bit of what I'm currently up to.
Last Tuesday I went for my very first open water swim. This is such a big deal for me that I have to share it with you readers instead of waiting for it to fit into my running/multisport story.
As I mentioned in my last post I am currently training for my first sprint triathlon which will be on the 9th of June (not long now!) The whole event will be a 750m swim in a lake, 20k bike ride and 5k run. Now, I only started swimming last September when I enrolled in an adult swim class at a local swimming pool. I built up some strength and stamina since then and swim quite well now. But swimming in a pool and in a lake a very different things. A pool is kept at a comfortable temperature, you can see what's below you and around you (this is not always a good thing though, I must say....pools are gross, even nice ones) and you are always close to something to hold on to in case you need a rest.
How do you like my new look? I wish they did polka dot wet suits...
None of these things apply in a lake. It's dark, there is stuff living in it that you can't see, it's cold and there are no walls etc to hold on to in case you run out of steam. I am not at all happy with any of those aspects and was super scared of the moment I had to get into a lake and swim. I had pushed this experience as far away as possible but now with the race so close I had to face this last step that kept me from competing in a triathlon. So I went and bought a wetsuit and a trisuit last Monday. I didn't think I would get both items so quickly but I was lucky to live near the warehouse for www.mytriathlon.co.uk and they people there were super helpful and got me sorted out in no time.
There is a lake just outside Reading where you can go open water swimming at the Copthorne hotel on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and weekend mornings. So I took my new kit and my very nervous self to the lake and went in. I also brought my husband along to document the whole event and for moral support. I was very scared of having a panic attack in the lake and having to be saved by "David Hasselhoff in a canoe" (had to mention him as we Germans are always said to be his biggest fans....) and be pulled out of the lake. Fortunately he never had to come and save me. I went in and started swimming pretty much straight away. The swimming itself was VERY bad. I swam like I used to, awful breaststroke, head above water, all over the place (even ended up floating into the banks at some point) and I was very uncomfortable the whole time. The wetsuit was very tight around my neck and felt like it was choking me. But the things I was most afraid of, the dark water, the stuff in the lake and being away from anything to hold on to, didn't really bother me much at all. It's cold at first when the suit fills with water but it warms up very quickly and it keeps you very straight and afloat. Drowning is virtually impossible. So when I ran out of breath (basically every two minutes) I turned on my back and floated until I was ready to swim some more.
I floated on my back a lot on this first swim and took forever to get around the buoys.
The water was very fresh and clean and much nicer than pool water. As you get water in your mouth when swimming, this is much more pleasant. My skin felt great afterwards as well. Not dry and smelling of chlorine as it usually does after a pool swim. So that was great. When I got out of the water I felt like I had just done the most amazing thing ever because I had managed to conquer my fear of swimming in dark open water including all it's "lake monsters" and I didn't panic.
My actual swimming was appalling which crushed my spirit a bit. I thought I was getting kinda good in the pool but this is sooooooo different. It was like learning to swim all over again and on race day I will have to swim almost twice as far. But for now I had managed to get a step further by not freaking out. I know now I can do it and swim in a lake. I don't have to like it, just do it.
I went back on Saturday morning to have another go. The fact that I am so slow and uncomfortable made me want to have another go as soon as possible. I didn't do the suit up as tight around the neck and pulled legs, arms and torso of the suit up as high as I could to try and avoid the choking feeling as much as possible and it worked. I also realised once the choking feeling was gone that the cold water on my face (lake was 14C) was what took my breath away and made me swim mainly head above water. Once I had acclimatised to the cold, swimming felt so much easier. I managed two 400m laps and felt quite good during the swim. I was also twice as fast as on my first swim.
On Saturday morning, feeling so much better after the second swim and all the improvements I had made from the first time. And no, I don't swim with sunglasses on but I wanted to spare you no-make-up-albino-ginger-face. It's not attractive.

I'm still not in love with lake swimming but I can see myself getting there in the future. I want to treat open water swimming as I treated olives. I used think they were gross and I hated olives. Something made me try them again and again though and now they are a weekly buy for me and go in most of my meals because I really love them. I hope this will happen to my relationship with the lake. Have you ever swam in a lake? Do you like it?
What was the scariest thing that you have ever done? Is there anything you really would like to do but fear is holding you back?


  1. hehe was soll ich sagen, sexy :P
    ich wünsche dir einen schönen wochenstart. gglg

  2. You're so brave. And I agree with you about the need for polka dot wetsuits.

    1. Thank you. Wouldn't that be fun? It's easier to be spotted in the crowd as well. Everyone looks the same.