Feels just like rope burn afterward

Okay, so my next swim post was supposed to be about drills, but first I have to tell you about Monday night's open water adventure. And before that, a word on how swimming is going in general.

The word is "Slow." I was already slow, but now suddenly, I am SLOW, as in when I tell people how long it is taking me to get around the 500 meter course, they fall silent and look distressed for me. Slow, as in I sit in place like a fishing bobber. Slow as in it started getting dark while the lifeguard on the beach waited for me to finish the circuit. Slow as in the lifeguard asking me, um, do you always swim like that?

Slow. I'm not sure what's happened. Am I overthinking my stroke? Did I take in too much information through my ears and forget what I had learned so far through my pores? It's discouraging.

It's certainly enough effort to work through the cartoonish slowness without adding cartoonish predicaments.

I waded into the water at Kill Creek park and out toward the buoys. Though we've had lows in the 50s, the water was fine; bracing cool but not shivering cold. (Your temperature reading may vary depending on your own subcutaneous insulation.)

"Great! Not freezing!" I thought, and dived under the surface. All was well until about 15 feet past the buoys. A stray, slimy, scratchy tendril of lake vegetation grazed my hand. "Ew," I said. I flicked it aside.

More tendrils, streaming up from the lake bed, grazed my feet. I tried to kick them away. I pushed through more thick weeds with my hands. My feet dropped, still kicking. The weeds, waving and thrashing with the water, promptly wrapped around my ankles. Startled, I violently pulled forward with my arms. The weeds promptly wrapped around my right wrist under water and then loosely around my left forearm.

"Well, crap," I said to myself as I sank to chin level in the water, the weeds wrapping further up my vertical, flutter-kicking calves. "Person could drown this way, I suppose," I thought.

I didn't dare raise the one semi-free hand for the lifeguard. I thought about calling for help, but I'm quite buoyant (see subcutaneous insulation, above. Also I have BOOBS. They merit capitalization). Quick assessment: not running out of breath or energy; not panicked, only mildly alarmed; not getting any more tangled than I already am.

Though it would in fact meet the part of my definition of "good death" that requires it to entail some horrific element of physical comedy, I just don't think this bunch of salad's taking me down. I think it's already given me its best shot.

Another swimmer came by. She hit the weeds with her hand. "Ew," she said, stopping for a moment. "I know," I said, "I'm completely stuck here."

"Really?" she said. And swam off. Who could blame her? It's the impulse to back away from the quicksand.

Ah! That's it! Quicksand! Stop struggling and gently swim out of harm's way!

Yes, friends — if you get tangled in the weeds at Kill Creek, STOP KICKING. Relax; use small sculling motions. The weeds will relax too. To avoid tangling in the first place, the Kill Creek lifeguard told me, try to stay on the surface when you reach the weeds. Don't kick deep; don't reach deep. You'll be fine.

How do I know? Because after this ordeal, I caught my breath and went around the loop a second time, you know, PAINFULLY SLOWLY, and in the gathering dusk, to (a) practice waterbugging past the hazard and to (b) embrace my slowness and just enjoy the water. And it was fine.


"Do you always swim that way?" the lifeguard asked.

"I think I have to swim a lot more before I can say 'always'," I said. "But what exactly do you mean?"

"Well, you went way off course. You went more in a circle than a straight triangle. Did you intentionally add all the extra yards to your swim? I know some people do."

"Nope," I said. "I'm just not good at sighting, and I move pretty slowly."

"Oh, you did just fine," she said. "You're doing all right. Anyway, you won't have to worry about that on the day of the tri. You'll have a rope line on one side and boats on the other."

I'm sure she has no idea how much more buoyant her words made me. And there's still time for more drills this week.


Linda said...

Awesome post Ann! I laughed out loud. I am glad that you didn't get gobbled up by the freakish weeds! Just remember, "Say No to weed(s)." ;-) Seriously, I sure admire your hard work. Way to go!!


Ann Pai said...

Ha! Say no to weed(s). I'll pass that along to the other triathletes who've heard me tell this story. That's as good as the line from the confirmation e-mail, detailing the run path over a restraining wall by a pond: "Participants will continue running up the damn trail..."