I have a secret. As you may know I am an avid bike commuter. I bike 12 months of the year. Well, my secret is that sometimes when ironman training gets tough and work hours are long I drive to work. That is right, I am fossil fuel sucking, carbon footprint making driver. It doesn’t happen often but on days like last Monday after a huge weekend (20 mile run, swim, 100 mile bike) the thought of getting on my bike at 5:45 in the morning to go to swimming when its still dark and i’m tired and sore just about kills me. I run at night so don’t need to worry about being in traffic and it is the only time that it is actually quicker than biking. The best part is I get my coffee! When I can, I try to carpool with my neighbor who leaves for the loop at 5:2o in the morning a few days a week. Today I only rode 50 miles so rest assured I’ll be riding to swim tomorrow morning at the ass crack of dawn … wait not even dawn – better get the helmet light on!
The open water swim pain cave.
Last Friday a few of the trimonsters gathered for a swim down at Ohio st. beach. We met at 7:30 and planned to swim to North Avenue and back… about 2.6 miles or so. I’m pretty calm but I can always feel my nerves hit my stomach as I get to the beach. We put our wetsuits on and head into the chill which isn’t actually painful until you actually let the cold water into your wetsuit. I get into the water and take a stroke my heart pounds and I immediately want to run back to the beach and forget that ironman even exists. As I talk myself out of running back I slowly get into a rythym. Once we get to the 1/2 mile mark where the breakwater ends the waves start to get bigger. I feel like an old sock in a washing machine. With each breath I take I hope and pray that as I gasp for air a wave doesn’t hit me the wrong way and cause me to choke. By the time I get to the wall between North and Oak St. the waves are pushing me in what seems every direction but the direction I want to go in. Every now and again I lift my head to make sure I’m actually making progress. Not only am I hit by waves of water I’m also hit by waves of anxiety. I start to question why I’m even out there, I go into some very dark places in my head and want to quit. A couple of years ago I had a bad experience where I had to be saved and carried to shore by another swimmer due to me choking on a wave. I find myself stopping quite often to cough out water and to make sure that i’m still able to breath. I have to say that I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and can usually will myself through anything but when it comes swimming in wavy choppy water I am actually afraid. In general I’m not afraid of water and love the ocean but here I was afraid. I see Coach Chris who had climbed up on the shore to look for us. One of the swimmers (Dave) had already turned back, I swam up to the ladder and decided to get out. April and Steve followed. We walked down to Oak St. beach to complete our swim back to Ohio St. Beach. I don’t feel bad because I look at the water with its dark choppy waves and I realize that for today it controlled me and for that reason I let it win. The following day was a beautiful sunny fall day and I decided that after my run I’d give myself another chance. I even went in without the protection of my floaty wetsuit. September 28th and I went into lake Michigan in my bathing suit and had an amazing albeit chilly 1 mile swim. Win!!!
The rest of the weekend training was pretty low key with a 13 mile run on Saturday and a 50 mile bike ride on Sunday in Highland Park. The weather was perfect! The 13 mile run was pretty tough because I had already ran 5 times in 6 days including a 20 miler the week before. All that running and the cumulative effect of all my other workouts took there toll. Luckily I have my FFC runmonsters that I coach on Saturday mornings which always give me a boost. Here we all are on the jetty at North Avenue beach before the run. Look how lucky we are to get to run with this as a backdrop!
The next few weeks will be a challenge as training and work are both amping up. But I’m up for it!