Open water is a body of water subject to natural elements and all of the randomness this entails. In the ocean or large lakes you have tides, swells, salt, wind and marine life to contend with. The sun can play havoc with you as can boaters. Unless you are very fortunate, open water also generally means opaque water you cannot see in and depths you cannot easily gauge.
There is only one way to combat such an array of forces set against you; you must team up.
Now that I’ve grown a bit, learned a bit, and been around the block, I’ve come to realize, to my great disappointment, I do not indeed know everything. Shocking, right? These days when I seek to conquer something, I pick a mentor. My first stop was contact my Dad’s friend who swam the Cross Bay Swim for his 60th birthday. Let’s call him ‘Bob.’
Bob’s qualifications are much longer, too, than swimming the race at 60. Ignoring his college football career, the guy had already swam the race many times in his youth, winning it at least once. Not a bad resource to have.
Bob and I exchanged emails about practicing and equipment for the first few months I started training. He told me the kind of wetsuit he used (which I ended up buying) and how he trained. By the time we were nearing the 2008 race day, he was all set to spend the next year training to rejoin in 2009! This is the kind of mentor you want to be able to ask questions to. The only way he could have been better suited for me is if we were possessed of anywhere near the same kind of athletic prowess. Writing this post after the fact having swum the Cross Bay in 2009, I can now appreciated the kind of athlete he is. Comparatively, he did absolutely no training for the event! At 60!!! Just goes to show you, winners win. And keep winning.
My Winter Team
After the 2008 race was canceled I found it difficult to keep swimming. Luckily, I started F-Club (see other archives for that explanation), and thus found several friends that wanted to get in better shape and swim. These guys helped me keep focused and having fun while getting my pool miles in over the winter. We must have invented a few dozen oddball training routines to keep the swimming entertaining. This was essential in keeping the training fun and fresh but it also payed great dividends when the time came to swim in open water where new and different muscles are used.
My Spring & Summer Team
When the weather got warmer, and I pulled through my foot surgery, it was time to get into open water. Swimming in open water is a much different sport than pool swimming. The water is darker, vaster, and there are no lanes. Hazards are all over the place and you need to use the buddy system.
With boats, current, tides, and things that go ‘bump’ in open water, you need a kayaker to guide you. Sort of a cross between a lifeguard, a navigator, and a pack mule my kayakers were going to make or break my swim efforts. The kayaker acts serves a purpose of keeping me, the swimmer, out of trouble, provides assistance as needed, and gives the swimmer a point of reference. It takes a lot of energy to lift your head out of the water, sight a point on the coast, and correct your trajectory as needed. I was happy to offload this to the kayaker team!
Once they learned how to lead me, I was able to focus all of my energy on swimming efficiently. This is when I had my biggest breakthroughs in training and endurance ability. Not least because my kayakers kept showing up at my house at all sorts of ungodly hours though out the summer making sure I was in the water training!
Race Event Buddies
Swimming with a clock competing with one hundred people is very different from swimming by yourself or even in team trials. Luckily, several friends helped me out by entering half mile triathlon ‘tune up’ swims as well as other local mid distance (2 mile) swims. Swimming against other people in the madness of an open line start is unlike anything else I have ever tried. I am very happy I had a team to help me learn these critical skills.
My Race Team
My race team could be considered my 2 race day kayakers – Kevin who flew up to NY on his own dime and on his birthday no less – and my father. I am incredibly in their debt as you will read in the upcoming week when I complete my account of the Cross Bay Swim.
My team could also be considered those who came with me at the pre-dawn hours to the starting line to see me and the kayakers off and then meet up, cheering us on at the finish line.
My team could consist of my swim mentor and everyone who helped me train – I certainly believe it does. In reality, it took every training partner I have ever had to complete the swim. Each friend that ever went to the gym with me and told me to do ‘one more rep’ or to add a few more pounds to the bar. The friends that forbid me from quitting or slowing at anytime. And I’m eternally grateful.
Have you ever needed to enlist a team to achieve your goals?