Your first long swim

traildog1traildog1 Member
edited April 2012 in General Discussion
Hi all, my name is Jason. How about a nostalgic thread? Share your stories of your first long swim(s). Whatever 'long' means to you, share it here. I'm no marathoner (yet?), but I started the thread so I'll share my longest continuous swim to date.

My workouts these days tend to total around 4k, 3 or 4 times each week. 4x1000 is common. Anyway, I'd been wanting to do 4k continuously, but I was going to wait for lcm (lcm on weekends, scy on weekdays). Early last week I went to the pool with 2x2k in mind. But at 30 laps (1500 scy) I was feeling good - smooth and relaxed - and didnt particularly want to start counting over! So I decided to go to 50 laps. My shoulders started feeling really good, so 60 about 57 or 58 laps or so I decided I'd go all the way up to 80 (4k scy).

I felt great afterwards. I even wished I'd gone to 100 laps. It was kind of strange when I decided to do the whole 4k at was like I knew all along I was going to do it...

Anyway, how about some of your first long swims?


  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member
    My first year of competitive swimming, I decided to do 1K-2K-4K open water races, right in a row. At the time, I'd only done one open water race, a 2K. I was a natural breaststroker, but I'd only been swimming freestyle for about a year.

    I don't think I did any long continuous swims before the event, and my longest yardage in one practice was 4,000 yards (not meters). A few times, I did more than one swim per day, so I probably got up to about 6,000 yards on those days.

    I expected to have 10 minutes of rest after the 1K and 20 minutes after the 2K. It turned out I was overly optimistic about my times. Also, it took a long time to get from the finish back to the start. So I had almost no rest after the 1K and more like 10 minutes after the 2K.

    That 4K was not fun at all! We were right by a marina, so there was a ton of wake. I wasn't wearing a wetsuit, but I had major chafing on my arm and neck. That was the first time in my life I didn't enjoy swimming. I couldn't even remember why I was out there to begin with. I thought I was so far out of last place that they would pull me. In fact, I was nowhere near last--that was just my mind playing tricks on me. The last place finisher came in about 30 minutes after I did.

    When I got home, I called a friend to tell her the horrible story. She asked what was I doing now. I told her I was putting on sunscreen to go to the pool and swim it off.

    I did the same race a month later, and it was a breeze the 2nd time around.
  • GarbageBargeGarbageBarge NY (Hudson Valley)Mem​ber
    My first long, open water swim was only a mile, but it was the longest I had swum since a one time 1650 in college (between preliminaries and finals of the 200 fly), 21 years earlier. It was the Escape from the Judge in Skaneateles, NY in the Finger Lake of the same name. It's part of a labor day triathlon series they have there every year.

    I was in the area visiting my parents, and decided to email the director the day before the event to see if I could get a spot. I was swimming what would have been my first long distance swim a week later in the 3 mile Hudson River Swim for Life, and I thought the Judge would be a good tune up swim, if I could get in. I checked my email throughout the day, but didn't hear anything. So that night I went out to the Dinosaur BBQ, a Syracuse, NY institution, with my wife and cousins, and went to town on BBQ and Syracuse Pale Ale. Let's just say I wasn't the designated driver. When we got home, around midnight, I checked my email and found out I could possibly get a no show spot, if I showed up early (not supposed to tell anyone that).

    So four and a half hours later, I got up and drove to Skaneateles, registered, and found a bathroom that I could drop 10 pounds in. I was burping up bbq the whole race.

    Did I mention? I didn't have a bathing suit with me when I first inquired about the race. I figured I'd run over to Dick's Sporting and grab one, if I got in. By the time I found out I could swim, it was too late. So I was the guy wearing a pair of basketball shorts, with pockets, cinched down as tight as I could get it. I took a special satisfaction with every racing wetsuit I passed on my way to a mildly hungover 29:51, but I felt like I was pulling a garbage barge.
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    My first was a two mile in 1995 at Lake Audabon in Reston, Va. It was a disaster. I had just learned how to swim - at age 39 - a few months before (I am the poster child for "Fools Rush In..."). Before the race a woman dropped the leg of a picnic table on my foot and broke two toes. At the start there was a man wearing a women's swimsuit - it was one of the "sharkskin" suits, I think, and his reasoning was that having more of his body covered would make him faster. Wading out to the in-water start, I got a fish hook in my foot. During the race, my expensive custom optical goggles (I have rotten eyesight) would not stop leaking. I got kicked in the mouth. I got the extra rope that was holding the turn buoy in-place wrapped around my leg and I had one guy deliberately swim over the top of me. After the race, I needed a tetanus shot because of the fish hook and I am allergic to the shots so I spent 3 days sick as a dog. I said to myself "Never again!". It didn't quite work out that way.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    At the end of 2009 I picked up swimmng in an effort to lose weight and gain some level of fitness. To motivate myself for training (I was doing this entirely on my own) I signed myself up for one of the commercial Alcatraz swims for June 2010 and purchased a wetsuit (I was never going to be one of those crazy people swimming in the bay without a wetsuit - uh uh no way not me). Finally after 9 months of training the day of the big race arrived, and myself and 800 other swimmers boarded two ferries and were shuttled out to just off Alcatraz... and then back to San Francisco again. The day was completely fogged in and Alcatraz was not even visible from the ferry, let alone the end point of the race.

    So my first long swim was a literal non-event :(

    Luckily for me I had in the course of my training discovered the wonderful South End Rowing Club so was able to do my first Alcatraz a month later with the club and then my first without a wetsuit a couple of months after that (apparently I was actually one of those crazy people

    Now two years later I am signed up to do my first first marathon swim in May - the South Head Roughwater Swim and have goals beyond that :) - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • My first long open water swim was 3 years ago in a 5k race in Bacalar Lagoon in Quintana Roo, Mexico. I think I spent the first 1,250 meters thinking what the hell I was doing there, I was freaking out with the pushing, kicking and elbowing going around and really not enjoying it at all; I was worried that someone would kick me in the face and I would loose my goggles.

    Suddenly I noticed it was not as crowded and that I was catching up on people and leaving them behind. So I started to relax and enjoy the swim and my surroundings (Bacalar is a 60km lagoon where you feel you are completely floating in Outer Space. It is known as the 7 colored lagoon and there are points where the color of the water is of an intense dark blue where the only thing you see are your own bubbles and the only thing you hear is your own breathing- It is quite an extraordinary sensation). To make a long story short, I started focusing on a swimmer ahead of me that I wanted to catch up with, once I did that, I focused on another swimmer and so on until I saw the finishing line and then I sprinted towards it. To my surprise and complete delight, I won 3rd in my category (35-40yrs). I was so happy because I was just expecting to finish the race!

    That was my debut in Open Water races...since then I've done quite a few 5k and 10k events and I wish to sometime soon upgrade to 15k or more!
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited April 2012
    It wasn't my first long swim - but it directly inspired my first, tentative forays into OWS races, and eventually marathon swims. I was on vacation in Tuscany in July 2007, and we took a day trip to Cinque Terre - the famous five, cliff-perched towns on the Ligurian coast. The plan was to hike the trail connecting each of the five towns (8-ish miles in one direction, with some ups & downs).

    None of us were in great hiking shape at the time, so by the time we reached the fourth town, Vernazza, our legs were pretty much done. The final segment, from Vernazza to Monterosso, is the longest and most strenuous. We could just hop on the train... but then someone had a bright idea: Why don't we just, uh, swim to Monterosso?


    A 1.5-mile swim vs. a 2-hour hike... heck, we'd probably get there faster anyway! Sounds like a pretty reasonable idea, right?

    My brother and I were totally down with this plan, and started stripping down to our shorts. Our traveling companions, conveniently, were not down with the plan. So we gave them our clothes to transport via train.

    It was a spectacular swim. The Mediterranean was calm, clear, and low-70s - a pleasant change from the high-80s air temp. We lazily made our way up the coast, point-to-point, with leisurely breaks to gaze up at the cliffs. As nobody else was stupid enough to do it this way, we had the place to ourselves.

    A little over an hour later, we rounded the final point and swam into the beach, where our traveling companions (and clothes) were waiting. My armpits had just begun to chafe from the saltwater. Here's a view of the swim route from behind Vernazza, looking toward Monterosso:


    It was, indeed, the road less traveled.
  • dc_in_sf wrote:

    So my first long swim was a literal non-event :(

    I was at the same fogged out 2010 alcatraz swim. It was my first time in salt water and I was also in a wet suit. I had gotten back in the water six months prior, specifically for this even. It had been years prior that I even swam 25 yards, but a friend talked me into it and I was ready. We did the alternate "Breakwater Swim" and I did very good in my age group. So I went back in 2011 and got to check that one off the list of things to do. I want to go back and do it without wetsuit next time, but not this year.

    The first long swim was a 2011 4K lake swim prior to 2011 Alkatraz. And just to lead up to the 4K, there was the 2K event earlier that morning. Both were well attended and was my training for mass start and turns and sighting and dealing with the sun and running into volunteer boaters that couldn't quite figure out how to steer a canoe. It was fun, tiring, exasperating, chafing... all the things I've learned to love about open water. I can't wait to get back there for the 2012 event.
  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    Oh wow! I hiked the cinque terra in 1994, nearly 10 years before I took up swimming. I remember having lunch in the town in the photo, looking at the water and wishing I was in it!
    The first swim that seemed i did that seemed impossibly long at the time was Bonaire 10k in 2006 (I think). The course was basically "swim to the airport tower, swim around the boat moored there, get a drink there and swim back". You could either hug the shore and swim a real 10k or go straight across the deep blue and cut off a little of the distance. I'm a complete chicken but laziness won out and I went straight across and back. There was even a huge rain storm when I was half way back. It seemed like forever but was probably only about 5-10 minutes of floating around without a living soul or land in sight. I chose to tread water rather than swim blindly and it turned out to be a good idea because my now ex husband swam himself completely off course and I beat him by a few seconds. Kinda feel guilty about that....
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber
    I grew up swimming off the dock at my grandparents' lake house in Oklahoma. When I was 10, my mom FINALLY let me take off my life jacket and swim to the buoy- maybe 400 yards away. It was amazing. It wasn't until nearly 15 years later that I did my first true open water race....and I've been hooked ever since. I feel blessed every day to be able to do what I realized I loved at the age of ten.

    @evmo- I hiked the Cinque Terre on my honeymoon in November 2007, just a few months after my first 10k. I remember saying how amazing it would be to swim the trail, rather than hike it. My now ex thought I was crazy and said it was impossible. He still thinks I'm crazy, but I doubt he'd try and tell me it was impossible any more! ;-)
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited April 2012
    @ssthomas, this route is exactly 10km:


    Has been a dream swim of mine for a while...

    PS, the Google Earth labeling software reverses the proper order of Manarola & Riomaggiore... not my fault :)
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber
    @evmo- That would be amazing. We should make this happen!
  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    Perfect-and with great food and wine at the end!
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    My first long swim was when I was 8 years old and swam out past the breakers at Jones Beach alone. The surf was big enough to have lifeguards patrolling thigh deep in the water while others sat on rescue boards along the perimeter of the swimming area. I was immediately hooked.
  • SylleSylle SwedenMember
    Mine was in Lake Annecy (supposed to be one of the cleanest lake in Europe ... the water is so clear that you can see the cans lying 5 meters below the surface!). The local club organizes a swim every year on the 15th of August, there used to be a 1k and a 2.5k (I think there's a 10k now, as part of the World Cup possibly?). I did the 2.5k as a 16 year-old in 2001 having no experience in open-water.

    It all felt very new to me, the chop looked to me like a 3-meter swell and I ended up swim pretty much on my own for the whole race. I remember having a short sample of Elevation by U2 ("Oooooh Oooh, Oooooh ooh-ooh, E-le-va-tion") stuck in my head for a long long while. I liked the whole experience so much that I ended up travelling down to Annecy almost every year on my own until 2006 for my only open-water swim of the year. It didn't occur to me at the time that there might be other lakes/rivers/oceans to cross!
  • nvr2latenvr2late Central VirginiaCharter Member
    @Sylle, I have become aware of Lake Annecy as a friend of mine here in Virginia is a French citizen and grew up near lake Annecy - we enjoy running together and she told me of a marathon in Annecy that I hope to do one year - it is held in April and she also said that the lake was the most pristine Apline lake in Europe - which begs the question - what is the temp of the water when you swim there? Also, the town of Annecy is beautiful - similar to Venice with the canals....
  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest
    Re: Cinque Terre...I had the same idea a few years when stopping at the Manarola...the water looking so I jumped in doing an out and back to next town...unfortunately I didn't drag my cloths with me so swim back and walked out through the nude sunbathers and had a great Italian lunch...thought swimming from town to town would be great...just have a water proof bag for cloths...

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • SylleSylle SwedenMember
    edited April 2012
    @nvr2late I haven't been there in 5-6 years now and back then I was as obsessed with water temperature (and data in general) as I am now ... but I think that 18°C (16 to 20°C) would be an accurate enough estimate. If I remember correctly they were enforcing the use of wetsuits if the temperatures were to drop under ... 16°C? 15°C? Not sure.

    It is a beautiful place, the old town is really pretty, the lake front features nice parks and mountains are all around. Definitely one of my favourite places in the world!
  • My first long swim was 6 hours in Gozo with SwimTrek. It was perhaps too far, too soon in my training, but I did survive. The experience, in the end, was no less than life-changing. No joke. I do believe it is important to have a community of swimmers for support, and to kick you in the ass when you start questioning why on earth you would choose to swim so far.

    If you're at all interested in the program, or you're curious what other people think about when swimming a long way, you can check out my write-up of the experience:
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    Caitlin, if you haven't already, you should add your blog to the blog thread. I've enjoyed reading your entries. Especially the one about Manhattan first and your Malta fun.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • My first open water swims were very short. I was a camp counselor in Vermont and a fellow counselor and I would swim across Miller Pond and back every morning at about 6:30. Quarter mile across, but mystical in the early morning mist with the herons and the beaver. All great except the discovery that since beavers eat a lot of wood, their excrement floats. Not a fine thing to get a mouth full of first thing in the morning.
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    JonML wrote:
    All great except the discovery that since beavers eat a lot of wood, their excrement floats. Not a fine thing to get a mouth full of first thing in the morning.

    I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. Thank you!


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • The summer I turned 8, we went to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Nevada while they were living there for a two year government assignment. Since it was a long trip, my mom postponed our membership to swim team for another year (I'd been begging since I was 6, but she thought I was too young for organized sports...8 was old enough, but not if we were missing half the season). When we got to Lake Tahoe, I was amazed. No one would go in the water, but it was so pretty. Earlier that day or week, we had to go to my cousins' swim lessons, and I had to sit in the sun and watch and NOT GO IN THE WATER (omg, painful). They were not good swimmers. It was just torture. When we got to Tahoe, I just took off. Swam striaght out. Gave everyone a heart attack. I turned around when I decided I swam enough...I know at this time I could swim 200 yards (I had just passed the highest Red Cross test that included a 200 yard swim with no problem), so I probably swam at least 200 yards out, but maybe more because I remember swimming far away enough that I couldn't see anyone.
    Then I turned around, swam back, and had to sit on the beach on time out. But it was SO worth it.
  • gtswimgtswim PennsylvaniaMember
    I only started competitive swimming in 8th grade and the longest event was a 100 free. In 9th grade, on the high school team, I swam the 500 with a goal of being able to do all flip turns for the full race by the last meet.

    In 11th grade, a river festival was re-started in my town and it included a 2-mile downriver swim (I don't think it was actually two miles). I entered and place in the top three that year and won in my senior year.

    In college my freshman year, we went to Ft Luaderdale over the winter break to train and our coach made us enter an 1-mile ocean swim.

    No other OW swims until 4 years ago when I entered a 2.5k lake swim. Last year I did a 5k lake swim and will be doing the GCBS this year.

    If all goes well at GCBS I'm looking at entering the "marathon" distances.
  • GCBS was my gateway drug too...I remember wanting to do Potomac after my first year and my mom said "Are you crazy?? That's seven miles!!"
    It's an addiction, I tell ya. GCBS will go great, then you will be addicted to harder things...that last get your high.
  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    For me the gateway was Little Red Lighthouse 10K. I remember getting berated by my brothers and family from North Jersey (Bergen County) saying that I would run into dead bodies in the Hudson...lucky for me, I justified that most of the Mafia and other crime gangs probably used anchors (or at least the poor man's version = cinder blocks) and most of them are chained to the river floor! Mind you I now know that any bodies that are in there are likely to be flushed out the Verrazano Narrows quite quickly and are more likely to come ashore on Coney Island or Sandy Hook! For me that ADDICTION led to swimming around Cape Island (Cape May) and completing many ultramarathon swims (above 20 miles) in South Jersey and beyond!
  • Kevin_in_MDKevin_in_MD Senior Member
    I was a basketball player all through school and my recreation was men's basketball leagues. They got rid of the league where I worked and I had 3 months with nothing to exercise for and got really out of shape. Christmas vacation my dad called me out on it and I decided to do that "Chesapeake Bay Swim" I had heard about on the radio.

    But the "long" swim I remember the most was about 3 weeks into training. I was down there every day, the basement pool at the local Bally's. Like many adult onset swimmers I could go 25 yards at a stretch when i started, eventually to 50 and was fighting my way up to 125 at the time. I would get uptight and tense as i went, again like most adult onset swimmers.

    On this particular day I started with the intention of doing the 125 of whatever I could do until I got so out of breath I had to stop. But i got going and started thinking about something else I guess, relaxed and after a little while realized "I've gone 200 yards already." and I didn't need to stop.

    I think I swam another 200 and realized i still didn't need to stop.

    That 400 yard swim in a pool was my first "long" swim and was a huge breakthrough, the day I relaxed in the water. I remember it well and remember it fondly.
  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member
    I can't remember which one came first, but I was 10 when I swam my first 1650 time trial, my first 5000 yard swim-a-thon and my first official OWS.

    I had no idea how far 1650 was, but coach said I was going to swim it at a time trial meet. I said "tell me when to stop swimming" and I think I stopped a few times to ask "am I there yet?" because it seemed like I was swimming forever. I think it took me around 30 minutes and I finally had a team age group record on the board.

    I didn't think I could swim 200 lengths at the swim-a-thon, I thought maybe 70 was realistic. 5000 yards turned out to be no problem but I had to fight my dad for the last potato at dinner time. I cleaned up on the fundraising..... and learned about sandbagging!

    Our team also organized an OWS which was a time trial in Lake Sammamish. We jumped off a boat at intervals and swam up the slough, 1/2 a mile, to Marymoor Park. It was super gross and full of milfoil, so I swam breaststroke the entire route. I think I still have the certificate they gave out for finishing.

    When I turned 14, I quit swimming because I was frustrated that I wasn't getting any faster. I wish my coach had been able to recognize that I was a distance swimmer, but I don't believe much thought was given to a (girl) kid swimming more than 200 yards back then.

    I've been open water swimming for 20 years and I'm just (finally) getting around to my first 10K race this summer, although I don't think of 10K as being all that long. I'm contemplating SCAR for 2016, to celebrate turning 50. Now that will be a long swim.

    I love reading everyone's stories!

    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • Cole_GCole_G PhiladelphiaMember
    My first long swim was a 5k open water race at the Southern Zones Open Water Championships in 2007. I was only 15 years old and had only began to excel at swimming over the last year, so it was my first time to be selected to a championship team. My team (South Texas) traveled to Houston for the 4 day championship meet which included all the regular pool events plus a 3k and 5k open water swim. Now unlike the rest of the teams competing my team had a lovely rule that EVERY swimmer on the team, regardless of what events you normally raced, had to compete in the open water swim. And lucky me they had a rule that the youngins did the 3k and anyone 15 or older did the 5k.

    Now although I had decent open water experience, I had never raced open water, and certainly never swam any race of this length. It was a short 1k course in a teeny tiny pond somewhere in Houston with 0 visibility because of how dirty it was. Right at the start I got shoved under water and had to hold my breath for about 30 second or so til there was a gap for me to come back up. I struggled through the swim the best I could, passing almost no one and putting up anything but an impressive time.

    At the time I hated the experience, but looking back on it, I love it. It is what made me decide to give open water swimming a real try starting this past year. A lot like @jcmalick, the Little Red Lighthouse 10k was my real gateway though. I got tired of being a lazy ex college swimmer last year and decided to sign up for that race thinking "Oh I did that 5k when I was 15, a 10k can't be that much harder." Well I got back in the water and trained semi-hard for it, and much to my shock I won it. Admittedly the win is tainted because I wore a wetsuit (not my idea, but was enforced by a very scary Mom/ Girlfriend combo that was worried I would get hypothermia). But this year I am looking to try my hand at my first real marathon with the 10 mile at Kingdom Swim in Vermont, and defend my title at the Little Red Lighthouse 10k (this time the honorable way, without a wetsuit).
  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNSenior Member
    I did several triathlons and was regularly in the top 10% getting out of the water with little to no swim training, then fell to the bottom 1/3 of the pack by the end of the race. The clue light went off to skip the last 2 events and focus on swimming. I went to Las Vegas on a work trip in 2012 and again, on a whim, I entered the 1.2 mile at Slam the Dam without training and did fairly well. It sparked the bug and I found a team shortly afterwards. While I'm still new to the world of OW swimming and marathon, I'm really enjoying it. It has been fun, so far, learning from y'all by lurking on this site.
  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member
    Foreward: My father had a saying: "Son, you don't have to be good at everything, but you've got to be the best at something." In his own way, he was saying that in order to survive adolescence I needed something to earn the respect of my peers. My brother and I joined a swim team when I was 6 and he was 7. We were pretty good, so my dad decided this would be our "thing." In order to "help," he took us to the lake every Sunday and once we were exhausted from skiing, he would toss us overboard and drive the boat 30 feet in front of us. He would keep that boat just out of reach for HOURS without emotion or mercy. No amount of crying or begging would work. Even my mom would start crying and pleading eventually.

    But I by God learned stroke efficiency!! :D

    My First Time: So when I was 8 or 9, our swim team had a "swim-a-thon" fundraiser where we solicited pay-by-the-lap pledges from our neighbors. There were three goals on the pledge card: "100 laps, 200 laps or 300 laps." We were supposed to pick one and tell our prospective donors. I had no idea what my goal should be, so I circled the middle one: "200 laps." Seemed reasonable. I was the youngest kid on the team. 300 must have been for the big kids.

    On the day of the event, I lost count immediately. So I figured I'd just keep swimming until I got tired. I never looked up. Swim, flip, swim, flip. I don't remember ever feeling tired, but I did notice the pool getting less and less crowded. And then someone grabbed my foot mid-turn. It was coach. He was laughing. Said I had to stop now. I looked around and it was just me, my brother, coach and dad. Even the big kids were gone. Not finished--GONE. Dried off, packed up, gone. No one else was in the pool or even in the natatorium. He said we were both over 400 laps (SCM--so over 10K), but he had to lock up now. It took years for me to realized the significance of what my brother and I had done. I was more trying to figure out why everyone else left so soon.

    Say what you want about the old-school dads, but mine gave me a skill that I always appreciate and I give him all the credit. Plus, now that he's 83, its payback time! He's fit like Jack Lalaine, but he's having to cut back on his running/weights and replace them with swimming. So now we do lake swims together and I get to punish him! I like to tell him, "QUITCHYER SNIVELLIN!!" He has a better sense of humor now than he used to...

    "Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Have brought be down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • CoachDCCoachDC Member
    My qualifier for my first EC swim took two tries. Neither was tough for nutrition, temperature, or body aches. The first one ended abruptly after my support boat broke down. They told me to keep going, and a half mile later, I couldn't even see them and was alone in the middle of a big lake. Some boaters came by and waved, but didn't offer any help to the random man in the middle of the water. Eventually, a power boat towing my crew along showed up and I was told a rough storm was rolling in.
    The second try was in Lake Superior, and I did a small loop over and over and over to get my 6 hours in 57 degrees. I think that was probably the best mental training I've ever done. It was drizzling, and dreary, but the water was crystal clear and I got to know each fish-heavy spot and algae-covered rock.
  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member
    edited May 2014
    My first long OW swim(s) were when I was at Camp Chikopi up in Canada during the summer of 1980. This is the time I learned that my future as a swimmer was in OW. I was wanting to do more, but my pool coach wanted nothing of this nonsense.

    Chikopi is pretty much a 100% sports camp focusing on swimming and running. Lots of other sports to full the time during the day, which further confirmed that I would only be a swimmer.

    Camp was run by ISHOF icons Buck Dawson and Bob Duenkel. Bob is now the owner/director. I went back there last summer to visit and show the campers my EC video. I also got to coach a few OW workouts as well as race the kiddies in their Chikopi mile. I got second to a 17 year-old camper by :05. He was surprised that a fat and injured old guy could keep up. I was about :60 faster than my 1980 time and :45 slower than my 1997 time when I took the US Swimming National Team training camp there as their coach.

    The last of 7 weeks was a canoe trip, which was 4 days and 3 nights. There was about 4 hours of paddling a day and even had to go through some locks connecting Ahmic Lake to another one (forgot the name). I swam the entire canoe trip. Maybe 20 miles over those four days. I remember one local kid throwing rocks at me as I passed his house. There was also a huge rope swing we stopped at both ways.

    Racing-wise it was the Atlantic City 37K on 1995. I was fortunate to get second overall. My inexperience was actually an advantage. I cramped up at the 1995 25K Pan Pac trials in Lake Lanier, GA in mid-June. It was 5x 5K loops in 84 degree water. I wanted that sucker wrapped up by the end of the first 5k. I was out in about 55-57 minutes after the first loop and right on 2 hours after 10K. I didn't see the 15K mark. I cramped up in my quads, hammies, and calves all at the same time. I had to be rescued by one of my kayakers (I had a two-place kayak with me). I have a 24 hour gap in my memory because the next thing I remember was being at the finish-line of a triathlon the next day. This is the race where I learned that hot water would be my constant nemesis.

    I gained a lot of knowledge the week of the Atlantic City swim leading up to the race by Karen Burton, who kicked OW ass for a long time. She was very eager to help and advised me about how to handle myself with respect to the other swimmers and a problematic swimmer at that race who I'll call "Dave".

    I was a late entry into Atlantic City, so I had to swim as an amateur with Dave who was an old rival of mine as a kid . He just came off of a win at a salt water 20K and was very vocal about ripping the other swimmers for being slow. He was a sub-16 minute 1500 swimmer. He also petitioned the race director and swimmers for us to be eligible for price $$$. The contracts between the race and swimmers had already been signed, so it wasn't going to happen. I didn't sign it. I was successful in keeping my distance from him and avoid being an "ugly American".

    The day before the swim we were at the "Flying Cloud" restaurant at the start/finish line. He was commenting again on the other swimmers for being slow and having inferior technique. He told me that he was going to win and that I would get second. He advised that his strategy was to sprint the ocean leg, which was the first 10 miles from Brigantine Channel to Longport jetty. Dave would then throttle down and cruise to victory.

    My gear for the swim was a Speedo Aquablade brief, latex cap, and Speedo Sprint goggles consistent with the other swimmers. Dave was wearing a 26/28" "paper" suit brief and Swedish goggles. No cap.

    The escort boats were beach rescue two person dory boats with oars on both sides, so the swimmer had to swim behind it. So, it was draft legal and my finger tips hit the back constantly. This is where I ripped up my shoulder because I had to lift my head to see the boat over the 7h17m swim.

    My trainer Craig told me that Dave was "making his move" about 40 mins into the swim. Craig then told me that he was no longer forcing the pace about 60 mins into it.

    20 minutes into the swim I ran into a Lions Mane jelly face first. It then scooted down my body and stung everything. Even my mouth was stung. This took my mind off of things for several hours because it hurt so much.

    I went into Longport in fourth place. The incoming tide there was the fastest water I've ever raced in. It made Manhattan look slow. The ocean leg was about 3 hours.

    By the time I hit the Dorsett Avenue bridge I had moved into second place and stayed there until the end (with one exception).

    The lessons learned in Atlanta paid off here. Slow and steady wins the race (or gets you second). I made my feeds 12 minutes apart. I also started getting weird pains that I found intriguing along with peeing in my suit, which was absent at 25K Nats.

    Turning from the Back Bay to Brigantine Channel had us going into a strong headwind a bit from our left. It pushed us into the reeds making things difficult. Craig kept telling me to stick behind the boat on multiple occasions. At one point I stopped, stood up, and yelled "I'm doing the best I F-ing can!!"

    With about 1200 meters to go we passed Harrahs Casino on our right. I was ahead of an Argentinian swimmer by about a minute or so. Next thing I see is him running on the Harrahs boat dock, passing me, and diving in ahead about 25 meters.

    To back up a bit, Craig and I reconned the finish area; specifically the Brigantine Bridge. The bridge there today replaced one which had wavy metal sheets pounded into the ground and once filled with boulders making up the foundation of the bridge. The sheets had two holes just big enough to swim through and cut off over 100 meters. It was legal in this race to do this, So I did and kicked the argentine's butt.

    There are several hundred people at the finish line. It was cool to hear them all chant "USA USA" as I came in.

    When I got out of the water I was taken to the rehab area under a tent. Attila Molnar of Hungary won the swim and was about 10(?) minutes ahead of me. He was laying down on a cot and his face was all cut up from hitting a barnacle encrusted piling that he ran into. He also had one of those Mylar space blankets warming him up.

    We had bad weather all day. When I was under the tent a gust of wind lifted up the tarp and the middle pole fell out of its grommet in the center. The pole fell toward me and bopped me on the head. I was too sore to move and my reflexes were somewhere in Longport. I was able to get out. Attila wasn't so lucky. You could see his outline under the blue tarp. Poor guy was trapped.

    I ate and drank for free that night.

    I'm guessing you're wondering about what happened to Dave?

    A motorized rescue boat brought him in about 45 mins after I finished. I was able to talk to him when he was in the back of the ambulance before they took him to the hospital for hypothermia. His eyes looked beat up too from the Swedes.

    The race director had me staying at the Showboat casino for the week. On my way to the race that morning the hotel elevator had a banjo version of the "All In the Family" theme "Those Were the Days" on a continuous loop. It was with me for the entirety of the swim.

    When I went too bed I surrounded myself with every available pillow in the room. I couldn't believe how bad I hurt. After a while of trying to sleep, I quit forcing it, got dressed, and went to the casino floor. Low and behold, Dave was there playing blackjack. He congratulated me on my second place swim and by being his only accurate prediction that week. He told me about how his swim went sideways and got cold. He was embarrassed and humbled by things that week.

    The AC "Around the Island Swim" is still the hardest race I've ever done. If this was a 10, the EC was a 6.
  • msathletemsathlete Victoria, British Colubia, CanadaMember
    My first long swim was 6 years ago at Thetis Lake in Victoria, Canada. I was a pool swimmer at the time and had done 1500 swims but I hadn't been in a lake since I was a kid and had never done any open water swimming. I opted for the shortest distance. It was 1500m and seemed so long without the flip turns. I made it though : )

    I am officially hooked. I have been open water swimming ever since, increasing my distance each year. This summer I will attempt a 70km swim at Cowichan Lake, Vancouver Island, Canada.

    I highly recommend open water swimming, whatever the distance!
  • gregorywannabegregorywannabe Senior Member
    My first "long" :) ows was 1.6km at the Rottnest Swim Thru. It started with stories around the dinner table with friends, many of whom were Masters swimmers and experienced open water swimmers. A non-swimmer husband told the story of his 1st attempt, off no training, on the day thinking "I reckon I could do that" and did. He did it without goggles, in boardshorts, and was DFL but was cheered in by everyone (many hundreds) when he finished.

    Anyhoo, I (and the alcohol) said "OK I can do that too". I mean, I had 4 weeks to train before the swim so shouldn't be a problem. I was very fit, running lots and playing Aussie Rules footy. I had never swim >50m non-stop though, and had never done any swim training ever. A friend in the masters club offered to swim with me on the day, and I'll never forget her for doing that. It took me/us 42+ minutes, but it got me started I guess. I still use this swim as a benchmark of where I am swimming wise. The following year 37mins, then 34, 31 and so on until the last one 26+ mins. No speed daemon but better. Of course I'm doing longer swims as well now, quite a few 5ks and so far one 10k, and in Feb 2015 I'm hoping to do the Rottnest Channel Swim solo.

    I now swim more km per week than I used to run. If someone had told me that 10years ago I would have said they're bonkers.


    P.S. In all my non-swimming years I knew many Master swimmers as my wife was a life-long club member/swimmer. I knew many of them had done ows and some had done the Rottnest Channel solo, but at the time I had no appreciation of their achievements. I think it's actually quite hard to appreciate athletic endevours and achievements unless/until you are involved yourself to some extent. I look back in awe now at a good mate (we were each others best man) who had done 10 Rotto solos before I started swimming.
  • ToddEToddE San Antonio, TXMember
    My first ow swim was the South End Rowing's annual Alcatraz swim in Sep 09. It is a point to point approx 1 mile. The distance was not a concern as I have been all my life and been in Master's and competed for the last 15 years. The concern was the typical, dark, cold (63 deg and with a wetsuit) water. I did wear a wetsuit as I am from Texas and this is very cold to us. I had a great time stopping to view Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Wharf area from the middle. I was happy but not really satisfied this was really ow swimming, I mean 1600 (approx) not much distance. I set my eyes on the Waikiki Roughwater (2.4) for 2011. I was traveling to Honolulu 3-4 times per year on business and would swim with the Waikiki Swim Club and my confidence and relaxation in the ow grew at an amazing rate. So I did the Roughwater in an 1:07:00. Non-wetsuit, okay water temp was approx 74 degrees. So I have been looking for another swim, joined this forum a couple of years ago to see about marathon swimming. So last year in 2013 I decided that since I was headed to New Palz, NY for a Total Immersion Coaches Summit I'd look at the 8 Bridges swim that started the previous year. I knew Dave Barra from some ow clinics with TI and knew of his ow accomplishments. Since he was the co-race director along with Rhondi Davies I knew this was going to be a well done swim. Since I had never forayed into this kind of distance before, outside of the USMS 10K postal done in the pool, I looked for the shorter stage, Stage 3 - 13.2 miles. After many consultations with Dave I did this swim. First time with support crew and kayaker and feedings. It was a great experience and well run, supported. The encouragement from everyone, including the other 2 swimmers was outstanding.

    So I really consider Stage 3, 8 Bridges, as my first marathon swim. I've been looking for the next rung.
  • Mike_GemelliMike_Gemelli Rutherford, NJMember
    My first "long swim" was actually the first organized swim race I ever entered. As a swimming race newbie, I was clueless. I showed up at the pier on the West Side highway in NYC with my cousin to act as my swim "caddie." Little did I know NYCSWIM events were so well run that all you had to do was check your bag and they took care of the rest.

    I disrobed just before the start and my cousin took off in his car to meet me at the finish. The race was great, 1.5 miles of incredible sunrise vistas of the water and lower Manhattan skyline made the swim seem short. Before I knew it I was at the finish and pumped with adrenaline on the completion of the race. After walking down the line and getting congratulated, rinsed and awarded with a medal I walked away from the crowd to find my cousin along with my towel and warm clothes. The effects of the cool water(58F) were starting to kick in and I started to shiver in my speedo. My cousin was nowhere to be seen when another swimmer approached me. Paul Kiell, I would find out, is a veteran of the NYCSWIM events. Immediately he gave me his towel and hoodie and asked how I was doing. We had a long conversation, one that I've had with many OW swimmers since. You know, where you feel like these people are family you've never met and that you've become part of a secret society of super humans. Paul's kind act and words made it easy to see why swimming was something I wanted to be a part of my life until I leave this world.
  • I have been swimming since 2010 as part of triathlon. Not long into it I realized that most triathletes are not very good swimmers. After a few years I decided to concentrate on one sport and try to get good at it. My progress is slow but very rewarding. First long swim was last years Swim to Alligator Lighthouse in the Florida keys.
  • suziedodssuziedods Mem​ber
    Okay .. here goes and for those of you that know me no need to read.:)
    My first long swim was Lake Tahoe. Sand Harbor to Chambers Landing.1986 The route of the original OC Tahoe Relays, about 14 miles, across the middle of the lake. I had been on a relay or two, I can't honestly remember and was hooked. Even though I had to sit out my 10 min slot due to being seasick.( Little did I know then you could puke and still swim). At any rate, one of my many mentors Dave Kenyon, was training for the swim solo. He succeeded and encouraged me to try. I swam more in the pool ( a few tearful pool sessions that even a rubber ducky on the pool side didn't help) I was soo tired. ( little did I know)
    I started at 3 in the morning , w Dave Kenyon and my coach Marie McSweeney in the boat, a rib or zodiac , that's it. ( again, little did I know!). I ALMOST made it! ALMOST. I was probably about 1.5 miles from shore, maybe two, again, no gps no nada. I got cold. I pulled myself. 30min later , on shore , I was warm. If I had known... I'm pretty sure I could have made it. However, that first ( not last) failure taught me sooo much.
    You can do more than you think you can,when you think you can't.! Preparation is everything and at the same time, nothing. Mentors are amazing people. If Dave had not encouraged me, if Marie hadn't volunteered to be in the boat... if if if. I would have never started on this journey.
    If I had succeeded on a the first try? I probably would have not learned as much.
    You never forget your first swim.
  • My longest non-stop swim was indoors actually.

    5KM punishment by our club coach. Took the entire practice. After a while you feel like your having an out of body experience. It was pretty cool. Though that first 2KM is a bit of a hump.
  • PaddlesPaddles Member
    My first biggish swim was the Kapiti Island swim just north of Wellington, NZ. It's a 5.6 km job but was a real test (especially for an ex pool sprinter!). I still can't remember how I got roped in to it or even agreed to it but I think alcohol was to blame. It was 1997 and I had retired from competitive swimming a mere 15 years beforehand, under-trained and severely out of shape, it was without doubt the most I'd been out of my comfort zone. The water was a cool 17 degrees but I managed 4th spot which I was more than happy with. Which begs the question; why the hell did I do it the following year when the water had dropped to 12 degrees? On entering the water my brain informed me that this was far from normal behaviour and the decision was made for me after 30 minutes of slapping the water with my stumpy arms (for I could not feel my hands) that I should withdraw to the boat for my own safety. The swell was horrific which made keeping track of both boat and landmarks an exercise in futility and I really did fear for my well-being (there were serious post-mortems on why the race went ahead but hey ho.)
    Skip forward to 2014, 3 months post total hip replacement and I am now in training for the Malta/Gozo this August. Just Googled the water temp in Malta in August.....27 degrees. Aaaaaahhhh bliss.

    Wish me luck.

  • @Paddles good luck!
  • SlowPokeSlowPoke Member
    edited May 2014
    Good luck in Malta Paddles.

    I have a question about Kapiti - is it invitational? I had a feeling it might be. If so, how does that work. I've driven past Kapiti Island once or twice a year over the last 12 years or so and that water can be ROUGH! However it looks absolutely beautiful on a calm day.
  • PaddlesPaddles Member
    Hey SlowPoke, to be honest I can't remember if you need to be registered with an affiliated organisation or what. I do recall that the 2nd time I 'swam' it I was part of a 4 man team in which 3 of the team need to cross the line in order to be awarded a time (just quietly, I was hoping another team member succumbed to the conditions to take the onus off me for wimping out; none of us finished). I just read that if the water is below 16 degrees then wetsuits are permitted,probably as a result of that fateful day.
    Don't be fooled by the serene appearance of a calm day either, it's an evil stretch of H2O! It aint called Windy Wellington for nothing so the chances of no chop on the day is pretty hit and miss.

    Give it a go though, you may strike one of the 5 days a year there's no wind!


  • Are there five wind-free days? Must have been a good year for weather then! I'm in Aus but go to NZ every year or so to see the rellies and I was there about 7-or-so years ago for the 100 year storm that knocked out power, rail, houses in rivers, etc. and this was Summer! So I have set the bar very low when it comes to NZ weather.

    I swim open water here, but stick to Freyburg pool in Wgtn, apart from a brief splash in Lyall Bay - that makes you know you're alive!

    I've had Kapiti in the back of my mind for a while, but TBH I think I'd need a lot more cold water experience first -ie more than 'none', which is where I'm currently at!

    And it sounds like you were at least in good company the year you didn't finish - no shame in that knowing the conditions.

    Thanks for the info.
  • My first swim was a 2.5km swim across the mouth of the main shipping lane in the port of Santos, Brazil. We had a strong OW scene down there but the races were too short, rarely longer than 2-2.5k. This race started off the beach then steamed in a straight line down the beach and across the entrance channel to finish by an old fort on the far side. Fairly plain jane but the port authority only gave us 45 minutes to complete the swim before they opened the channel again and it was spookie to see the big container ships stop what seemed like a few hundred metres away. We all registered good times!

    What was significant was it was my first OW swim. Suddenly it was serious, I was committed. The week before I drove from Sao Paulo where I was living to a beach with roped buoys running the length of the beach, 400m offshore. I swam up and down the buoys and every evil thought, every nasty sharp toothed beast that lived in the sea or never had done, flashed through my mind. All my (perfectly normal) demons came out on that practise swim. I did the full 2+km with a great sense of achievement. Not only had I conquered the required distance at a good pace but more importantly I had conquered my demons. I raced in Santos the following week full of confidence and have never worried about creatures of the deep since. Small race but big moment.
  • By the way, for the Cinque Terre fans (I walked it many years ago as well...) take a look at this:

    click on the Sea Trekking tab at the top. The 20k is my 2016 bucket list swim. :-)
  • BrendanOBrienBrendanOBrien Cork, IrelandMember

    My first big swim was Galway Bay this summer, you can read all about it here:

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    Thanks @brendanobrien for reviving this thread. I just spent a little time reading not only your account, but the many other tales of glory and woe. It got me think about what was my first long swim and I think I know which one that was.

    To frame things correctly, I will say that I was 17 at the time and now I’m older and I think maybe a little smarter. But please keep this in mind as I relate this tale.

    My friend Colin and I were on the swim team together. Colin was basically a slab of muscle and he would fill a doorway. He was an unbelievable breast stroker and all around powerful dude. I was not. But I was in pretty good swim team shape, and we were good friends so that was that. One day, Colin called me up to tell me that he had just bought a Sailfish sailboat and did I want to go out for a sail. Colin was the instigator of too many adventures to list here, but this obviously was the beginning of another one. I wasn’t doing anything and so I signed up.

    The fact that he wanted to go sailing in Long Island Sound and it was mid-March didn’t really seem like a bad idea at the time. For those of you who don’t know, a Sailfish is not unlike a paddle board with a pole and a sail mounted on it. So this is maybe not the best craft for ice-biting in the Sound, but like I said, we were 17. Colin showed up at the house with his new somewhat used Sailfish on his car and off we went to the beach.

    We got to the beach and got the boat off the car and down to shore. We figured out how to rig up the sail and got ready to go. It was pretty windy with a fairly stiff breeze blowing out to the Sound. It was also pretty cold, but we were going for it anyway. We had to take our shoes off and roll our jeans up to launch and then we were off. The wind just made the boat fly and we were crashing through waves and enjoying the yachting life.

    We were considering whether we should go all the way across to the island, but in a rare moment of actually thinking things through, we decided that maybe that wasn’t a good idea. So we decided that maybe we should turn around into the wind. And that’s when I found out that Colin had no idea how to sail a boat. To be fair, nor did I. I knew we had to “come about” and then we would “tack” into the wind. But I really wasn’t sure of the mechanics. So after some debate, we decided to turn the darn thing and see what happened. That’s when we capsized.

    I should probably mention that our sailing attire consisted of our slightly wet jeans, t-shirts under our flannel shirts and, well that was basically it. Life jackets were an option that Colin had forgone for this maiden voyage. So there were were, in the drink with a capsized Sailfish, about a mile offshore. We thought it was pretty funny. Cold, but funny. So we righted the craft. Here is where it was helpful that Colin was strong as an ox. We scrambled on board and somehow managed to point the thing in the right direction and there we were, sailing sort of into the wind. We were tacking! Well, we were until we decided we needed to come about. That’s when we turned and capsized again. Not quite as funny this time. The wind was chilling us and so the water almost seemed warm, but it was a little tougher getting the boat righted. We sort of aimed it in the right direction and then scrambled aboard.

    We continued this “tacking” maneuver for I can’t tell you how many times. Each plunge becoming more dreadful than the previous one. Each time we got back on board, the wind made us colder and we were starting to consider just staying in the water and swimming the boat in. Or maybe even leaving the stupid boat. We were getting so cold that we could barely hold onto anything and talking was becoming difficult. All this time, neither of us were panicking. There wasn’t a single boat out there beside us. Hmmmm… But we were just gutting it out at this point. We had swum many practices together and we weren’t really the complaining type, so we just kept tipping, recovering, shivering and getting closer to shore.

    Finally after probably a couple hours, we somehow got to shore. Neither of us could talk. We were so cold we couldn’t make our muscles move. We staggered to his car and got in to warm up. We sat there for quite some time in pain and silence. After a while we decided to get the boat back on top of the car. This in itself was a struggle because we really had nothing left. We finally got it up there and drove home.

    Only much later upon reflection I realize that if we weren’t young and stupid swimmers we probably would have drowned and a Sailfish would have been found mysteriously floating somewhere out in Long Island Sound. I would like to say that this is what got me into open water swimming, but it’s not.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited October 2016

    Sure, I'll take a turn!

    First off, as a kid, I learned to swim mostly in the Great South Bay (did have some pool swimming lessons, but my memory of them is vague). The instructor was hard-core. The bay could be choppy. It could be chilly (from a kid's perspective). As long as there was no lightning, swimming lessons were on. And I always enjoyed swimming in the bay when I visited as an adult. But I had fewer and fewer opportunities. And after a while, swimming was just something I did to help me stay in shape when I had running injuries. During a rather stubborn foot injury, however, I couldn't race for about a year, and I began to miss the camaraderie, the competition--the t-shirts. :)

    As usual, I was swimming, and one day I noticed at my Y a flyer for a mile open water swim. By then, I was able to swim a mile in the pool, but I was pretty slow (still am, but anyway...). ;) So I looked up the last place time of the previous year, to ensure that I could finish before they all closed up and went home. The time listed was 45 minutes. And at the time, it took me about an hour to swim a mile, some of it breaststroke. So I worked my way into swimming the whole mile freestyle, then aimed to go a little faster--and a little faster still. until finally, I reached that magic mark of 45 minutes.

    I didn't at the time have a coach or belong to any masters' swim group, but there was a great lifeguard working in the early morning, a triathlete and an excellent swimmer. He gave me some great feedback on my stroke and encouraged me to enter the swim, which I did.

    When race day arrived, I was nervous--everyone looked like an expert, and I knew no one. (When I went to running events, I always ran into friends.) My bf at the time had gone with me but other than that, I didn't know a soul. And although it was a bay swim, so pretty similar to conditions in which I'd learned, I had no clue about any procedure.

    One of the swimmers said people were heading out to the start, so I went with them. Then we were called back. There was a meeting we had to attend before the start. So back we went. And then they sent us out. But I had to hurry; the start was coming right up, and the start line about 150-200 yards from shore. So I added a few hundred yards to this "mile" swim. And although I had improved my speed, the other swimmers were still faster; the start signal sounded when I was still about ten yards away.

    And everyone shot off, except yours truly, who was in plodding mode. This too wasn't my running experience, where I was always around mid-pack. And at first I wondered if I really was too far outclassed to be in this race. However, I made the trip and t-shirts were given out before we started. I sure wasn't going to wear mine unless I'd actually completed the swim. So I decided, to swim until I either finished or someone kicked me out for being too slow.

    Eventually, I fell into a rhythm, and a very nice kayaker showed up and began encouraging me, telling me I had a great stroke (I didn't really believe him--but I ate it up anyway, desperate for whatever positive talk anyone offered). In any case, I began enjoying the experience. It was a gorgeous day, warm and sunny, and the water temp, as I recall was comfortable enough.

    Eventually, I closed in on the finish, and ran up to shore--assuming I'd finished last, but not worried about that, just glad I finished. Then I heard cheering, and when I turned to see why, there was one other person coming in.

    That was in 2002. Not long afterward the running injury started healing, and I was able to return to foot races, so swimming went back on the shelf, but that race awakened in me an interest that I later pursued--in 2005, when a masters' group formed at my Y, and the coach talked me into an ocean swim.

    Are you kidding, I told him--I don't do ocean swims! But he was persuasive and eventually I did the swim he wanted me to do. I even finished several places ahead of last. Then I was hooked. Someone suggested I try the Great South Bay Swim. "How long is that?" I asked. "Oh, five miles." NO way! I couldn't swim that far.... except I did... in 2007, 2010, 2014, and 2015. My first DNF for Great South Bay was this year, but this year, I completed the Valley Forge Marathon Swim, an 8 miler and my longest distance.

    That one mile race planted the seed. Now... I'm thinking of maybe some longer distances!

  • nitelingniteling Victoria, BC, CanadaMember
    edited May 2017

    My first long swim was very recent (May 21st), and doing it is what spurred me to get back on this forum.

    A month or two ago I got back into the water after a long break, and was at first unsure how much retraining I would need to do. In my previous stint at this, I'd worked my way up to doing 4 km in the pool once, but never attempted anything longer than 1 km outdoors. In my mind the pool distances don't really "count" because of all the direction changes. (The other issue I have with pools is that it takes me a lot of mental effort to not lose count of laps, so I'm never quite sure how far I've gone...)

    Even after I got my schedule sorted out enough to have time for swimming again, I was able to go a few times but then I ran into a mental block with water entry once it thawed -- I know this was 100% mental, because when there was ice, I was doing this without much difficulty:


    (Photo taken by a passing hiker who said, "Dude! I need a picture of this or no one will ever believe me when I tell them what I saw!" My ego does appreciate that kind of attention...)

    So I could do that, but liquid water with no ice on it? Eeek, too cold. Very strange and frustrating, and that further shook my confidence about being able to do longer swims.

    After a few more trips to the lake, though, and one to the ocean, I got over that. (The ocean trip was on a windy day and that helped a lot -- you just get in and the next wave forces the issue. Once I was in I acclimatised at the usual rate, and the ocean was colder than the lake, so I told myself if I could do it there...)

    Then, the long swim: It was Thetis Lake in Victoria, BC (same as @msathlete). The weather was finally warming up, and threatening to be too warm for the lake to be considered "cold water" very, very soon, and I wanted one more go at that lake before that happened. As it turns out I was already too late by about a week, I think, because when I did this it was already 17 C at the surface in places (and about 14 C in the shady areas and below 50 cm depth). But, being that warm meant that I could do the swim with practically no concern about hypothermia, and that's what let me turn this into a much longer swim than planned.

    My original plan was to go straight across the lake (straight up from my starting point on the map), then either swim straight back, or swim back along a partial perimeter if I felt up to it. But as soon as I stepped in and started swimming, the surface felt warm, and I thought to myself after twenty-five metres or so, "if it's this warm this is going to be easy, and I might as well do the perimeter right away."

    When I reached the narrow passage between the two major parts of the lake (top middle of the map), I saw that the passage was deep enough to swim through, and my opportunistic ambition increased to, "hmm, maybe I will try the whole lake." And the rest of my adventure is annotated on the map.

    Before this, the longest I'd ever swum continuously was 2 hours in a pool, so I was leery about the 2-hour mark on the stopwatch, but as I approached and then passed it, I didn't feel as though I was close to any physical limits. At about 3 hours I started to get fairly tired, but it was the kind of tiredness that feels like it'll improve, the more and more I do this. That was a really good feeling. (Total time was 3 hours, 27 minutes, so I'm fairly slow.)

    And when I got home and measured the path I'd swum to be 7 km, that was an even better feeling. :)

    All of this means that I'm going to attempt the goal I listed when I first created my profile (back in October, before my hiatus) very soon, and then set a bigger one. (I need to do a few more tide/current scouting swims first, though, and maybe wait for the ocean to warm up to the 9 C I specified.)

    The map (start is near the bottom middle):

    Edit: This links to the full size version on my blog


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