Hallucinations Anyone?

Dawn_TreaderDawn_Treader Member
edited August 2013 in General Discussion
I did not see a thread on this subject. If one exists then apologies. I would like to know your non drug enhanced hallucination stories experienced during a swim. Just curious. Were they abstract or based on deep fears or wishes? Were they positive, negative, scary or joyful? Please share and don't be shy. Thanks!

Sisu: a Finnish term meaning strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.


  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member
    I have them mainly due to exhaustion. I've had jellyfish and fish swimming by me after a 5-hour pool swims and I've had all sorts of bizarre stuff (tires floating under me and boats running over me) when I'm out in the open water after 5-6 hours. That said, I have temporal lobe epilepsy that can be triggered when mentally (and physically) exhausted. One of the types of seizures I have are visual and olfactory hallucinations. I've learned from years of having them when things are real and when they are not.

    That said, it can get REALLY creepy after a while. I train to deal mentally with the exhaustion (and resulting seizures), but sometimes it gets to be too much and I call it a day earlier than I planned.
  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    I see and hear things quite a bit while I'm swimming, usually way before I'm exhausted - in Dover harbour, I've often 'seen' beautiful galleons moored up by the Premier Inn, and they also appeared while I was swimming Catalina; I saw buildings made of marshmallow while swimming around Jersey; and I was completely convinced that I had heard dolphins during my swim of Windermere - a response to the sound of Colin Hill blowing a whistle to warn me of a buoy which I was about to smack into. I was too busy contemplating the dolphins and went straight into it anyway. I don't think it's hallucination necessarily - I think it's when I'm in a zoned-out state, like the state between sleeping and waking, where the brain pieces together snips of sensory information in quite random ways to make some kind of sense of them. Once the interpretation is in place, it's a bit like those pictures with two images embedded in them - once you've fixed on one you can never see anything else. Either that or I'm going slowly mad.
  • mjstaplesmjstaples Atlanta, GA, USMember
    Never experienced a hallucination but did smell grape jelly for about two hours during end-wet. I thought it was some kind of flower blooming but my kayaker insisted she didn't smell anything.
  • jendutjendut Charter Member
    Sometimes after a while if I am in the groove I see phantom arms swimming nearby and am grateful for the company. Clearly I spend a good deal of time swimming solo...
  • SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandNew Member
    mjstaples wrote:
    Never experienced a hallucination but did smell grape jelly for about two hours during end-wet. I thought it was some kind of flower blooming but my kayaker insisted she didn't smell anything.

    I find I have a heightened sense of smell when swimming. The lilac growing on the river bank is my favourite, but a nearby barbeque runs it close

    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
    tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....

  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    I swim at the pool very early in the mornings. I often mistake inanimate objects around the pool for people. Sometimes, I freak out a little until I realize what's going on
  • SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandNew Member
    SuirThing wrote:

    I find I have a heightened sense of smell when swimming. The lilac growing on the river bank is my favourite, but a nearby barbeque runs it close

    don't know how I forgot, smell of chips from The Old Bridge Take-Away is another one

    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
    tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....

  • I just had a couple when swimming Catalina yesterday, and it wasn't the bioluminescence! My favorite: My son gave me a good luck ring made of rubber bands, and I put it on my ring finger. I got to the 11th feeding and reach for the drink bottle and do a double take because I don't remember putting the ring on my pinky finger, where it evidently had moved? All through the 5:30-6:00 mark I was convinced that the ring had changed fingers!
  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    The most disappointing illusion/misperception was at Tampa, when around Hour 11 I suddenly got very excited at the sight of sand dollars passing underneath me. I'm flying! I'm so fast! I thought. Turns out I wasn't moving at all, was stuck in a countercurrent for an hour and a half, and the sand dollars were floating backwards with the current. :)

    And, not a hallucination, but when I swim long workouts in the pool I get irrationally upset at people with fins and toys and can't wait for them to leave the neighboring lanes.
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    @jendut and @timsroot: I have the same sightings! During open water swims, I frequently think there is someone right next to me because I can swear I see arms moving close by. And during long pool swims, I almost always have to do a few double takes when somehow a chair becomes a person. Glad to know I share my crazy with others!
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    In the line of @heart 's experience with the water causing illusions/misperceptions.

    Swimming parallel and relatively the shore at any beach with seaweed and rocks, the waves will cause the swimmer to move in and out, as will the seaweed. the rocks will remain stationary but because you and the seaweed are moving in concert it looks like the rocks are actually moving. Very disconcerting.

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member
    I once had fish singing the old Carnival Cruise Line jingle ("if you could see me now...) towards the end of one of the Key West races. I was a little dehydrated, over-heated, and somewhat out of my find. I had fallen into third place and #4 was pretty far behind. My kayaker gave me a swig of beer for fun. I was pretty much hammered within a few minutes. Great times!
  • FrancoFranco Charter Member
    Yesterday when I was doing the C3 Swim we had passed under a few bridges in the canal. When we got out in the Atlantic my kayaker rolled and was taking a few minutes to get his stuff back together. I was swimming alone when I had the vision of a bridge up ahead and I was wondering where I was going to pass under it. I couldn't help but think of this thread when I realized I was in the ocean and there couldn't be any bridges coming up. I had thought this thread was kind of silly before that experience.
  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    You don't have much luck with kayakers Franco!!!
    I thought I saw monkeys in the trees during EndWet
  • FrancoFranco Charter Member
    He was good. Just a brief setback.

    Monkeys in the trees would have scared me.
  • When I was swimming from the Farallons to San Francisco I had an out of body experience. I was sitting in the boat watching myself swim in the water. I was near the end of hypothermia and had a body temp, of 92 degrees. Unfortunately I had 3 miles to go and the tide had turned in my favor but I was too far gone at that time. Close but no cigar.
  • JaimieJaimie NYCCharter Member

    Bumping this thread to hopefully spark some new conversation on hallucinations during swims. I was reading Vicki Keith's blog and she said the 36 hour mark was the usual rough spot for her - I think @msathlete has said the same? Would love to hear anyone's experiences if they feel comfortable sharing.

  • abbygirlroseabbygirlrose Los Angeles, CAMember

    During my recent Catalina Crossing, I saw my coach on my boat even though I knew he was across the country in Massachusetts! I also kept thinking that the spinning thing on top of the boat was someone waving at me to go faster!

  • pavlicovpavlicov NYC USASenior Member
    edited July 2016

    In my early swims, when I did not know how to swim (seriously) and had no nutrition plan and was quite dehydrated, I hallucinated swimming over hawaiian shirts in the water. It was in the Hudson (during Red light house swim about 6 years ago) and I remember seeing the shirts pop in and out from the muddy water underneath me. Like parts of them became more clear and then floated down back. It was so real that for years I was persuaded that I swam over someone's laundry.

    Only after watching 'Running on the sun' movie, where the badwater ultra marathoners talk about hallucinations, I slowly realized that the Hawaiian shirts were not real.

  • suziedodssuziedods Mem​ber

    I continually hallucinate that I am a fast swimmer...


    Looking for the next big thing.. ... @suzieswimcoach

  • msathletemsathlete Victoria, British Colubia, CanadaGuest

    @jmm234 I have been known to dabble in the occasional hallucination. It usually kicks in anywhere after 24 hours, although if you are swimming on a really sunny day the sun can affect your vision which may cause you to see very strange things too!

    I found my hallucinations to be more in sync with the mood of the crew around me than some of the 70's style psychedelic cartoon like visions seen by others. If my crew is working in harmony I seen angels, if they are tense and quibbling with one another I see devils. But then again, as a west coast girl who lives on Vancouver Island I am often impacted on a deep level by the group mood/behaviour of the moment, even when not hallucinating.

    Interestingly my homeopath has identified sugar as the psychedelic culprit with the theory being once the sugar levels drop to low - bazinga! Not sure to what extent it is true. Perhaps some of the more experienced swimmers out there might know.

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited July 2016

    Clinically significant low blood sugars cause a number of parasympathetic responses, and trigger releases of counter-regulatory hormones. When I am sleeping and my sugars go low, my dreams tend to become violent and panicky -- due to floods of adrenaline and epinephrine, I imagine.

    I imagine people with diabetes experience low blood sugars differently (and at much lower levels) than people without diabetes. People with diabetes lack a glucagon fail-safe mechanism. (Glucagon causes the liver to spill glucose from its storage to protect the body from low glucose.)

    Interestingly, you (even people with/without diabetes) can blunt a low blood sugar with an all-out 10-30 second maximal sprint.

    Preventing Hypoglycemia During and After Exercise

    Also, for what it's worth, I have hallucinated a giant rotating bald spot in the sky, giant power towers (hundreds of times larger than normal), and that I've seen the ground. The bald spot was particularly entertaining. :). My sugars were fine at the time.

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member

    suziedods said:
    I continually hallucinate that I am a fast swimmer...

    I have found this to be common after the age of 40. But I have also found the inevitable byproduct of this hallucination is severe pain which, ironically, is also its cure...


    "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..."

  • While not really a hallucination in the traditional sense, I did "see" an interesting thing while swimming the Border Buster in VT this weekend. I was only a couple hours in and not yet suffering physically or mentally by any means, but the sun was rising directly behind my kayaker from my vantage point (I have a weird shoulder so I keep the kayaker to my right so I had to deal with the sun in my face as a result). You know how when you look at a bright light and then when you look away close your eyes you see the shape of the bright light? The multiple glances into the general direction of the sun put together a series of spots in my eyes that made the shape of the kool-aid man. I started giggling to myself and yelling 'OH YEAHHH' in my head. I questioned my own sanity for more than a hot minute!

  • tortugatortuga Senior Member

    My wife was my pilot during Swim teh Suck. Her Dad has a big bushy white mustache. At one point, when I'd been in the groove for a while, I kept seeing that mustache on her when siting on her. Had to stop for a moment to regroup.

  • JaimieJaimie NYCCharter Member

    @tortuga - this might be the best one I've heard!

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