Recap: My First Open Water Swim (OWS)

On August 9th, 2015, I had my very first open water swim (OWS), and the lake monster didn’t get me! I swam for about a mile, but forgot to start my Garmin for the first part of the swim, so my Garmin has me at a .71 mile distance.

It was a little scary not having the normal amenities that lap swimming in a pool affords me, such as the ability to stand up and dump water out of my goggles, to stand up and take a breather, or really just to stand up period. Notice that all of my reasons included standing up. I also couldn’t see my arms in the water or anything for that matter. So again, I was a little freaked out, and as a result, didn’t swim as much with my freestyle stroke as I should have. Most of my swimming was with my less-efficient breast stroke.

I had no expectations going in to this swim. I just wanted to have deliberate OWS exposure to help me prepare for my first OWS sprint triathlon in September 2015. This coming Sunday, August 23rd, I have another OWS opportunity at Smith Mountain Lake.

Some key-takeaways for me:

  • Relax! I was in full panic mode when something touched my foot twice while doing my lazy breast stroke. But then I realized that it was the ground–I was swimming so close to shore that I could literally stand up and walk.
  • Take allergy medicine (I normally don’t take any. But my allergies were very bad for the rest of the day.)
  • Keep my goggles on tight and don’t mess with them in the lake (one of my eyes was irritated for a few days after).
  • Practice sighting during my pool sessions. I have no sighting skills at all. Several times during my swim, I veered off my swim route, because I didn’t look up enough.
  • Swim freestyle uninterrupted while practicing an OWS. During my first OWS swim, I stopped frequently, switched to breast stroke, stopped at various docks to catch a breather, etc.
  • Gear That I didn’t have, but should bring next time
    • Extra kleenex (my nose was running like a faucet afterwards)
    • Goggle spit (anti-fog product for goggles). Very important for open water swimming and sighting!
    • Wetsuit – I noticed that some of the other swimmers had a wetsuit on. After my swim, Coach Ed, didn’t have any trouble convincing me about the benefits of having a wetsuit for my OWS triathlons (more buoyancy and overall easier to swim with). I ordered a sleeveless Zoot Z Force 3.0 wetsuit later on that day ($266), and I hope to have it in time for my next OWS practice.