I am used to getting up early to go for a swim, run or bike ride. If you don’t get up early (say 5ish) on a Florida summer morning then you are basically screwed. Once that sun comes up your body starts roasting and your sweat glands are working in overdrive. A swim in Florida is actually quite nice at any time during the day, but it doesn’t even feel the slightest bit chilly if you go at 6:00 am (well, that initial jump in might stun you for a minute).
When I participated in my first triathlon in Florida during the summer, I didn’t practice any open water swims in preparation for the lake swim during the race. That is not a very smart training tactic, but I really couldn’t find any lakes in Jacksonville that weren’t nasty (and the thought of swimming alone with alligators and snakes kind of freaked me out). I just decided to wing it and you know what, it wasn’t that bad.
Now I am training for my second triathlon, but this time it will be in Colorado. I figured that I would be smarter this time and find a lake to practice in. Better yet, I found out that I could actually practice swimming in the lake where the event will be held in 3 weeks.
So, my new training buddy asked me what time I wanted to meet up for a swim in the lake followed by a ride on the bike. I told her that I had no problem getting up early. I suppose I didn’t really think about the temperature of a typical Denver morning… somewhere in the 50’s. Without thinking about the weather, I put on my triathlon shorts and tank top and headed out the door. I did notice the slight chill in the air as I got out of my car at the lake. At that moment I was relieved that I had brought the wetsuit even after all of the wetsuit issues I had last night. You see, my new wetsuit does not fit. I really don’t like to be choked. So, when you order it online they only take into account your height, chest size and weight. Well people who sell wetsuits, I have broad shoulders! I could barely get the thing zipped up and even when I did I couldn’t move my arms. Needless to say, I opted for my husband’s wetsuit even though it doesn’t conform to my body.
There I was, easily getting on this wetsuit that was obviously too big for me, but I was happy to be warm and toasty (for once). We walked down to the lake and immediately noticed the green slime. I guess every lake has some kind of yuck factor, but at least this one didn’t have any dangerous animals. I put my bare feet in the water and immediately retracted them back. OMG, it was chilly! Granted, it was 72 degrees and my husband said that was “warm.” It sure as heck didn’t feel warm to me. I am the kind of person who takes HOT showers. After I summoned up the courage, I gradually waded in over the slippery rocks. When the water got up to my waist I started floating, but had to summon more courage in order to put my head under the water. Yep, it was dark down there. Not sure if that is good or bad. I guess it is good if you don’t want to know what is down there. Bad for trying to swim in a straight line and not running into anybody or any buoys. It took me about a lap to acclimatize, but then I kind of warmed up and actually felt more focused on swimming.
Then, it was time to get out. Getting out wasn’t so bad, it was the peeling off the wetsuit and exposing my body to the cold air that was the worst part. And there was really nothing I could do to warm myself up. I was left with my skimpy shorts and tank top. I probably could have warmed up in the sun if it weren’t for the fact that I got on a bike and started picking up speed. It was a constant blast of cold air that I couldn’t turn off. I kept thinking that I would warm up at some point, but that never happened during that ride. EVER. Not even during the heart pounding hill climbs. Not even when I got in the car and blasted the heat. Not even when I walked into my house. My fingers were numb as I washed my hair in the HOT shower. After I got out of the shower and got dressed (in pants and a sweatshirt), I FINALLY warmed up!
That was the worst bike ride ever. I would have much rather endured torturous hills and humidity. I couldn’t wait for it to end.
Now, what have I learned from this experience? Definitely wear a wetsuit while swimming in a Colorado lake (preferably one that fits) and always wear layers that you can peel off as you warm up (didn’t I learn that when I lived in Alaska??).