Colorado Lake Swimming in April

I tried to keep my face out of the water, but figured that wasn't the best way to swim freestyle.

I tried to keep my face out of the water, but figured that wasn’t the best way to swim freestyle.

I truly have a very supportive family.  We decided to pack up the camper and drive 4 hours to Grand Junction mainly so I could scope out the HITS Triathlon Course.  I am getting pretty nervous about my race in 6 weeks.  The training time has gone by so quickly.  I always feel a bit relieved when I can preview the course of a race before I participate in the actual event.  I usually do events near my home, so this was quite a journey for a course preview.  Yet, my family was excited to gain a weekend of camping in the process.  And we were fortunate to have awesome weather!

The drive over the mountains was not so pleasant.  The battery light on the truck came on and then the lights inside the truck died out.  That was definitely not a good sign.  Fortunately we made it to the nearest auto parts store.  I gathered the girls and took them on a tour of Costco (the only building nearby) while my husband inspected the truck.  Turns out, the alternator was fried.  It only took about an hour, but that brought us to our campsite at dusk.

We were lucky enough to find a campsite right at Highline Lake, the state park where the event will take place.  I had already been in e-mail communication with the park manager regarding my desire (maybe that is a bad word choice) to swim in the lake.  He had told me that the swim beach wouldn’t open up until May, but he instructed me to find him when I arrived so he would help me out.  The next morning I went looking for the park manager.  He told me where to swim and he also reminded me that the water was 52 degrees.

I went back to the camper and pulled on my wetsuit while wondering if I had the nerve to actually get in that dreaded cold water.  My family walked down with me to the beach.  The girls were going to play in the sand while I did my thing.  We saw a man in waders out in the water.  He was using a metal detector to search the sand in the shallow water.  He told me the water was cold… not like I needed the reminder.  I put on double swim caps and just started walking towards the lake.  My family and the wader guy were watching me so I suddenly felt the pressure to get in the water.  I couldn’t chicken out.  So, I just walked in until the water was at my chest.  I put on my goggles and dunked my head in.  Oh geez!  That was freakin’ cold!  My face was numb almost instantly.  It didn’t matter if I could feel my hands or feet, but my face was a different story!

I knew I had to start swimming in order to warm up (okay, the warm up never really happened).  I did the moves with my arms, but I kept my face up out of the water.  Okay, that’s not how you are supposed to swim freestyle, but my face was about to fall off!  I was there to swim so I finally put my face in the water, but made the extra effort to breathe with each stroke.  I swam from one side of the swim beach to the other side.  I had to float for a second in order to warm up my face.  Then I swam back across and stopped to float for a minute.  I thought about the backstroke that I just learned during one of my swim lessons, but that is my least favorite stroke.  I would keep my face out of the water, but I would end up splashing water all over my face anyway.  And I would probably swim the wrong way and get hit by a boat.  I opted to continue with the freestyle.

At one point I realized that I wasn’t moving my legs.  I don’t know if that was because they were frozen or if I just couldn’t concentrate on too many things at one time.  I felt claustrophobic in the wetsuit and was trying to pull it away from my neck.  When I focused on my legs, I lost control of my arms.  The cold water was making it much too difficult to get in a proper swim.   I had no room in my brain for worrying about what was lurking in the lake.  Most of my anxiety stemmed from thoughts about getting hypothermia and drowning as my family watched from the beach.

I’m not sure how long I swam back and forth… maybe 20 minutes?  I was starting to get worried because I would feel fine (and even a tad warm) when I stopped to float.  I wondered if that meant I was past the point of hypothermia.  I decided it was probably best just to get out.

As I wrapped my body in two towels, I looked at the lake and imagined that it should be a nice lake to swim in when May rolls around (I don’t recommend swimming in the lake until then).  I will still need a wetsuit, but I have no doubt that it will be much more tolerable.  With the exception of the passing speed boats, the lake is relatively calm.  When I looked at it in the morning it was perfectly flat and glassy.

After the relaxing swim in the lake, I decided to hop on the bike and explore some of the bike course.  Stay tuned….

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