In my last post I talked about loving the Tobacco Trail and my proximity to it, and I have the same excitement about my proximity to Jordan Lake. Being someone who has only ever participated in open water swim triathlons and being that I’m a straight up open water swim EXPERT….hahahahahaha…okay I can’t even joke here, I’m pretty awful, making the fact that I have a close place to practice absolutely necessary! Again I’ve lived here just over a year and guess how many times I’ve swam in Jordan Lake?? THREE. (I have no idea why I’m a terrible swimmer). I do have very good excuses for my lack of open water swim practice. One is while I’ve made many awesome running friends (Kimberly..have to give you a shout out friend) I haven’t made as many triathlon friends, and I strongly believe in safety in numbers when lake swimming. Two is my youngest is not in full time school yet so she is around A LOT. Well, those two main issues have pretty much been resolved. First, I have made my first triathlon friend…Andrea. Andrea and I actually met on a run group FB page when she asked if anyone biked. Come to find out she was training for the Raleigh Half Ironman. Interesting fact about Andrea is her very first triathlon ever was a Half Ironman!! That is crazy and significantly upped her cool factor being that I’m about 5 years into this sport and every year talk myself out of a half Ironman. Andrea and I had great plans to get together and start biking and swimming and then she had a big scary bike accident and broke her collarbone and then I had a much smaller bike (I want to sound interesting here and say accident, but I really just hit gravel and fell) ….so fall. Being that I was coming to a stop you’d think I would have been okay, but my chest broke the fall on my handlebars and I fractured a rib and had some crazy bruising. Andrea had surgery and plates or screws put in her so yeah…not a great start to our summer! Anyways, we are all better and finally met in person. I also am super excited that my friend and neighbor Karen just did her first triathlon this past weekend and rocked it so I’m making swim/bike friends for sure. I’m also VERY happy to report my youngest is in preschool 4 days a week. Time to work on that swim!
So, now that you know I like my free time my friends I’ll tell you what it’s like to swim in open water and specifically Jordan Lake. This is all in my EXPERT swim opinion. I guess I need to backtrack a touch and say that when I decided to to do my first triathlon I did not know how to properly swim (still really don’t). I grew up “swimming” in pools and going to the beach a lot and I was very comfortable in the water, but I had never swam a lap for fun or exercise. OMG. Learning to swim as an adult like most things you should learn as a kid and don’t is SO HARD. It took me about 4 months of practice in the pool before my very first open water swim triathlon. Why only 4 months? Well….I decided after watching my husband compete in his first triathlon that I could do one too. At the time I had just run my first half marathon so naturally a triathlon when I didn’t know how to swim and didn’t own a bike (more on that one later!) made perfect sense. I decided to do a triathlon in April (2009) and signed up for one in September. I have to say once I got my breathing down, I was a decent pool swimmer. I could make the whole distance (750m) in the pool without stopping so I was prepared for the endurance. I also knew that I could get kicked and could lose my goggles so I was mentally prepared for that. Let me tell you what I wasn’t prepared for. That panic/adrenaline moment in those first 100 yards, swimming completely off course and getting calf cramps from resorting to breaststroke.
The panic moment….and I don’t even know if I’m describing it correctly, but my heart was racing and I couldn’t get my breathing to settle which made me feel more out of control. That took me by surprise! I had to actually dead stop and collect myself. I actually still can get this to a much lesser extent today, but I know how to control it (it’s all mental)! Once I recovered and settled into a decent stroke and good breathing I was cruising along and heard someone say “you need to straighten out”! I looked up and realized I had swam WAY left of the sight buoy. I was sighting, but I was sighting the girl next to me more than the buoy. I assumed as long as I saw someone close by I was good. That is not wrong. And if you’ve ever depended on me in a race for sighting I am very sorry, but you probably swam a little extra that day. I would say I probably had swum at least 50-100 yards off ugh. By the time I got to the turn buoy I was tired and mentally drained so I resorted to a lot of breaststroke to finish. I’m a very slow breaststroker and my calves were cramping too, but I finished that damn swim. Swim time 23 minutes. Totally serious.
Luckily, the next year I did the same race and had a 17 minute swim. That is still not a great time for most, but I was THRILLED. I swam mostly on course and didn’t panic. Success. But now I’m 5 years in and my best swim time is still only in the 16’s. Need. More. Work.
My first trip to Jordan Lake was just a few weeks ago. My friend Karen wanted to try her first open water swim to prepare for the White Lake Sprint. Karen was a little nervous…she’s a great swimmer, but the whole creepy lake thing had her edgy. For the record, I have never seen a lake monster! We decided to go to the Ebenezer Beach access since that is the one I’m most familiar with and Andrea was planning to meet us since she had swam here many times. On our way to Jordan Lake I assured Karen nothing would eat her and it was really a nice beach access. I don’t think she believed me when we pulled up. I had never seen the lake look so stagnant! And it was SUPER low with a sludgy film on it. I had just been out there about a month earlier to fun swim with my kids and it was great. The yellow swimming pipe was maybe 5-6 feet or less to the beach and the water depth at the yellow pipe was only about 3 feet. It was crazy. I’m not one to usually pay attention to how much rain we get or need, but seeing the water so low definitely made me aware. It was sad to see the lake look like that. Andrea also warned me that they had taken some of the buoys out of the water. Even if the lake wasn’t at it’s prime we were still there to get in a swim and swim we did! Karen did AMAZING for her first swim ever. She stayed on course and sighted like a champ. If she was still freaked out about putting her head underwater I couldn’t tell at all. Andrea is a really good sighter and stays very straight. I want that superpower ugh! We started our swim on the bathroom side…Andrea said there is usually a buoy there…and swam toward the buoy on the opposite side. I wore my Garmin to see how far it would be. From side to side I got about .18miles. According to Andrea when the buoys are placed correctly and you go back and forth twice you can get about a mile. We got about .75 miles going back and forth twice…or 4 lengths. The next week we met out there again and the water was even lower, but it was at least moving which made it look more inviting. We went out again this week and the water was EVEN lower. We saw a fellow swimmer who said it’s the lowest she’s ever seen. Loving our beautiful weather, but we need that rain!
Despite the current so-so conditions at Jordan Lake I still would rather swim there than a lap pool any day! The temperature in the water feels great and the lake is calm. I even feel like this last week I was able to settle into a rhythm quicker than usual and sighting one tiny buoy into the direct sunlight has been great practice. Even better is you can do a nice quick workout. We swim and then hop on our bikes for a quick 15 mile loop that gets us back to the lake just in time for preschool pickup. I’ve now taken two summers off from triathlons (moving and injuries), but discovering new places to train and having friends to train with definitely has me excited for next summer! It also helps that these places…the Tobacco Trail and Jordan Lake are pretty much in my backyard.
I also have many theories as to why my swim isn’t strong! One is that I only breathe to one side. I’m going to try to work on that this winter so that should be hilarious and I will share my experiences about it. I’ve tried before and gave up so if you never see another thing about it then that is what happened. Thanks for reading and come join us for a lake swim anytime!!
Lots of sand…