I am currently contemplating my first ever DNS at a race. This would be a first for me – I’ve had tantrums by the side of the road in a marathon, I’ve nearly been sick during a half, and I’ve slogged myself ragged and missed my target time by 17 measly seconds in a 10K. But never, ever have I not started a race that I have signed up for. And I write this post hoping for advice – should I compete in my Olympic Distance triathlon next weekend, or no?
The event starts with a 1500m lake swim, and this is the sticking point for me. Events have conspired against me that I haven’t had the chance to practice swimming in open water even once. I’m afraid of the “unfathomable, breathless panic” that Susie talks about here, and being kicked in the face by my friends. As I work away during the week, the only chance I may get to try out open water swimming before the event is before my half marathon at Coniston on Sunday – not really the best of timings, for either the swim or the race.
Yes, I have been in lakes before, as the photo above attests. In fact, as a teenager growing up in British Columbia, Canada, I generally spent every weekend from May to September bobbing about on various inflatables on lakes. So at least I’m not afraid of lake weeds sliming me. But as I wasn’t even vaguely interested in exercise at the time, the extent of my interaction with the water was dipping in, a metre from the raft, when I got too hot sunbathing. Look at the picture above again – I didn’t even take the sunglasses off my head, for goodness sake.
One of the coaches at my wonderful tri club has been kind enough to offer to lend me a wetsuit for the event. Some people say this makes everything a lot easier (at least you float), but others have said it’s restrictive and hard to draw your arms over your head.
The cycle and the run I’m not too worried about. I can do them as slow as I like, have a proper Sunday potter. There isn’t a cut-off other than the fact that I don’t want to keep my tri club pals who will be marshalling away from their dinners and sofas.
So, I defer to you who have gone before me – is open water swimming all that bad? Two 750m laps. That’s 60 lengths of the pool, which seems like quite a lot. Can I just wing it, or am I setting myself up for tears at best and drowning at worst? What would YOU do in my position?
(No matter what I decide for this race, I am committed to getting started with open water swimming. As a kind of penance for not appreciating what I had as a teenager, I’ve actually entered an aquathlon in Canada, perfectly timed for my trip back in the summer. It will be a novel sight for my Canadian friends, who knew me as a total lazybones. I genuinely didn’t even know how to ride a bike, but more on that another time.)