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I hate the sea

I've been swimming for a few years now, training with a lifesaving club and worked my way up to Bronze Medallion level. Just started tri last year, there's not much options in my country. We get maybe one sprint and one OD a year. The upshot is that I've only ever swum one race in OW, 750m in calm seas. Took me 18 minutes.

The Ameteur Swimming Association has a 3K swim every year that the guys in my club enter, so I decided to give it a go this year. I started training with them a month before, not ideal, but it gave me an idea of what it's like to swim for some distance in salt water, how to deal with sighting issues and the like that I mentioned earlier. Problem is the beach for the race is an hour's drive away and those guys teach kiddies classes at 10 AM so we trained at a beach just 10 minutes away, which is relatively sheltered and you barely notice the swells. I managed to get up to 3K in under an hour, so I thought I was sorted for a 70-80 minute finish in the race.

Got on the beach yesterday morning, nervous as hell but thinking yeah, I've turned my arms over for an hour before, just need to do that and a bit more. Had checked out www.surf-forecast.com but 1/2 m wind waves on top of 1/2 m swells didn't mean a thing to me.

Until I got into the water. For the warm-up I'd just swum out past the surf and back, thought that once I got out in the open it'd be okay. The first leg was 800 m in an easterly direction. Wind was from the north-east, as best I could tell, so was the current. So there I was, bobbing up and down on these swells, being hit on the head - you ever been hit on the head by a 1/2 m wave? - and generally can't see where I'm going. Every swell that hit me felt like it's pushing me back, every wave sapped my momentum and slowed me down. No gliding in this water.

Round the first marker, 35 minutes gone, head for the second one in a north-west direction, about 600 m. Except that the current's pushing me south-west, so myself and the other stragglers quickly ended up due south of the marker. At this point we were swimming directly against the elements. Imagine you're running a 10K in the night. In a hurricane. And there's an earthquake. That's what this felt like. I guess it took me 15 minutes to cover the last 200m. Round that marker at 1 hr 1 min, just under half the race and the cut-off time is 2 hours, I'm seriously contemplating my first ever DNF.

Happily the third marker was west by south-west so the currents this time were to my back. I'd quickly learnt by now how to tack across the current so I hit that marker spot on within 20 minutes (1.1 km for that leg). Then back to the start, due east, against the current, sighting the finish maybe once a minute 'cuz damn, you just can't see. And by this time, there's no one in front to follow. Never felt so good to have the sand beneath my feet as we came out of the surf. Then, the guy who taught me to swim 5 years ago (he must be out of practice) sprinted past and finished 3 seconds ahead of me.

1 hr 44 mins for the whole thing. That's one hell of a negative split. The winner swims in the world 10K campionships, took him 37 minutes. Said he "enjoyed" the rough conditions. Me, I hated it. Give me one of your overheated pools of ice-cold lakes any day.

Damned if I don't knock a good 10 minutes off my time next year.


  • Revel in the knowledge that it's a PB, and a target to aim for next year. Good on you though for keeping going
  • md6md6 Posts: 969
    That sounds like quite an effort in harsh conditions, well done! And like you say, next year you can take 10mins (or more) off the time, hell if conditions are on your side why not half an hour!
  • huwdhuwd Posts: 228
    Having spent lots of time battling currents on s surf board I also have this dislike for sea conditions, theres nothing worse for morale than seeing your effort being blasted away as the old people with zimmer frames zoom past you on the shore.

    Brilliant work on finishing though - it's got to be a great feeling now even if it wasn't fun at the time
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