I successfully completed my first 1,650 meters in the pool (the distance needed for my olympic triathlon), so I decided to test it in open water. The "Splash and Dash" event was a .93 mile swim in a nice, 78 degree, fresh water reservoir, followed by a hard terrain, 5K run that ends up a very steep hill.
Upon arrival at the Steven's Creek Reservoir on a lovely summer evening, I remember looking at the giant orange, Doritos buoys in the water and thinking, "Damn, is that a mile? That seems really far." But, I knew I had already swum a mile in the pool! Instead of dwelling on the seemingly long distance, I decided to put it into time. It's 45 minutes or less of exercise, something I have done 1-7 days a week for most of my life. It's only 45 minutes. No big deal.
I wondered if swimming was like running where you get excited when the race starts and end up going a lot faster than you would on your own. The thought of doing better in a race than on my own totally pumped me up!! Then, I started to see people changing into wetsuits. I thought the wetsuit was only needed in cold water. . . so I didn't bring one.
First of all, a mile is a long way to swim. Mostly because you don't know where the hell you are going. Sure, there are these huge buoys in the water and they are bright orange, but your head is UNDER the water most of the time. Furthermore there are a hundred people around you, kicking and swimming OVER you, that there isn't a lot of time to look around. You know?
I've taken for granted how easy running is for me. I know how fast I need to start, when I can give it more, and when I need to slow it down a bit. I don't know how to do this when swimming. I only know how to kick one way, stroke one way, and breath after every three strokes. I don't think about what my feet are doing when I'm running. I just . . . go!
Lastly, the wetsuit gives you buoyancy. This helps when your swimming form is completely thrown out the window due to the above mentioned distractions: no visibility, people swimming over you, and forgetting to breath.
The outcome of my first Splash and Dash was panic. I was the last person in the water. I started to swim, keeping an eye out for the woman's feet in front of me. Then I couldn't breath. I turned my head to take a breath but it wasn't enough, so I turned my head again. Then the hyperventilating began. Yes, I was breathing IN, but had completely forgotten to breath OUT.
"I can not do this." It was a thought that occurred to me only a couple of other times in my life. It was so far from my typically fearless attitude, that the clarity of hearing it in my own head made me know it was very real. "I can not do this."
I swam back to shore after swimming maybe 50 meters. Someone called out, "Wow! You're done already." Oh, that's right. I was so done.