Can’t we all just get along?

Today I was able to finally make it to an open water swim training session. After my experience at the Mack-Cycle Triathlon, I decided I was going to make swimming a focal point of my training going forward. The training lasted from 7:30-9:00AM and was held on Hollywood Beach. 

The training was great and I left with a lot of takeaways. In this entry I will touch on some of the drills that we did and  highlight what I felt was the most important lesson I learned during the practice. 

First, I feel like I should mention that the conditions today were worse than what I experienced on May 2nd at Key Biscayne. 

Water conditions:Open water swim training (5.15.10)

 

This alone had me a bit apprehensive as I approached the beach. I soon shook it off by telling myself, “whatever-it is what it is”. 

There were six (including the instructor) people in my training group. The instructor set up a buoy about 50 meters from the beach. We used that as a marker as we swam laterally to the shoreline. In our practice we focused on our entry, sighting, and swimming form. 

The most important lesson I learned for myself was how my viewpoint toward the water had to change. If you recall in my last entry, on the evening before my race, I looked at the ocean and viewed it as my challenger/enemy. That perspective was totally incorrect and it likely contributed to the difficulties I had the following day. The key is to get ALONG with the ocean. You have to become one with the ocean. This is necessary for two primary reasons: 

1. The ocean CANNOT be beaten: 

An ocean’s (read: open water) potential can never be discounted. When calm, it can be the most tranquil picture of nature. When angry, it can cause massive destruction, swallow a city, and do potentially more. The fact that I approached the last race with the intention of “beating” the ocean, was silly. The ocean must be respected. You must make peace with the ocean. If you fight the ocean, it will fight back…and it is UNDEFEATED. If you’re cool though, and work with it, the ocean will be cool with you, and even possibly help you along your way. Eight foot waves can consume you and drag you further out from the shore to your demise, or they can be used to propel a surfer along the shoreline. Waves can erode land or help generate electricity. You have to work with the open water in the right way. You must go along with the ocean and not expect the opposite. I learned this fact today and had a much better time swimming. I was able to keep my head down in the water by being more in tune with the water. For instance, when I felt a wave coming, it was clear that the ocean was telling me that it’s not a good time to go for a breath. Thus, I would keep it moving (regardless of whether it would ruin my breathing rhythm). It seems like common sense,but you’ll be surprised about what happens in practice. I learned to work with whatever the ocean gave me. 

2. The psychological aspect of swimming in the ocean is ENORMOUS: 

Look, if you are not able to keep your head about you in the water, you will be toast. When I reference “head”, I am referring to the mental state of mind. Everything begins and ends with your mind, and so if you allow your mind to play tricks on you, you will be in trouble. It became clear today that this also was a critical component that created difficulty for me during my last race. 

What type of tricks you ask? I’ll take my experience today as an example. As I am in the water, I acknowledge things such as a) 70% of the earth is water; 99% of living organisms on earth are in the water; we have only explored 5-10% of the oceans on this earth b) there is very little visibility in the water (unfortunately not swimming in the Bahamas) c) there have been aerial photos of Miami waters where people are wading, oblivious to the sharks all around them. Tid-bits such as those, combined with movies like Jaws, can cause a scenario where things go bad very quickly-if you allow your mind to go that way. If that happens, you need to quickly correct or you’re done. You will be on a slippery slope and find yourself having difficulty functioning. 

The lack of visibility in the water is really troubling and is really the root of the mind games. For instance, I’m swimming this morning and at several points I’m asking myself, “was that a big shadow that moved underneath me”? WTF! 

Also, I’ve yet to be stung by a jellyfish. I’m not quite sure what it feels like. I’m borderline contemplating pulling a “Seven Pounds” and getting stung on purpose (save the whole suicide part) just so I’m at least already familiar with the feeling. 

All in all, it was a good practice. Once I become more physically fit, become one with the ocean, and improve my mental game, I will be able to handle the swim portion of the half-ironman.

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~ by gblyden703 on May 15, 2010.

2 Responses to “Can’t we all just get along?”

  1. Any tips on how to deal with the lack of visibility? I still havent quite mastered sighting…

    And that shark issue – BIG BIG fear of mine…

  2. There’s not much that can be done about the lack of visibility underwater. If the water is calm, the visibility may be better.

    Re: Sighting- The technique we practiced was exchanging a swim stroke, for the opportunity to sight. For instance, if you are breathing on your right side, every two strokes, when you decide to sight, you breath just one time for four strokes. On the stroke that you were going to breath, you instead look ahead to your target, and you want to raise your head only slightly-almost how an aligators eyes are barely above the surface of the water.

    Re: Sharks- same concern. I’ll be practically a zen master by the time race starts. It’s all mind over matter. This article may help ease your concerns a bit? (….maybe). # of shark attacks in Miami are relatively low.

    http://www.examiner.com/x-1435-Miami-Travel-Examiner~y2010m2d4-Shark-attacks-uncommon-in-Miamiarea-waters

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