This week I survived my first open water swimming session. There was a lot of anxiety about moving away from the controlled environment of a pool to the outdoor elements a lake has to offer. From waves, to fish, the thought of lake monsters, sighting, vision, breathing, and the fear of drowning, it was a lot to take in. Going into it I really had no
idea what to expect out of myself. Would I be anxious? Could I do it? Had I trained enough in the pool to be prepared for open water? Yet once I stuck my face in the water for the first time and saw my surroundings, I felt at peace and at ease. It was not scary, but liberating, as I felt like a guppy who was experiencing life outside a fish bowl for the first time. I have to say that everything about training for the swim has been an adventure, but moving from the safe confines of the pool to open water has one particular adventure all on its own; the purchase of a wetsuit.On a warm and quiet sunny Sunday afternoon I was locked in a sports store change room, staring helplessly at three different wetsuits hanging from the hook. My wrists and ankles had already been sprayed with a slippery pam-like substance, and I was nervously re-checking the length of my fingernails. They pre-warned me that the outside of the suit can tear easily if sliced by a long nail, and as a tri wetsuit wearing virgin, I was terrified to cause any damage to the $600 neoprene-rubber suits. There was really nothing left to do but grab one off the hook, stick one foot in the bottom and attempt to slither into my second skin. One foot in, one giant yank, and I got midway up my calf before the material started to cling to my skin like a suction cup. Quickly I re-checked the size to see that it was indeed a large. I’m certainly not built like Tinkerbell, but I am also not Andre the Giant, so moving to an XL seemed unusual. I decided to give the other leg a go, but once again, I was only able to slide the suit midway up my calf. I was prepared for a tight fit, but this seemed excessive. Desperately and in a quiet frantic fashion, I grabbed the inside of the suit, yanked, and started manically jumping up and down as I pulled. This tactic was not working either, so I swallowed my pride and called out a meek plea for help. This was definitely the first time I had ever called a male sales associate to a change room with an outfit around my ankles. But I figured I wasn’t the first customer in this store, and in this situation to do so. At this point, all I could think was that getting me into my first wetsuit was going to become a two-person intimate adventure with a guy whose name I couldn’t even remember.
As the ensuing battle of heaving this suit over my thunder thighs progressed, so did the heat of the change room and beads of sweat started to roll off my forehead. The more I sweated, the harder it got to pull the wetsuit over my body. It was at this point that the sales associate made the executive decision to crank up the air conditioner and grab me a glass of water. I certainly wasn’t prepared for this escapade to turn into what felt like an all out training session. Yet, onwards we went, rolling, grabbing, yanking, pulling, stretching, and jumping. It must have taken us about 15 minutes to pull on my second skin, and as I shimmied out of the change room I felt like a robot wrapped in duct tape. As a flung my arms around in swim-like motions, and knocked things off the shelf in the process, I realized I actually had a lot of mobility and it was just going to take time to get used to the tightness of my new outfit.
Beaming like a 5 year old kid on Christmas, I was excited. Excited that I had successfully managed to weasel my 155 pound frame into a neoprene-rubber suit. Excited that taking it off was so much easier than getting it on. And maybe the most excited that this was just one more piece of gear that was going to get me one step closer to my goal as I continue on the road to one hundred forty point six miles.