A swimmer-friend once told me that every open-water swim begins in the same way: With confusion, crankiness and occasionally with a mad scramble of arms and legs during a pack start.
The confusion and crankiness were in full effect as I began my first open-water swim of the season at Moreau Lake last night. Crankiness because it was cold, and because my wetsuit felt tight in all the wrong places (swimmer rule: Your wetsuit always fit better last year. These things shrink a little every winter). Confused because the first buoy was farther away than I remembered, and because I couldn’t remember why I was doing this to begin with.
My mental dialogue for the first 300 meters of the 900-meter loop sounded like this:
Cold. Swim faster to get warm. Still cold. Swim faster. Aaaack. Stupid wetsuit. Too tight. Too fat. Don’t say that to yourself! Too cold. Swim faster. Aaaaack. I can get out after two loops.
There must be something magical about that first buoy, because every time I pass it—in any swim, anywhere—I feel a beautiful sense of peace come over me. The thoughts bouncing around in my head disappear as quickly as they came. It’s just the rhythm of my arms pulling and the cool, green-blue water.
The wind started to whip up the lake into frothy mini-whitecaps after I swam two loops of the course, but there was no way I was getting out. It was too much fun—not just in spite of the waves, but because of them. In fact, I swam four laps of our triathlon club’s course in the hour-long swim. This is something I’ve only done once before. I wasn’t looking to swim long—I was just having too much fun playing to get out.
“I felt like a hero,” my friend Lisa said after the swim, and I knew exactly what she meant.