Conquering my First Open water swim and bike session

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I completed my first open water swim and bike session this past weekend. My only swim sessions I have done has mainly consisted of doing some laps in the pool. The only other time I have swam in open water is during race day. Here’s what happened.

The new coach I just started working with asked if I wanted to join a free swim and bike session she conducts down at a local lake. I of course agreed. Thrilled that I would have an opportunity to work with her and meet other triathletes. The session started at 11:00am and I had to bike to meet up with the group at Porter Square at 10:30 am. Now I don’t bike in Boston, like at all. I am scared to ride on these streets with clipless pedals. The thought sends shivers down my spine. But if I want to get into this sport I need to man up and get on my bike (who I have named Missy because she’s a diva, just look at her design. It screams diva.) This session was a perfect excuse to get on my bike and ride.

According to Google maps biking to Porter Square from my place would take 25-30 minutes (4-5 miles). Well knowing my luck and lack of cycling experience it would take my 45 minutes, so I left an hour before the designated meeting time. Enough cushion time just in case I get a flat, loose my balance and fall over or get knocked off my bike by a car. All worst case scenarios but nevertheless I like to plan for the unexpected.

I got my bike ready and packed my bag. Another new experience I had to tackle was carrying a drawstring bag full of my swim gear, wet suit and recovery snacks which made me slightly apprehensive, thinking I would definitely have difficulties keeping that thing on my back. I kissed my half-asleep, half-hungover boyfriend goodbye and told him to wish me luck. He mumbled something back and I was out the door.

I hopped on my bike and I was on my own now. The only guidance I had was my GPS attached to a broken LifeProof bike stand. I have to wrap a rubber band around the top to make sure my entire phone doesn’t pop off the stand. I knew the general direction of where I had to go and my GPS proved handy. I was able to navigate through some pretty quite streets of Boston with ease. (Now I know the best time to ride a bike is a Sunday for that reason.) I arrived to the meeting place with 30 minutes to spare! Success! I locked up my bike outside of a bagel shop and waited inside to beat the heat.

There were a few more riders who showed up and I went outside to introduce myself. We waited for the coach and headed our way down the Minute Man Bike path to Winchester, where the lake was located. It was a really nice easy ride to the lake all of us chatting along the way. When we got to the lake we met up with a few more triathletes and hit the beach.

I brought my wetsuit to test out, because last time I wore it the zipper busted on me….during a race! It was 80 degrees out so I felt a bit silly trying to pull my wet suit on but there were others who had theirs too. But they got into their wet suits A LOT faster than I did. Fail. Finally pulling up my sleeve and zipping myself in I was ready to go.

Now I have never done an open water swim session before. I assumed she would have us start at the beach and we swim back and forth. Something like that. Nope. We had to swim out to a buoy located on the OTHER side of the lake, a good half a mile swim just to get to where we were working out! Great. Did I mention I hate fish. I had never really stuck my head in the water to swim because I do not want to see what’s lurking in that water.

We all got into the water and started swimming away from the beach where it was safe. I got my head in the water and told myself that I am bigger than any of these fish and not to panic. I tried to stay close to the others but they were more experienced, faster swimmers so it ended up being just myself swimming to the buoy. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I just thought about happy things in my head to fight my fear of lake fish.

I made it to the buoy, not dead last luckily. I was a little breathless but ok, and my wet suit remained in tact! Thank god. I have no clue what I would have done if it busted in the middle of the lake with absolutely no kayak, platform or flotation device to hang on to.

Now the real work began. What was supposed to happen was an interval swim with minimal rest in between buoys. We would start floating on our stomachs then swim as hard as we could to the next buoy, rest 20 seconds, do it again for a total of 8 lengths. Ok so not what I did. I took it as swim as hard as I could to the next buoy, sing my ABC’s (about 45 second – 1 minute rest) then swim easy to the next buoy. I targeted 5-6 lengths of alternating between hard and easy intervals. It was hard. Particularly because we had to tread water in between sets, I was literally in the middle of the lake.

After 6 lengths I called it a day, but oh wait, I had to swim half a mile back to the beach by myself. I can safely say the ENTIRE swim session was a workout for me. Which was good I really need to prove to myself I could swim in a lake practically on my own.

I reached the beach and stripped off my wet suit, chugged some chocolate milk and threw on my bike shoes. The bike workout was a similar set up to the swim. We rode on a 6 mile loop doing intervals. So it looked like: 1min race pace, 2min rest, 2min race pace, 2min rest, 3min race pace, 2 min rest, repeat. We were supposed to do this for 36 minutes.

I had my bike computer but it only reads MPH right now because my rear wheel magnet fell off on a race so I have no cadence. I figured my race pace would be somewhere around 20 mph. Fair guess. I ended up tailoring the intervals a bit. I did 1min race pace, 2min rest, 2 min race pace, 2 min rest, 3 min race pace, 4 min rest. I doubled my rest time at the end of the set of intervals. It was a great bike session and even though I was pretty sure I was the slowest I stuck to my work out. I finished at 34 minutes, my legs were a bit wobbly. But my day wasn’t over, now for the bike back home (about 8 miles.) I was struggling just to keep up with everyone else who was probably going 15 mph, really slow. My legs were just so tired.

I managed to get myself home. I was thirsty, tired and starving. I worked out from 9:30am – 2 pm, one of my longest work out days I have done. Looking back at the day I managed pretty well considering I have no experience in any of these disciplines. I conquered my open water, fishy lake fear AND gained confidence on Missy biking through the streets of Boston. Overall a great day. And on top of that the work out gave me an inside glimpse into how real triathletes train. I need to step up my game if I want to get serious and start winning some races!

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Missy!! She’s too pretty for a bike.

– Train Hard. Tri Harder.

@Tri_Girl22

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