Saturday, June 13, 2009

Desperate times

The water couldn’t really be THAT cold, could it??

Yes. The answer to that would be.......yes.

* * * * * * *

It’s clear that it’s never going to be warm in Chicago, and the lake temperature will never warm up enough such that it’s acceptable for swimming for those who aren’t completely insane. That temperature would be somewhere around 80, or where the risk of seeing baby harp seals frolicking and gamboling about is minimal. But enough is enough – I can NOT get into Lake Spud without having done a single open water swim of more than 15 minutes (Tri-Shark).

So off I go, toting along every bit of neoprene I own: wetsuit, cap, booties, gloves. It’s quite possible that water may not even touch my skin. I park my car and start trudging over to the beach, wearing a bathing suit, beach cover-up, and cheap flip-flops, all to minimize what someone would steal if they took off with my stuff, since there’s really no way to lock up my bag. As I’m walking on this windy, grey, misty day more appropriate for March, I notice that everyone passing me is wearing.......parkas. No, seriously. Winter wear. One person has a scarf on, but there is also actual down being worn. In comparison, I look like a total idiot. Or triathlon goddess, take your pick.

The beach is deserted, of course, as I start the process of getting the Damn Wetsuit on. Really, is there anyone who doesn’t curse when putting these things on? But I did learn something from last year, where I put on the wetsuit and then the gloves and booties: this will lead to a situation whereby the booties obtain a windsock effect, dragging behind you as they fill up with water, and the gloves will also fill up with water and puff up to look like Hamburger Helper mitts. Not that great in terms of reducing drag.

Of course, I get everything on and then realize I forgot to tuck my plastic bag with my car key somewhere on my person. Shit. Well, stuffing it down the front of the suit will have to do. Onward!

“Hmm, the water doesn’t seem TOO bad...yeah, it’s really not that ba..oh my god ohmygodohmygodohmygod.”

That was when I put my face in the water – and sure, the rest of me was all cozy and warm, but my face? Insta-freeze. Holy jesus, that’s painful.

However, once I start swimming, my face goes numb and thus no longer hurts. This means that when I stop to adjust my goggles and a parka-clad passerby asks me how the water is and I attempt to say “insanely cold!” – it comes out as “hwebahna hahd.” Yet he seems to understand me, and says that he’s waiting until next week to get into the water. You know, for the miraculous warming up that’ll occur due to the consistent 55-degree air temperatures we’ve been having in Chicago.

I swim for about an hour, just me and the harp seals, as I realize how insanely slow I am and have the fervent hope that 2200 people in the water will create a nice draft that’ll just suck me along in its wake. Either that or I’ll have to create some kind of protocol for smuggling fins into the water with me. I’m sure that’s never been tried before, so it’s not like they’d even be looking for it, right?

When I get out and strip off the gloves and booties, my hands and feet look rather blue and are in fact numb. But I have to say, that really wasn’t too bad. Okay, it was actually kind Yes, it’s true. Once my face went into can’t-feel-it mode, it was kind of nice to be in an actual body of water rather than in a pool, which I hate. Which is why I, umm, rarely get in a pool. Oh, and I’m pretty sure the water was AT LEAST 48 degrees. Practically balmy.

By the way, I’d like to apologize to everyone in Chicago – or perhaps the world, since the weather seems to suck everywhere – for being so foolish as to sign up for an early-season Ironman. Which by definition would normally dictate lots of outdoor riding, swimming, etc. Which means that Chicago has had not only the rainiest spring in history, but also the coldest one in 50 years. A coincidence? I think not. My bad....


Roadie in Vancouver said...

I commiserate, really I do. I just wish I had put on more sunscreen today for my ride in Vancouver. Canada, which last I checked is NORTH of Chicago.

Funny, I didn't see any of our seals around frolicking in the balmy waters that flank our bike rides, I guess they migrate to Chicago in the Spring. ;-)

t-odd said...

I had a "swim" like that last year while training in Lake Michigan for a HIM in Door County WI. I had a sleeveless wetsuit though. Worst ice cream headache EVER! I need to get in an open water swim or two this week for a sprint next Sat. I did pick up a full suit this spring. What is with this fricking weather!?

D said...

Excuse me? Getting an open water swim in before IronSpud? I'll have you know, us real triathletes don't put our wetsuit on for the FIRST TIME ever until race day which is also the first open water swim... ever! I'd also like to point out the 1:19:xx first ever open water swim.

still all about the weather stacey said...

so funny that's early season for you ... showed up for the sunday ride and there was only the fast and faster group -- and realized the lot of them were training for their 452th iron man this year.