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Long Distance Swimming
by Denis Oakley in , , ,

I've been discussing my attitude to swimming recently with my coach. One of his suggestions on how to feel more comfortable with water is to head off a beach for 1/2 an hour in a straight line with paddles and pull buoy. Then turn round and come back.

Whoooaaa. Steady. That makes me really uncomfortable. What happens if there are sharks? (I get paranoia attacks in the swimming pool some times). More importanly what about the current; what if I can't swim back? What if I drown? Big issues here

But at the same time I'm happy enough to enter races where the swim course is at least 3 hours long. What is it about swimming solo in the ocean? The fear is irrational - but similar I suppose to running in the jungle in darkness at night. You feel very vulnerable. The world visible to your senses has collapsed and only encompasses a small sphere around you. An attack (from shark or branch) could be imminent and you'd never know.

What of the things I love about triathlon is the feeling of control I get from increased strength and endurance. Swimming by myself in a big ocean where I cannot see what is around me massively reduces that sense of control. I am small and weak and alone. How do I cope with it?

There are places and places to swim of course. A lot of it is experience and confidence. I'm quite happy jumping off a boat a mile or two offshore and swimming to land. I do it on most holidays. Equally so I have no real problems swimming out to an Island and back.

It is just the fear of swimming out in to the big blue. Small. Alone. Insignificant. Well I think I'll do some tests and see what it is like. Not a long distance at first - but shorter runs 5 in and 5 back, 10 out and 10 back to grw my experience of ocean swimming and see how it goes.

If nothing else I could always put Senay in a rubber dingy and pull that :)


tryathlete said...

not something i'd be able to do. plus the lack of lifeguards at our local beaches makes it just a little more daunting. getting someone on a kayak to follow you may help though

Denis Oakley said...

I know the feeling. The questions I'd ask would be:
Are there sharks here?
Are there jelly fish?
What are the currents like?
How to I get back to this beach if I land up coats or down coast?

That said a life guard is pretty useless. If you going out 1km plus a lifegaurd is not going to get to you in time. :(

On the plus side if you've got paddle and pull buoys you can stay afloat for a long time.

I like the idea of a kayak - especially if they're in the general area able to provide help as required but not intrusive

Simon said...

I'm with you on this one - scares the willies out of me when I'm alone but strangely as you say not in a race.

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