Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Open Water Torture

Terrible things took place on February 25, 2012. My life will now be divided into two sections: before 10,000 daggers stabbed every part of my body at once, and after. While my BD (Before Dagger) memories will be featured in technicolor, the AD (After Dagger) memories from my life will forever be in black and white when I reminisce. And not the classy-film kind of black and white. The depressing-film kind of black and white.

My Ironman training buddy Dan and I headed to Hell south this weekend to bike part of the Ironman course and swim in the lake. It is no exaggeration that I envisioned this weekend to look like the latter half of an anti-depressant or Viagra commercial, with the peaceful smiling, graceful bike riding, and slow motion nostalgic splashing in the water. Reality: It ended up looking more like the latter half of Titanic. But without the romantic self-sacrifices. Or the nudity. And ironically, because of my swimming experience I will probably now need anti-depressants for the rest of my life. And maybe Viagra.


We wandered over to Mr. Icy Lake on Saturday, went through the 10 minute process to put Larry and Seymour on (our wetsuits), and practically skipped to the end of dock, undeterred by the sign we saw on the way warning us that the water temperature that day was 45 degrees. Sometimes you just have to experience data before it means anything. This was one of those times. 45 degrees in February meant to me something very different than what I experienced in that water. That's because when the air temperature in Salt Lake City in February is 45 degrees, we all pull out our flip-flops and go to parks to write poetry and play on our slip-n-slides. My body is perfectly fine when consumed by 45 degree air, I thought, so why not water? Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. I was once told by an un-credible superstitious (redundant?) person that the devil controls the waters. I now know this to be true.

We optimistically chose a distant island to swim to, enthusiastically high-fived, and then submerged. Our lake submerging techniques differed dramatically, neither really more gracious or less embarrassing than the other. I chose the "lowering" technique, which was a long, gradual, torturous process. The moment my feet went under, I started to doubt the existence of a higher being. With my new-found atheism, I had no one to pray to, so I turned to outward acts of desperation. And that's when the screaming began. Oh the screaming. Property values within a ten mile radius dropped 30% and global warming advanced 30 years just because of my screaming. Eventually I let go of the dock and started floating away, believing I would never be happy again.

Not wanting to experience the gradual torture he just witnessed, Dan then just jumped in. He immediately shot out of the water and into the air, like a trained Dolphin at Sea World. But less naturally. And the look on his face resembled every artistic rendering I've ever seen of the Loch Ness Monster. On a bad day.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that somewhere during this, there may have been some crying. Things were said. Feelings were hurt. Dreams were shattered.

Somehow still thinking that swimming was a possibility, we then chose a new target, which was about 2% of the original distance goal, and started violently flopping in the water in that direction. Literally 15 seconds later, and about half-way to that target, the major hyperventilation began. At this point witnesses to the scene say they heard me yell "retreat!" or "turn around!" And thus was the tragic end of our first ever open water swim.

Most of the town folk who saw it all happen still won't talk about it.

To save face, when asked about why we only "swam" less than 20 feet, I plan to heroically refer to a made-up shark-sighting. I will even badly photoshop some pictures to prove it.

The biking was less tragic. But still I discovered three things I need to accomplish before May 5th:

1. Stop screaming and tightly gripping the brake every time I go down hill.
2. Stop imagining how much easier it would be if I just had a motor on my bike. It aint gonna happen.
3. Leave my bike to someone in my will in case I die during the swim portion and never get to use it.

On our drive back to the big city, we each took turns talking one another off the ledge, trying desperately to convince one another that all of the hot tubs in St. George are currently being hooked up with tubes to feed into the lake for the next two months. Either that or the world will end before May 5th so we'll have a good excuse for not completing the thing. I hope the latter is true. There are several parts of my future I would like to get out of if possible. But I'd settle for the hot tub plan.

~It Just Gets Stranger


Putting on Larry and Seymour 

Me, Larry, Dan, and Seymour walking to the dock

Off in the distance is the island we thought we would swim to. Notice the iceberg and the shark that got in our way. Also, it's very creepy that the Queen of Colors showed up in the picture. Neither of us remembers seeing her there . . .

Dan barely escaped in time. It is such a good thing we got out when we did.

38 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Would this be an appropriate time to say that I swam a mile in 34 degree water, without a swimsuit, and didn't think all that much of it? Yeah, I know, such an unsympathetic comment...

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    1. Two questions: 1) Do you look like me? 2) Are you available on May 5th?

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    2. I do and I AM!!!

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    3. Even if I could pass as you I have a final that day. But I do have a friend who did the same thing (I hope you saw my correction farther down this page) in less time, and got heat exhaustion. They might be available that day....

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  3. I think Stefiko is on to something. "[W]ithout a swimsuit." Apparently nudity is required to make your dream a reality. Good luck.

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    1. Currently looking into all options.

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  4. Check. And mate. Funniest thing I've read all day.

    In my younger years I went to a scout came where you had to swim for like 20 minutes in order to use the row boats. I jumped in the ice water and proceeded to have an out of body experience. I could see my lungs and every muscle fiber freeze solid while I floated to the bottom of the lake. I managed to "swim" (aka not drown) for 20 minutes and have hated swimming ever since.

    Props to you. We volunteer at STG Ironman every year. I'll coordinate the hot tubs.

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    1. Thanks for checking into the hot tub situation. Be sure to say hello if you see me down there (and feel free to carry me a bit if you've got a minute).

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  5. I thought you said there was no nudity. You are definitely almost naked in one of those pictures. No more fibbing!

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    1. Eh. By my standards, that wasn't nudity.

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  6. Those pictures remind me of a horrific movie we may have watched in the middle of the night in a distant land...

    acutally 2 distant lands and 2 different movies...

    Try not to think about those while you are doing the actual IM...the sheer panic and fear of a shark attack may lead to more flailing of arms and legs and then to drowning for sure.

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    1. Exactly. I still have irrational fears of sharks in lakes.

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  7. Ummm.....try swimming in a pool for a month just to work on your technique then brave the cold water in April. By the way I think I heard you scream all the way down in Georgia. It makes sense now.

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    1. I had NO idea my scream reached that far. So sorry!

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  8. Whoops, I meant to say no wetsuit... how embarrassing. Now the world thinks I'm a skinny-dipper. I was DEFINITLEY in a swimsuit...

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  9. Your story reminds me of the time I jumped into the Atlantic in mid December. I was at school in North Carolina w/ the Marine Corps. We had a few days of "liberty" when the holidays came around so a group of us shacked (no sex involved) up in a lodge by the beach. I decided to take a run down the beach in about 35 degree weather. Ran 3 miles, and when I finished, I figured why not take a quick dip to "cool off." Jumped right into a the Atlantic... which felt like I landed in a bed of unsterilized needles. I learned a few things that day. 1. That was stupid. 2. The walk back to the lodge was just as bad since the wind chill on a wet body brings the temp down. 3. I wont be doing that again.

    Wish you luck on your IM. Stay warm.

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    1. Thanks. And please never jump into an actual bed of unsterilized needles.

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  10. Lake Sharks are the most fearsome of all predators. you were right to turn back.

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    1. Yeah. It was actually quite brave of us to attempt the swim in shark infested waters in the first place.

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  11. I'm trying to decide where this ill-fated swimming attempt took place...either Sand Hollow or Powell. I live in Dixie and grew up at Powell and have heard tales of people purposely jumping into the icy waters of Powell as part of tradition on New Years day. Of course, then again people are pretty stupid. ;0P If it was Sand Hollow, eh...my co-worker is working on becoming a dive instructor and swims in it (wet-suit and all) year-round. Then again, he may not be human..one never knows about these things anymore. ;)

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    1. This was Sand Hollow. And if he swims in it year round he is either a) a shark, or b) crazy.

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    2. Crazy shark?! Hmm...it's possible! lol

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  12. In February of 2010, I dragged my roommates to go skinny dipping with me in Mona lake at midnight in 18 degree weather. Yes, it was freezing cold but seemed warmer than it was from the adrenaline rush of doing something illegal (both trespassing and indecent exposure) that would likely get us arrested in small-town Utah. Maybe that's the trick? Could you steal a car right before the race starts and have to swim to escape the law? Or do something horrific (e.g. kick a puppy) and need to immediately escape the public shame?

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    1. See, this is helpful. I'm going to toilet paper all of the houses in St. George the night before.

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  13. In all honesty, I think it was the fault of the Queen of Colours as to why you couldn't make your destination. I'm sure the shark only wanted to give you a hug. With his teeth.

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    1. Yeah, those of us who know her view the Q of C as an omen of sorts. She is, after all, capable of unspeakable evil.

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  14. I am officially convulsing with silent laughter, disturbing everyone in the near vicinity. I'm pretty sure the girl next to me is worried I'm having seizure. Bravo, sir.

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    1. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

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  15. Thank you for this awesome post!

    Two summers ago, I trained for a triathlon in Banff. I was ready to race when I found out I was expecting Darling Son #2. I decided to keep training anyway. One week before the race, my doctor told me it was too dangerous to compete at 12 weeks pregnant (even though the way I race is not really "competing"). We went to Banff for the weekend anyway. Race day water temperature: 10 degrees Celsius! I was so glad to have a reason not to race!

    Good luck! You'll be awesome! And I LOVE reading about your training!

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    1. I think the take-home message here is that you need to get pregnant. Stat.

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    2. And not just pregnant, 12 weeks pregnant. I'm nervous that I don't have enough time! Maybe I can adopt. Would that get me out of this?

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    3. Possibly. You should look into that. But if it doesn't count, try this:
      http://images.costumesgalore.net/pregnant_belly_06180.jpg

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  16. I think it's obvious that God hates triathletes.

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  17. I impetuously agreed to compete in a sprint triathlon in upstate NY in early June. I have regretted it ever since. I know a sprint tri is small potatoes compared to an Iron Man, but when you are drowning in an iceberg filled, shark infested lake, it is little comfort.

    I have shared this blog with the other two women who are in this mess with me in the vain hope that they will reconsider.

    Thank you for confirming my worst fears.

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    1. Please keep me posted on your experience. And watch out for the sharks. They're terrible this time of year down here.

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