Monday, February 14, 2011

From shipping wetsuits to swimming in one: Amy tests the open water

While many of us here at blueseventy have a long history of involvement with swimming and/or triathlon, some are still very new to the sport. Given it’s summer down here in New Zealand, and our newest team member Amy has decided she can put up with the crazy antics of the NZ office, the time came to induct her into the world of open water swimming. I’ll let her tell you how it went…

So I forgot my netball shoes last week for training, and decided that with no excuse left, it was time to walk the talk and hit the open water. Naomi had a session planned Friday lunchtime with a few swimmers so I joined in.

I've been arranging the shipping for thousands of blueseventy wetsuits around the world so I thought it was time I learned what it was all about. I'm keen to try it, after all, I frequently do a few laps of the local pool for a bit of fun and fitness in between netball (when I have my shoes!), so I'm thinking the only difference will be I won't have the nice straight line at the bottom and a brick wall to break up the swim every 25 metres.

First was the fitting. The hardest part seemed to be pulling my feet through (this I'm told is a tad unusual - I guess I have unusually wide feet!). Naomi grabbed a selection of various sizes and models of wetsuits, and with some tips on how to put it on, Naomi and I began the fitting process.

It was a muggy Hawkes Bay day so fitting the suit was a hot and sweaty process. By suit three I was pretty sticky and the suit was putting up a fair fight, but after a little more pulling and cursing, (which actually, isn't that unusual in the office) we had the perfect suit. Apparently the key was to make sure the suit fit nice and snug so there were no gaps between the suit and my body (I went through 3 wetsuit sizes to get the least "gaps" - professional fitting is definitely the key) - I later found out this was to eliminate water filling those gaps, which then created drag, and would definitely not help me swim faster! It was like a second skin – and was a pretty unusual feeling to start with!

We headed down the local pond and seeing as its a grey overcast day, I’m pleased to have some yellow lens Nero goggles to help brighten things up. As I step into the water its easy. Why? because I'm in a wetsuit of course, there's no "eek" feeling of water hitting the body, but I still had the feel of it. I'm off straight away. Now, remember, I'm used to seeing a straight line at the bottom and a wall not to far away. About 50m into the swim I look up to notice I'm veering off to the right. Naomi teaches me a new open water sighting technique; swim 3 strokes, breathe, 3 strokes, look up. This is brilliant in keeping me straight. As for the brick wall - it wasn't there, but I didn't miss it. It was just me and the open water. Looking up to see a sea of water was awesome, like this was my big playground. It did feel different swimming in a wetsuit - there was no chill of the water, and it took me a few meters to learn my stoke technique again.

I expected to keep myself afloat, but the awesome thing about the Axis is, it kept me a float. Being a first timer and 50 meters from shore with the final stretch to go, I started to feel a bit light headed (now I know why you triathletes eat so much!). It was a great feeling and very reassuring to feel safe in the water. I chugged along against the current to hit the shore line feeling very proud that I had concurred 1km of my first open water swim. Taking the wetsuit off was a lot easier than putting it on (this will be a big help when I complete my first triathlon later next month), and, feeling the water after the swim, I appreciated the warmth in the wetsuit had provided me. The next day the muscles definitely felt like they had worked a bit harder, which was great.

I remembered my shoes today so will hit the gym for a run and cycle. Now I know what its all about I will appreciate every wetsuit I send around the world...


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