... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Practically Iron: A Two Mile Swim

This morning I was up early, ready to run. Yet again, my landlord had talked me into joining his (much more zealous) exercise session, this time a long swim at Hapuna Beach, 4 lengths of the beach for what he thought was a total of 1 1/3 miles. This was over twice what I've been swimming, but being the type of person who can't say no to a challenge, (I said ballerinas don't run, not that they aren't competitive!) I agreed.

This should give you an idea of the length of the beach
Since I shared pictures of where I was training in Honolulu it seems only right that you also see where I am here on the Big Island. I think that my swim training has taken a step up from my Ala Moana days. Although the water at Hapuna Beach does tend to be a little rougher than what I have been used to due to less reef protection, the overall vibe and ambience of the beach is a million times better and the water clarity is incomparable. At Ala Moana it felt like swimming in an ocean of milky turquoise -- the color was beautiful but I was hard pressed to see beyond my hands. Swimming at Hapuna is like swimming through a sapphire. No matter how deep I go I can see the bottom, and the sand at the bottom is fashioned into long, wiggly ridges by the currents and waves. Being able to see the bottom, combined with increased wave action, creates a really unique rollercoaster-like effect, picking you up and dropping you back down, pulling you out and pushing you in, moving you in every which way possible and accenting it by letting you have a fixed point of vision on the ocean floor. It feels like nothing I've ever felt before, being moved in every direction at once. It was a little disconcerting at first, but like anything, the body adjusts and now I actually enjoy the sensation.

We entered the water to the far left side of the beach and swam out past the surf break. The water was fairly calm, and the first length of the swim went by easily. I even beat my landlord! (Sorry Don.) Other than a little trouble with a bad seal on my goggles, everything was smooth. I saw a few little fish and after the second length I had settled into a wonderful, relaxing rhythm. Long, slow strokes, rocking back and forth ... it was quite meditative. I try to do a very casual version of speed intervals, and by that I mean that when I realize I have been really slow for a while, I try to find my threshold, the speed at which I am exerting energy but not tiring. Then I sprint for a minute or so, then return to my slow and relaxing pace. This is all done in a haphazard, whenever-I-think-about-it kind of way. I noticed how natural my kick gets during long distances. I wasn't even thinking about it, and suddenly realized that not only was it steady, but my focus on form had apparently sunk in. Despite not making any conscious attempt to keep my knees fairly straight, kick from my hip, and point my feet (finally my Ballerina-ness comes in handy for something!), my form was feeling good!

The "rest beach"
After the third length we rest briefly on the tiny beach secluded by lava rocks from the rest of the sand, then climbed up to the hotel grounds just above Hapuna. By the time we got back in the water, I was ready to make the final swim back. Unfortunately for us, the wind was coming up and by the halfway point there were waves breaking over my head and swells throwing me around like a rag doll. Without thinking much of it, I kept swimming, thinking that maybe I had veered off course and into the surf break. I kept trying to go toward the deeper water, but no matter how deep I got I was still getting hit. Wondering what was happening, I finally popped up to get a look. Immediately, I wished I hadn't. White caps were all around me, and a large wind-blown swell was coming straight at me. It broke directly on my head, and I realized there was nothing to do but keep swimming. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Oddly enough, the time actually went by quickly because I was so focused on sneaking breaths in between getting pummeled by waves, and before I knew it I had reached our start point.

After doing some research, I found out that the Hapuna Beach swim is not 1/3 mile, like we thought, but a full half mile! We swam 2 miles without even realizing what we were doing! Add one more length and I'm at full Ironman length!!! I am allowing myself to be happy and excited about that even though the thought of biking the 112 mile and running the marathon Ironman distances is laughable. No doubt I would keel over and die. All in time, all in time.

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