One thing about open water swimming – it always teaches me something.
Sometimes it’s about myself. Sometimes it’s about my limits. Sometimes it’s about my limitlessness
Sometimes it’s about the lake.
Today was one of those days! Despite a truncated training season in Trail (for which I am grateful, because lots of swimmers could swim much less), I decided to attempt a 6 hour English Channel qualifier in Okanagan Lake. I did one last October, but Coach Brent and I wanted to do it again in a consistent sub-16 degrees as the rules require. I’d only been lake training for 2 weeks, since it’s been as cold as a witch’s tit around here.
I was pretty sure that my fitness would hold up, since I’ve been doing a lot of biking and hiking (and pool sets). I was a little nervous about the temperature, but mostly because I am a big baby and I promised myself that I’d start taking cold showers in February, but really, fuck that.
We met at Brent’s house and lugged his canoe to the beach. I was excited to meet awesome Kelowna swimmers Phred and Mike, since group swimming is always more fun. We started off in the chop and headed for the bridge. I’d swam the bridge with Brent last year and was eager to battle the waves and freak myself out looking for the big black carp that hang out beneath it. I felt strong and confident all the way, and we passed underneath and had a lovely current that pushed us back to the other side in much calmer water. I took a feed at around an hour in.
Speaking of feeds, I have been using Perpetuem for my long swims for about a year now. I decided to up my game after deciding that pickle juice and Shok Blocks just weren’t cutting it. I’ve found the Perpetuem mostly palatable for swims up to 10 km, but felt slightly nauseous chugging it back for anything longer. I tried all the tricks – imagining that it’s root beer, or a Shamrock Shake, or holding my nose – but by the end of a long swim even the sickly sweet smell of it makes my stomach churn.
So with that in mind, I was prepared to do one last swim with the Perpetuem while I waited for my shipment of another product that I didn’t order in time.
With 2 or 3 feeds in my system, we headed south along the lake shore. Mike departed leaving Phred and I battling the very windy and wavy conditions, while Brent captained his canoe. With small craft warning conditions, we were the only crazy people in/on the water. Still, things were going swimmingly.
Until they weren’t.
If you’ve seen the film Stand By Me, you’ll remember the scene where Gordie tells the story of Lard Ass, who won the pie eating contest at the County Fair. Soon after his victory, Lard Ass downs some castor oil to induce a giant purple projectile vomit, which sets the whole crowd off on a mass barforama.
In an open water swimming context, I was Lard Ass and the castor oil was Perpetuem. And once I started really feeling the rocking of the waves, I had to hurl every kilometre and after every feed. I even tried to drink a can of Fresca, but that also came back up along with my breakfast bagel and the popcorn from the night before.
I continued to swim, burp, and spew, swim, burp and spew for another 2 hours. I thought I might crap my pants too, but managed to control myself, mostly because I didn’t want to anger the Ogo Pogo. I was miserable, frustrated, weak, and embarrassed. I was so confident earlier in the swim, even when we decided that the water temperature wasn’t cold enough for qualifier status anyways. My arms and legs and core felt great, but I could not shake that topsy turvy feeling every time I was horizontal.
I have no idea how Brent managed to keep his boat afloat, but he continued to encourage me, he didn’t laugh, and he didn’t ask me if I crapped my pants.
And then it was over. My big season opener. My test of consistent training. My much anticipated Saturday morning! I have no idea why I got so sick. Was it the Perpetuem, or am I prone to seasickness? Was it my ears? And what does this mean for potential ocean swims or Channel crossings?
So much to learn.
I spent the afternoon feeling crappy and replenishing calories (a delicious burger at Brent’s and then poutine and Gatorade), and researching anti-nausea medication. No matter what, I will learn as much as I can. I’m determined to find the right nutrition, and figure out how to not blow chunks in wavy conditions. I have been extremely lucky so far in my open water journey – no shoulder issues, great training pals, awesome coaching, excellent paddlers, minimal chafing…
I suppose I did learn that I can push through some discomfort, and that I can stay determined even when things go sideways and upside down (or at least when that’s what it feels like.)
I’m sorry, Ogo Pogo, for polluting your waters, but next time give me a break. I’ll be back in 2 weeks.