Since I was young I have been in the water. Whether we were vacationing as a family in Myrtle Beach, taking swimming lessons at the local pool or spending summer afternoons in our backyard pool I enjoyed being in the water.

Before my first triathlon – Subaru Iron Girl Grimsby – in August of 2015 I hadn’t spent any time open water swimming, I wasn’t scared about swimming in Lake Ontario but I was a bit hesitant as I didn’t know what to expect. I was prepared to do my best in the lake having only trained in the pool, but when race day rolled around we were informed that the open water swim was cancelled due to the water being too cold and choppy. Once I crossed the finish line at this race I promised myself that I would invest more time getting comfortable in the open water next season.

I spent the winter of 2016 training in the pool alongside my Tribe Fitness family, it allowed me to build strength in my stroke and ensure that I had the endurance to complete 1500 – 2000m swims continuously. By May I still had not found a group or organization to swim outside with, I knew that some of my crew would visit Cherry Beach a few times before TTF but I really wanted to ensure that I dedicated some time to this.

One evening during a run a fellow runner Kim mentioned a group that she had discovered last year in Oakville – L.O.S.T aka Lake Ontario Swim Team – they met every Saturday morning at 8am where a route was set-up for the group to swim. In mid-May I met Kim one Saturday morning, nervous and with wetsuit in hand for a trial swim with a group of over fifty people. The water may have been cold and my wetsuit may have been a struggle to get on, but I had fantastic swim and felt very safe knowing that there were three volunteers in kayaks located on the course in case I needed assistance.

I became a member of L.O.S.T. the following week, for $45 I obtained a membership that would allow me to swim from June until October every Saturday morning. Over the course of the summer I would drive to Oakville almost every Saturday to meet Kim and suit up for a swim in the lake. The water was cold until about early August but training in cold water only better prepared me for the possibility of cold water on race day. Once I was more comfortable in the open water and I began to actively seek out opportunities in my training to swim within the pack to build up my confidence for those start line moments where you are in close proximity to others or you’re looking to move ahead of a group during the race.

A few of the top things I learned from my training in the lake last summer:

  • Swimming in a wetsuit is a lot different than swimming in a bathing suit, there is a period of adjustment where you will get used to having the additional buoyancy, how to maintain your mobility in the wetsuit and of course the fastest way to get it off in transition.
  • When the water is cold it sometimes can take a few hundred meters for your body to become normalized to the temperatures and for you to be able to comfortably put your face in the water. Just remember to stay calm, keep your breathing even and steady to ensure that you don’t panic.
  • Building a solid foundation in the pool will give you the additional strength required in the open water as you contend with currents, wind and unsettled water during your swim.

When I approached the starting dock at TTF in July 2016 I felt ready, I was mentally prepared for the possibility of cold water, I had experience swimming in a group and I knew exactly what I needed to do to find my grove once I got moving in the water to complete my swim in a good time.

This year the first official L.O.S.T. swim takes place on June 3rd at 8am, we meet at the end of Navy Street in Oakville and swim of the rocks near the pier. If you’re looking for an option to take your training to the open waters or you would like to see what open water swimming is all about I encourage you to join us or check out another local group to join. While open water swimming may not be easy at first and yes it can be cold, taking the plunge and committing some time to becoming familiar in the lake will not only help your perform better but it will also help you approach the starting line with confidence on race day!

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