Swimming with the Mad Dogs

September 6, 2012 at 8:27 pm

I did it! I survived a one mile open water swim.


I dropped the boys off at karate and hurried to get to Pass-a-grille (the southernmost part of St. Pete Beach). They are working on a new vaulted bridge to replace the current draw bridge.


I drove past the Don Cesar hotel, not realizing that soon it would play an important role in my open water swim.


I was worried about getting there by 6 p.m., but I ended up getting there with time to spare.


The St. Pete Mad Dogs Triathlon Club meets at Hurley Park every Wednesday night for the group swim.


I sat in my car and slowly started seeing people arrive around me. Fit-looking, triathlete types. I was a little intimidated because I didn’t know anyone, but as usual I had no trouble striking up conversation and everyone was friendly and welcoming.

We lingered on the sidewalk…


waiting for the bell tower in the nearby church to strike six o’clock. As soon as it chimed, the large group of swimmers started walking together down the beach.


The Don Cesar is exactly one mile down the shoreline from Hurley Park. The group walks down to the Don then swims back. I didn’t get any pictures of the group at all because I didn’t want to be the stranger taking pictures while we waited. And then of course I couldn’t carry anything down the beach because I had to swim back in the ocean. But I’d say there were at least 50 swimmers. It was really cool to walk down the beach with everyone. I had some nice conversations with people during our one mile walk. What races have you done? What races would you like to do? What injuries do you/have you had? (athletes always talk about injuries)

Here’s a picture taken from our starting point:


If you look way into the background at the edge of the sea grass, you can see the Don Cesar. That’s how far we walked, then swam back. Here it is zoomed in.


One mile never seemed so far. The surf was pretty rough, and it was a battle. I was surprised by many things. I thought that if I got tired I would just do back stroke or breast stroke because I use those strokes when swimming in the pool as “cool down” strokes. In the ocean, back stroke does help a little, but it is still very difficult because you get face-fulls of salt water and you are still battling the current and waves. Breast stroke is not relaxing either. Doing breast stroke through waves makes breathing difficult.

Speaking of breathing, it is just in general so much harder while swimming in the ocean as compared to in the pool…at least in a rough sea like we swam in last night. Half of the time when you turn your head to breathe during freestyle, or when bobbing up and down during breast stroke, you find yourself hit in the face with a wave so you have to skip breathing during that stroke and wait until the next one to try again. You definitely inhale lots of salt water no matter what you do, just from the water that you are splashing up all around you. After about a quarter mile the salt water was stinging my sinuses and I felt like the inside of my mouth was raw from it. I never actually swallowed a mouthful of water or inhaled it, but when swimming long distances you inevitably get water in your nose and mouth. Just the abrasiveness of the salt stung my mouth and sinuses, and also made me feel dehydrated and thirsty.

By the half-mile mark, which people had pointed out to me on our walk to the Don Cesar, I was beat and would have loved to quit. I think my friend Beth’s comment on yesterday’s post resonated as a challenge to me. She said that I shouldn’t feel like I had to do the full mile. Whatever, Beth. I was going to do the whole dang mile. I just kept swimming.

Sighting was really difficult. This is definitely something I need to practice. When I would just put my head down and swim as hard as I could, I’d end up finding myself either heading in to shore, or out to sea. When I would stop and do a few strokes of breast stroke to sight, I’d be shocked to find myself not heading where I wanted to go. I would try to sight off the shore when taking breaths during freestyle, but it just didn’t work. It also made it feel like FOREVER before I would pass a landmark. Several times I found my hands touching sand while doing strokes and I would realize that I was too close to shore. I did stand up and walk back out beyond the breakers (and take a breather for a moment) a few times. One nice gentleman at the end gave me some pointers on sighting. Thanks dude!

After what seemed like an eternity, I saw that American flag that I knew marked the park and I was done. It felt great to walk out of the ocean back onto the beach. In the pool I can swim 2500 yards in an hour. This one mile (1760 yards) took well over an hour. I think with all my zig-zagging I probably actually swam two miles. Next time I’m going to wear my Garmin. I was so utterly spent by the end, but really happy that I had done it. I walked back up to the park to hang out with the Mad Dogs for a few minutes.


The pros that were there told me that it was a really difficult swim. They said that it is not always like that, and that my triathlon should be much easier. Whew. At least now I know that I can do it. I’ll definitely be back out again to swim with them. It was an amazing, challenging workout.


As I was leaving the sun was truly setting and I would have liked to have sat on the beach and watched it, sipping a margarita, but I was also starving and salty and exhausted.


I headed home and took a glorious hot shower, then had dinner.


That’s crockpot French onion chicken on brown rice. It turned out great! I ate it while totally crashed out on the couch with Chad. We watched television and played with a new toy that we just got…a new camera! We only have seven or eight cameras, so we really needed a new one. The one we got is, according to months of Chad’s laborious online research, the state of the art in point and shoots. It’s a Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100.

Ridiculous test shots ensued.

20120905-DSC00002(this is a dark room with no flash…this is also not that bad of a mess by our standards)

All of these photos are taken in a dimly lit room with no flash. That is supposed to be a forte of this camera, so I’m hoping restaurant food pictures will be great.


Random stuff on our coffee table:


We watched most of the first installment of Coma. Anybody watching? Love Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under. But I thought Gina Davis’ Brazil-like surgically altered face was hard to look at. I think it’s so sad. Natural aging is not something to be ashamed of. To each their own, but I didn’t think she looked good. (For example, Caroline Kennedy is speaking at the DNC as I type this, and she looks awesome and natural. I bet she is close to the same age as Gina Davis.)

I was so exhausted last night that I think I passed out about ten seconds after my head hit the pillow. I did wake up feeling very refreshed, though. Chewie and I walked Mack to school.

20120906-IMG_8080(old camera, obviously, in low light…I’m not allowed to take the new camera in a pocket on walks or in my cross-bar pouch while biking)

Once back home, breakfast:

20120906-DSC00012(Banana-pecan French toast, new camera)

After getting Cal off to the bus stop with carpool, I biked to the gym.

20120906-IMG_8082(old camera)

I took Star the Trek so I could put my yoga mat on the rack. Apparently no self-respecting road bike would sport a rack. I have a yoga mat back-pack on order, though.


20120906-DSC00014(New camera…not carried ON the bike. It was in my backpack.)

Once home…lunch:


I am writing this really late tonight because I spent all afternoon running all over the place for the boys. After picking Mack up from school, we headed to the pediatrician’s office for Mack’s eight year old check-up (only about three months late). He did his homework while we waited.


I played with the new camera and read the owner’s manual, trying to figure out all the bells and whistles (still haven’t).


You get all excited when they call you back to the exam room, but then you wait again.


Mack and I both got the flu vaccine. I let him have the nasal mist and I got the injection. And punched a mer-baby.


Do I look like Rosie the Riveter?


After Mack’s doctor appointment I took him to karate, then went to pick up Cal and his buddy from the bus stop. I took Cameron home, dropped Cal off at home (staying by himself for short periods…this is a new thing!), and then went to pick up the weekly pie from Tour de Pizza.


Then I went to pick Mack up from karate and finally we headed home. I was running around non-stop from 2 p.m. until 5:30. The boys had pizza, but I had leftover French onion chicken with roasted squash and onions. A delicious mess. Beagles swoon.


Now Chad’s gone to pool and I’m eagerly anticipating Obama’s speech.