Friday, July 3, 2009

The Ice Bath

So last night SJV and I had our Thursday night swim class. And so, we made the trek down to the lakefront, wetsuits in tow. I was wearing layers and layers of clothes (long sleeved shirt, fleece pullover, tri shorts and top and some warmup pants) so that I could overheat a bit before we got into the lake.

Because the lake is currently 62 degrees.


Last week, the lake was 70 degrees -- or at least, that's what I heard. Now, the lake has "turned," apparently, and now what was warm is cold. Like a big Ice Bath. So, in preparation for swimming in an Ice Bath, I wanted to warm up a bit so that the water didn't feel so oppressive. (Hence the overheating, as described above.) We got to the lakefront, and there were only about 8 of us in class this week. That's not all that surprising -- with the holiday and everything, you have to figure a lot of folks are out of town. Still, it was a good group, and we got to meet a few people that we otherwise only know through Chicago Tri Club postings. (Hey Juan!) And I was one of only two girls this week (props to Kim), and one of only two with a sleeveless wetsuit (me and Coach Fitz). (*sigh*)

So, after our howdy-do's, we head down to the beach and get our instructions from Fitz. We're going to to another beach start, and we're going to end up doing a full mile this week, plus we'll be checking cadence and wearing little beepers under our swim caps to help us time our strokes. And so, we start off.

I get my toes in the water, and actually think it's not so bad. Knee and thigh deep weren't that bad, either. Then I had to actually "dive" in as part of a drill so the coach could check our initial cadence. So I did -- and HOLY COW. The first five strokes weren't that bad, but ... wow. Wow. I told myself that it's just like an ice bath after you've gone for a long run, and it's good for you. Builds character. Puts hair on your chest.

Wait -- I don't want hair on my chest. Strike that.

So, pretty soon we were headed off to the 1/2 mile marker and back, with little beepers that go in your swim cap so that you can hear a metronome-esque sound in your ear. You're supposed to stroke with the beat. Everyone got a number -- SJV and I got the same number to start with (awww!) -- 100. We headed out to the quarter mile marker, where we were to add five beats to our beepers (which slows the little beeper down). The water was, of course, incredibly cold, and it seemed pretty lonely out there -- we were really the only swim class going on, and nobody else was crazy enough to be out there. So it was pretty serene, and even when it started getting "deep" it was pretty relaxing. And now, with the beeping noise in my ear, I had something to focus on when/if I started "freaking out." That happens every once in a while, you know. (At least, it does to me.)

Once we got to the turnaround point, we were to add another five beats to our little beepers. It was a little hard for me to bilateral breathe with 105 (it's always hard for me to bilateral breathe, actually) so I was wondering what 110 would do. And let me tell you -- I loved it. I finally stretched out (the point of the drill, apparently) and felt like I was really moving without a whole lot of effort. The water was clear, and I could see to the bottom (sometimes good, and sometimes bad in Lake Michigan), which was relaxing, too. Even with the cold water. After class, Fitz told me that my initial cadence (when I first felt that cold water) was 75 -- so this drill was obviously perfect for someone like me (even though I attribute part of my high cadence to the fact that I was swimming in an ICE BATH).

Once we were done, and standing in knee deep water, I started to shiver. Looking around, everyone else (all men this week, except one other woman, and all wearing long-sleeved wetsuits) was hanging out, chatting. SJV took one look at me and my shivering arms, and said we were getting out. So, I hot-bodded it out of the water (I literally ran), onto the beach, to dry off and get my clothes on. That's when I realized that I couldn't really feel the heels of my feet or my toes, and that my fingertips were purple. Oops! Obviously, it's not optimal for race performance to have digits and appendages that have gone numb.

And so, I'm now worried that the Lake will turn for Steelhead (it could happen). So I'm now in the market for a new wetsuit. A few weeks ago, the guys from TriBug (great guys, great website, and great gear) brought DeSoto Black Pearls for us to try on -- I tried one on and swam in it that day, when the water was 59 degrees. And I LOVED it. Wasn't cold at all, actually. But, before buying, I thought I should see how my body does in cold water without one.

I think I now have the answer to that question.

So, looks like I might be getting a new/additional wetsuit, folks. Anyone with reviews, etc., is invited to let me know about your experience in the comments. It would sure be appreciated.

I hope you all have wonderful holiday weekends -- enjoy the Fourth of July!

Stay warm,

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