My maternal great-granduncle was part dolphin

A woman in Trimom’s triathlon training group lives on Elkhart Lake, and offered to let anyone come and swim off her pier this morning as long as they did a buddy system. Trimom and I talked to some friends of ours, and found another couple to go out there with us. M- and C- have kids about our kids’ ages, and we all got out to the lake about 9:40 a.m. Trimom was feeling a little under the weather, and C- doesn’t do triathlons (yet), so it was decided that M- and I would swim, and Trimom and C- would lifeguard.

Standing on the shore, looking across a lake is always daunting. It looks REALLY, REALLY far. It wouldn’t look far to run, or to bike, but something about open water makes everything look like it’s a million miles away. We were assured by our hostess, however, that the boathouse on the opposite shore was really only a little more than a quarter-mile.

Now, I’ve swam quarter-miles in three triathlons, so I wasn’t concerned about getting there. I was concerned about getting back. Swimming over half-a-mile would the longest I’ve ever swam, and definitely the longest in open water. Plus, it was a little windy and there were some mild waves on the lake; nothing that I worried about drowning in, but enough that I knew staying on a straight line would be tricky.

But, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead, as they say.

M- and I set out across the lake, with C- in a rowboat with three of the girls, and Trimom in a kayak with our two-year-old. The rowboat didn’t last too long, as the girls got bored, and C- turned back. After 25 yards or so of breaststroke, just to get used the the water, I took a breath, put my head in, and started to crawl across the lake.

I wish it was more of an ordeal; it would make a better story. The truth is, I felt great. I swam at a steady, calm pace, popping my head up every four or five strokes to sight where I was going.

I was Finding Nemo; “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

We got to the other side, and M- was right behind me. I had lost sight of her, because she was swimming on my left, but she was right there. We took a quick breather, Trimom turned the kayak around, and we headed back.

Immediately, things were a bit dicier. We were headed more into the wind and into the waves on the way back, and I had to ride a couple of largish waves once we cleared the bay. I didn’t panic, even though part of me wanted to, and just kept breathing and swimming and looking, trying to stay frosty.

About two-thirds of the way back, I needed a new mantra, so I switched from “just keep swimming” to “I can do an Olympic, I can do an Olympic.” See, an Olympic distance triathlon is 1500 meters, or just over nine-tenths of a mile. I figured if this swim was somewhere in between six- and seven-tenths, and given how good I felt, I was not too far removed from being able to swim Olympic distance. There was only one more hurdle to clear, and that was how I felt when I got out of the water. Swimming along is one thing, but the transition out of the water, moving from a horizontal position to a standing one, suddenly having to support your body weight again, that can get you.

I’m happy to say that when I got back to the starting pier, I was dizzy only for a moment or two, and was able to climb the ladder with no problems. Two minutes later, I was ready to get on a bike and go for a ride. I didn’t, but I felt like I could.

M- beat me back by about 30 seconds, and Trimom had a good core workout paddling the kayak.

We’re planning on going back next Sunday, when I’ll lifeguard and Trimom will swim. Despite the fact she wasn’t feeling well, she was jealous that I got to swim and she didn’t. That’s the nature of this triathlon nonsense; she was JEALOUS she didn’t get to swim ACROSS a LAKE. Even though she’s afraid of fish.

Check out a map of our route. Bear in mind, we did not swim in a perfectly straight line, so the distance was a little more than the .63 miles indicated.




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