I got pummeled by the waves today. They were big for my beach at least.
If I delay a swim until later in the day I often lose momentum to get it in there. Today I did procrastinate which put my swim well into the afternoon when the wind picks up and waves are sure to be strong and unfriendly. But I figured I would just make this a day to practice swimming with waves. As I started driving out of my village toward the sea I was met by very strong steady wind coming in from the coast- the kind that stirs up really big waves. I figured I would just make this a BIG wave practice day then. As I still a few kilometers away I could see white caps on the sea in the distance. I figured then that I would just make this a BIG wave and salt-water drinking practice day.
I finally got to the beach and found a hand-full of sunbathers laying along the beach but the water was virtually deserted. The 1 meter swells were pounding the pebbled shore- these were not swimming conditions. I immediately thought of my TI Israel comrades who just finished a relay English Channel crossing- I thought, even these waves here today could never get as tough as the Channel! So I was not going to hesitate today anymore.
I thought I would do 4x 15 minute runs up and down the coast, closer to shore, to put in a good hour of rough-sea training. But within minutes I was being picked up and slapped down by the peaked swells, getting salt water shoved down my throat. It was definitely sea-sickness conditions if you were in a boat. Laying just under the waves I was fine, but as I swam along the swells would rise up under my legs and lift me as if to flip me heels over head- it reminded me of what it felt like as a surfer in Oregon to be picked up on my surf board from behind and smashed back down head first.(I was not a very good Oregon surfer).
Breaststroke was the way to go in these conditions. I did that for a few minutes, just gliding under the waves and then taking advantage of the generous breathing pattern to time breaths between slappings. But that was not how I would be making progress in such rough conditions if I were racing. So I went back to freestyle and started tinkering with my tempo to find a more suitable pattern in this abusive chop. I found that a faster tempo, earlier spearing entry, and rolling toward the waves to breath worked better, when swimming with the waves hitting me at 10 oclock. I could see them coming that way and decide whether to breath or hold it another stroke. Coming back with the waves was a bit easier as I was then being shoved by the waves at 4 oclock and found I didn’t get water shoved in my face as much.
I could not imagine trying to cross the Channel in such conditions- here I still have 28 C water, visibility to 4m and the shore only 20 meters away. Dang. But in the Channel it’s cold, dark, lonely and often fierce I imagine. I suppose a swimmer can start out with clear skies and a smooth sea promise, but once in the middle they’re considerably committed to the effort. I am sure it takes a strong mind and heart to decide to stick it out when that promise is broken and France is still a long ways away.
I took advantage of the fact that I had little reason to force myself to keep drinking salt water so I headed to shore at 28 minutes. Enough for today! Next time I’ll get my buns out the door a lot earlier.