Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Training for California Iceman

I'm doing the California Half-Ironman this month. (Officially they call it the "Ironman 70.3 California Oceanside", but I prefer the "Half Ironman" label.) I've been nervous about it for quite a while. "Why?" you may ask. I did Wildflower last year which is a much harder course (well, it's more like Wildflower did me, but I did survive.) The Cali Half should be much easier. What absolutely terrifies me about this race is the swim. Not the distance, not the surf... but the temperature. Despite what you may see on TV, the Southern California ocean water is COLD. Especially in March. I have been dreading getting into the freezing water ever since I signed up.

Last weekend, in an effort to confront my fears, we went down to Hermosa Beach for a swim. Five of us suited up and headed down to the water. We passed by some women Volleyball players on the beach who said that we were crazy. Ever-the-Charmer Steve told them "that's right, and we're going to give you big hugs when we get out." Ha Ha Ha.

We all took deep breaths, braced ourselves, and plunged into the water. And you know what? It really wasn't that bad. Oh sure, after 10 minutes or so I couldn't feel my toes but that's to be expected. The bigger issue was that I had forgotten how much harder it is to swim in open water than in a pool. I can't swim in a straight line to save my life (and oddly enough, in the ocean it COULD safe your life sometime). I kept being told "site off the pier! Look at the pier and head straight for it." As if I could even SEE the pier. We wound up doing something around 8/10 of a mile. It was an OK distance, but more importantly I'm a little less worried about the cold water. A LITTLE less worried.

We had the World's Longest Transition afterwards. For me, it involved sitting in the car with the heater blasting on my feet. I don't know if there are any triathlons that will allow you to park your car in the transition area, but I highly recommend it.

After we were warmed up and dried off and back on the beach sidewalk, the female volleyball players came by. One of them said “ya know, we’re still giving out free hugs”. So I took one. (you take cheap thrills wherever you can find them.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

swimming in cold water (45-55F) isn't so bad as long as you expand sufficient muscle effort to generate heat. At some point, you do lose more heat than you can generate and the deficit starts to take its toll on your core body temp. That's when it gets unpleasant. Your body goes numb, starts shaking uncontrollably, and you feel like you're inhabiting someone else's body. But for a half IM with a 1.2 mi swim, it should only take a little over half an hour in the water. Just don't go in the water well ahead of time to "warm up" because you'll do the opposite.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Hehe. Just a little while ago I was talking about CA's cold water with my wife.

Growing up, we couldn't afford wetsuits, but we were keen on surfing the entire year round. We always figured a nice hot shower afterwards was fine.

But bobbing in the surf in 45-50 degree water wearing board shorts and a t-shirt definitely led to some interesting conversations, especially after the shivering stopped.

Now, with the benefit of a couple of decades of hindsight, my brother in law and I laugh about being so hypothermic that we should have been hospitalized.

Ahhhh, youth.

7:28 PM  
Blogger monica said...

i swam in santa monica last weekend and it wasn't so bad. i also did oceanside last year, and i was colder while waiting to get in the water than once we were actually in it. thing is, there's no warming up opportunity at that race. your wave gets in en masse, then you swim out to the start area and you go. so don't dilly dally once your wave gets in the water. use the short swim to the start as an opportunity to warm up. good news is that it's all in the protected harbor, so no surf to negotiate through and all kinds of buildings to site off of. it can be chilly for the first part of the bike, but warms up later, so arm warmers are a quick change to help with that. you'll do great!!

11:51 PM  

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