Sunday, July 3, 2011

Salt Water Swim

Training for triathlons in New Hampshire, your water palette has about two options: chlorinated or freshwater. Spend enough time in the water, and the discerning connoisseur can begin to tell the subtle differences between pond-water and lake-water.

But then, like after the discovery of fine wine after a lifetime of beer, you get smacked in the face with something totally unfamiliar: salt water. Of course Hilary and I have been in the ocean in a variety of places (Penobscot Bay, the Caribbean, California, the Baltic Sea), so we know what salt water is like, but never for more than some good natured splashing about.

Yesterday we were at a friend's place on Long Island Sound (literally - the front yard extends down to the water) for a 4th of July picnic. Planning ahead, we'd decided it was a good time to try some distance swimming in the ocean. A neighbor that was at the party pointed out two rock jetties at either end of the beach and informed us it was about 200 meters between - he does "laps" on that stretch occassionally. He also informed us that, at a balmy 68 degrees, on a sunny 80-degree day, we wouldn't need our wetsuits. Actually, we ordinarily would have donned them, because 68 is still wetsuit water in our mind, but no one else playing in the water was wearing them, not even some unknown woman who was also doing "laps".

So Hilary and I waded out to our waists and stood around like fools for about five minutes before taking the plunge. As you could expect, after the initial shock it wasn't too bad.

We ended up doing an out-and-back twice, for perhaps 800 yards. There were some light swells that kept things interesting. Waves aren't something we usually have to deal with in New Hampshire. Also unlike most lakes and ponds in NH, the water was quite clear, and we could see seaweed colonies clinging to the rocks 6-8 feet down, swaying with the water. The salt water definitely took getting used to. Not just a tinge of saltiness, but really and truly salty like sweat off your brow. Every breath would result in the fresh taste of salt on our tongues. We didn't drink any, per se, but it was always there. How do long-distance swimmers avoid getting pickled from the inside-out? We've never heard of mid-swim water breaks during an Ironman, but you have to wonder if it would make sense to put a floating freshwater cabana out to sea.

Brynna didn't have quite as nice an experience. She was very excited to get in the water at first, but the cold stopped her by the time she got to her ankles. The incoming waves threw her for a loop as well. The rocky-gravely shore beneath didn't agree with her tender feet, nor did the hot sand further up. Plus, she was dealing with a lot of lost sleep from driving down friday night and a lack of a proper nap beforehand. So, in the end, she kinda crumped out.

Jasper, on the other hand, had a grand time. He'd never experienced salt water before - being an Iowa dog originally. After diving in a bit, he tried to drink the water and came up coughing. Undeterred, he tried again, with the same result. From then on he mostly stuck to dashing around up to his belly.

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