Ellen on Swimming

Fuller Lake is a pretty nice place to swim and there are a lot of people who frequent the area. It’s convenient to Crofton, Chemainus, Ladysmith and Duncan. I wondered if I could swim in open water again.

Three years ago, when I moved to Crofton, my friend Colleen, a Ceevacs runner asked me to go swimming at Fuller Lake. “Yikes, are you kidding? I can’t swim.” Haha! I couldn’t help laughing. Colleen is an excellent swimmer and very understanding and supported me to swim a quarter of Fuller Lake a few times. I was always very uncomfortable and nervous.

Swimming has been a lifelong, horrible story for me. My grandma drowned in the Ottawa Rideau Canal during the war and as children, my mom forced us to swim in cold lake water a couple of times every summer. We had a community pool in town, where I got pink eye a couple of times and was done with swimming! When we moved to the big city (Winnipeg), the Fort Garry Community club had a pool. A couple of guys decided they’d play tricks on me and practically drowned me. I didn’t swim for a long time after that.

I was not a natural candidate for swimming. As an adult, I joined the Westshore Swim club and the Tri Club and learned how to swim at the Naden pool on the Canadian Military base in Esquimalt, practiced at the Juan de Fuca pool and outdoors at Thetis Lake a few times. I liked to cycle and run but swimming has never been a favourite sport of mine. When my father asked to come to a triathlon I was in, I learned swimming was really an issue for me. When the gun went off, this swarm of bodies went flying into the water like crazed maniacs, tramping anyone in their way. As I swam, my heart was beating 100 miles a minute and swimmers were bumping and kicking me. I was put off the swim immediately so moved away from everyone and took my time swimming at the edge of the other swimmers. When I got past the last buoy and was heading home, sighting where I was supposed to land, I realized I was the last person. The very last person! How embarrassing, humiliating and sad. Every kayak, boat and official supporting the tri was around me as I bobbed up and down trying to stay above water, gasping for oxygen, knowing that everyone was watching. Swimming as close to the beach as possible, I tried to right myself in the shallow water and run out. Not! Instead, I could barely stand, tripped, almost fell over, and when I finally got my balance, I heard “Go for it, Ellen! You can do it!” I looked up and saw my friend, Donna P. We were part of the same tri club and there she was cheering me on as if I was winning. Not only that, everyone else was too. I was so inspired by everyone encouraging me. It made me feel really good. With a sudden burst of energy, I ran by everyone and saw my dad standing by the fence where my bike was stationed, cheering me on, too. I did not finish last in that triathlon. I came away knowing that swimming was a real weak area for me and that triathletes are awesome. I spoke with my dad recently and told him I was writing about swimming. He said, “I hope you are better at it now than at the triathlon I saw you in! You swam 20 minutes after everyone else finished” “It was 11 minutes and I hope I can swim better now, Dad.”

When I swam in the lake with Colleen three years ago, I was scared. But I could see that she enjoyed it and obviously others did too. Last year, I spent nine months of the year pool running recovering from a knee injury and got used to being in the water. I took beginner lessons for 6 months and this winter participated in a triathlon swim course at Ladysmith sponsored by the Ceevacs. When another friend, Sheron asked if I’d like to swim at Fuller, I thought “This is my chance to get out there and try again.” That day, I found out that I could swim 75 meters and was not too nervous or afraid. Well, not as afraid and I came out smiling! I wasn’t upset, no heart racing and not breathless. Those indoor lessons do work!

Some people are not ready for an 8am swim but Sheron and I are like the Eveready bunny; charged and ready to go. We had a mission to swim and can’t resist a bright and sunny day. Determined to have another good swim, I arrived early, walked down to test the water and determine if I needed a wetsuit. I decided not to take any chances. Wetsuits are protective gear that keep you warm and have some buoyancy.

I noticed a woman nearby watching someone swimming past the fishing dock. I greeted her asking who she was watching. It turned out her daughter missed going to swim club and was swimming along the edge of the lake. Sheron and the daughter arrived and both mother and daughter, who is a soccer player, were very interested in the Ceevacs Running Club and wanted to connect. Thank you, Brenda for getting those Ceevacs business cards. Too bad I didn’t have any on me… Neither did Sheron!

Not long after, while preparing to get our wetsuits on, Colleen and Danna, mutual friends arrived for a swim. When they swam off, Sheron and I took a bit more time to get ready. It takes effort to get into a wetsuit. We tugged, pulled, yanked, held our breath and finally got zipped up. By the way, wetsuits don’t agree with long nails. I wear socks on my hands or something to protect that suit against my nails. I also cut my nails pretty short. Glue for nail tears can be found in any diving shop and I use Glide liberally on my body which makes life so much easier to get the suit on. Socks on my feet helped too.

For the second time in four days, Sheron and I found ourselves in the water. We didn’t swim past the orange buoys and avoided the fisherman and their lines. Sheron found the distance from the water’s edge, around the buoys and back by using the Link to google gmap of Fuller Lake: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=7487916. It was 150 meters. My watch says 3x around the outside of buoys is 1000m. Please note that there are No Lifeguards; you are on your own. Sheron and I kept a 6 feet distance from each other and the others at the lake. The swim around the entire lake is about 1500 – 2000 meters depending on what you call swimming around the lake! Swimming across the lake, to the gazebo is, is about 700 meters. Occasionally we would scan for Colleen and Danna’s kick splash as they swam the lake. “We are going to do that someday, Sheron. Right?”

We continued swimming poking our heads up to see where Colleen and Danna were and carried on with our own effort’s ending having swum a total of one kilometer and feeling good. I got home energized, just like the Eveready bunny. It didn’t help though when my husband beat me in a game of cards later that day!

Now, here I am swimming in open water and having finished swimming one kilometer and feeling good about it. Swimming is fun and swimmers are amazing, and often crazy people. Driven for sure. Triathletes are the same. I mean how many people can swim in a lake in April, bike and run all in one day! In the future, if you are interested in triathlon, contact Rob Grant, Ceevacs Triathlon coordinator at www.ceevacs.com and ask about Ceevacs Cowichan Challenge Triathlon. You will find triathletes have fun, train hard, do the best they can, and they are there to support you too. At least that’s the way it was and is for me.

For health and safety reasons, we can’t do anything as a group. When I go swimming, I do swim with a buddy about 6-10 feet or so apart. The good thing is that I’m too busy trying to swim, so I don’t talk making globules less likely to be transported to anyone. I hope my story helps to inspire you to get out to try the open water swim experience and maybe a triathlon in the future.

Smile, swim safe and keep on moving!

Spread the word amongst Ceevacs members about the Ceevacs Connect blog and if you have questions or want to contribute, let me know at connect(at)ceevacs.com. I’m here to help support you. Watch for David’s story coming soon. E

“Who is this swimmer?”