The ocean was lake-like, so calm there was barey a ripple, and the water was also relatively warm. I decided, brilliantly, to cross-train by swimming in the Atlantic; it would be my first open water (non pool) swimming experience.
I have always loathed swimming, never quite sure at any moment that I'm not going to inhale with the wrong timing, choke down a sizeable gulp of water, and drown. I also never mastered, or even got by with a decent flip turn, so that I always feel a little silly swimming laps at the gym's pool. Lucky for me no one can tell who I am, anyway, with my gorgeous swimming cap and goggles rendering me incognito. Notwithstanding my personal abhorrence of swimming, one can unfortunately not deny its benefits as a cross training exercise (or main exercise for non runners); it is great cardio exercise with no impact and can be done on a hot day with, literally, no sweat. I have thus persevered, and with practice I've gotten a little less prone to death. Still, though my strokes are somewhat better now, my revulsion for swimming continues, due to its unfathomably boring nature. In what other sport does one move one way for 25 meters, then abruptly switch directions and move back the other way for 25 meters, back and forth, back and forth, repeatedly until one caves in from the tedious monotony. No new sites to see, no music, no hills, no turns. Just the same 25 meters, one direction... and then the other direction. Poke a sharp needle in my eye, please!
Swimming in the ocean, I surmised, might be more physically challenging but it would be infinitely less boring. I searched around for the one-piece bathing suit that I usually use to swim and discovered I had not brought it with me. oops. I decided I could probably manage in my bikini; after all, the Atlantic Ocean is fairly opaque. I took my cap and goggles down with me in my beach bag, telling only the husband of my silly plan, and read my Runners World magazine on the beach for awhile. My 11-year-old kept hauling in tiny little harmless jelly fish, piling them at my feet, but the boys said there weren't any big jellies out there. Just the little ones with no tentacles.
12:54: I gather my swimming cap and my goggles unobtrusively and wander down to the water's edge, feigning a quick dip.
12:56: I have made my way out past most wave jumpers and slip the cap and goggles on, ignoring the chortling chuckles of observers.
12:57: I begin swimming northward in the Atlantic, not very far out from the shore. The ocean is fairly warm.
12:58: I'm doing okay; the challenge is that I can't see anything with my goggles underwater (opaque ocean), and I breathe to my right side (I'm not at all skilled enough to breathe on both sides), so I can't see what's in front of me. I have to keep stopping momentarily to make sure 1)I'm not swimming straight into shore 2) I'm not swimming straight out to sea and 3) I'm not running into a person.
1:00: My right hand, on its pass under me through the ocean, strikes a large jellyfish. I am officially freaked out. I jump, squeal, and move as far to the left as I can to make a wide swath around the creepy creature. I have reacted as girly as I possibly could. I am grossed out. I tell myself it wasn't that big; dont' be a wimp. It's not going to happen again. Listen to Dory and just keep swimming....
1:02: I start seeing shapes in my goggles in my freaked-out condition, worried that every little thing I see is part or whole jellyfish. I admonish myself for my wussy behavior and keep swimming, stopping here and there to make sure I'm swimming straight north.
1:04: My stomach feels a little tingly and itchy - as if something had stung it. I think a jellyfish may have stung me back there when my hand hit it. I think to myself: "I HAD to wear a bikini."
1:05: I strike another jellyfish with my right hand. It feels pretty big. I squeal again, stop, scoot away from the scene of the contact, and tread water for a few moments, contemplating whether to keep going. I am pretty grossed out. Again I urge myself to keep going, telling myself I am really overreacting.
1:07: I am paranoid as I swim northward, sure a jellyfish lurks ahead of me with each stroke.
1:10: My paranoia pays off as I hit another jellyfish. I lurch backwards, laugh at myself, and swim toward shore. I take off my cap and goggles and make my way back to the beach. I have only swum about 5 or 6 blocks, but I can't take the jellies...
I walk southward back to the family posse on the beach. My stomach itches, as does my wrist.
As I approach my family, I describe the swim and explain why I'm back so soon.
"Did you get stung?" the thirteen-year-old questions, "your stomach is all red."
I can handle bugs on a bike ride. I cannot handle swimming with the creepy crawlies. I will NOT be doing that again....