(or "What happens when you don't wear sunscreen.")
With wetsuits in hand we went in search of a good spot for our open water swim. We settled on Hopeville Pond State Park. They have a nice public beach and swimming area. Given that it was cold and overcast, we were the only ones around.
Let me start by saying that swimming with the purpose of moving long distances in May in 55 degree water in a wetsuit is entirely different than recreational swimming in a lake in the middle of the summer. First, the water was COLD. The wetsuit did a great job of keeping me warm, and I actually didn't "feel" cold once I started swimming, but it was incredibly hard to breathe. I actually felt like there was a huge weight on my chest that was preventing me from exhaling. After the swim I did some research and found out that this is a very common occurrence in cold waters. If you are doing an open water swim in the cold I recommend you check out this website for some helpful tips. I know I'll be using some of these for the race next weekend - the current water temp in Atison Lake is 59 degrees.
In addition to the cold, the water was DARK. Really dark. Like "Cant-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face" dark. It is surprisingly alarming to swim in water when you can't see (or breath). So, the combination of the cold and the dark meant that I completed most of the swim with my head out of the water. Every time I would try to just put my head down and just go for it I couldn't get more than three strokes before I pulled my head up gasping for breath. I also spent some time doing backstroke and breast stroke too.
Even though it was hard, I'm so glad that we did this. I think if this swim had been in a race setting I would have been much more panicked. Now I'll have a better idea of what to expect on race day.