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Luke Graham: It could be worse

Luke Graham
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— There is good news and bad news. 

The good is that swimming has become a regular exercise for me, and it becomes easier every time I hit the pool. I can swim considerably longer today than when I started, and sometimes even at a respectable pace. 

The bad is that open water swimming is a totally different animal — certainly different than my previous experience of getting lapped by 8-year-olds at Old Town Hot Springs. 



One week ago I went to Bald Eagle Lake with the local Triathlon Club to experience my first swim in open water. It wasn’t a race, but rather an introduction to swimming in a body of water that’s not a concrete-lined lap pool. 

Swim coach Zach Ruppel has helped teach me to be a better swimmer, and he assured me I would be fine in open water. My initial feeling was that open water swimming wouldn’t be much different than pool swimming. Despite the cold water, which marked the first time I’ve been cold in four months, I was sure I’d be fine. 



I was wrong. 

There are several clear factors that make open water swimming much different. Let’s begin with the water. You can see only about six inches down into the water, and then it’s black. This led me to swim and feel like I was going nowhere. 

Second, you have to look where you’re going. This involves taking a stroke, looking up and then turning your head to breathe. Unless you were me, which meant stopping, treading water and looking up. 

Swimming with other people also is unique. It can be like a battle when swimming with a group in open water. People get kicked, swam over and whatever else. Just a word of warning: apparently it’s more intense in the middle of starts. That’s where the aggressors hang out. 

And then there is the current. This again made me feel like I wasn’t going anywhere when I swam. When I finally exited the water, I was dizzy and couldn’t get my bearings. 

But like swimming as a whole, the open water experience got easier as it went. Eventually, I even achieved a minor level of comfort. Or, at least my feelings reduced from terrifying to knowing I’ll be able to finish the Bald Eagle Lake Swim Series event today. 

All those feelings of worrying about the cold, the limited vision in the water, the other people and the current are slowly dissipating. But by no means do I feel confident in open water. But last week proved I’ll be OK.

The Open Water Swim Series begins today and continues every Monday in July. On-site registration is from 5:30 to 5:45 p.m. Races begin at 6 p.m. Single-race cost is $25 for advance registration or $30 on the day of. Swimmers also can register for four races for $90 or all five races for $100.

Volunteers are needed for each race. Volunteering for a race gets you free registration for a subsequent race. And per usual, SmartWool and Honey Stinger are providing swag for the race series.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com


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