Friday, August 12, 2011

Open Water Clinic - Omens and Portents......

Last Saturday morning I was booked to attend an open water swim clinic hosted by Marty and Bri Gaal of One Step Beyond Coaching

The clinic was to be held at Jordan Lake (just SW of Raleigh) and scheduled to start at 08:15 am.   I set my alarm early as I intended to travel directly from the clinic to the mountains of North Carolina for the Lake Logan Sprint Triathlon which I was racing the following day and I needed to make sure that I had all my gear; the bike on the car and so on.

As it turns out there was absolutely no need to set the alarm as I was woken with a start at around 05:00 am by an enormous crash of thunder.  It was still pretty dark out but I was soon looking out of the window at rain coming down in Biblical proportions and enjoying a huge light show.....

Given my well documented struggles with my swim recently I wondered whether this was on omen?   Were the Mud Gods of Jordan Lake sending a message?  I certainly didn't fancy going swimming in a lake with millions of volts pulsing through the air! 

A quick check of the Doppler radar showed that an enormous storm was passing over Wake County, but it looked as if it should have moved through by the time the clinic was due to start, so I had a good breakfast and packed the car before heading out for the clinic.

As I was driving down highway 540 the rain was coming down in sheets and traffic was reduced to, perhaps, 20 mph.   There were vehicles all over the shoulder and central median which had slid off the road including, rather disturbingly, an emergency services SUV that was on its side!   This didn't look good at all!

Thankfully, by the time I reached the Ebenezer Church Recreation Area entrance to Jordan Lake things had calmed down considerably.   I quickly found Marty and Bri and enjoyed a chat while waiting for my fellow students to arrive.  There were only five of us and we were soon setting-up our chairs for the opening lecture.  Plans were soon derailed, however, as apparently we set-up right on top of a wasp nest and we were soon being buzzed by yellow jackets - surely another bad sign?  

Get away from our house!

After moving out of the way of the wasps, we had the opening lecture.  Marty provided all sorts of tips and insight into the nuances of open water swimming, including starts, finishes, turns, drafting and so on.   

Marty in full flow
It was now time to head down to the beach where the practical swim work usually takes place.   I was feeling pretty good now.  The rain had stopped; there was no sign of lightning; the wasps were abating and the clinic was rolling along....    but wait!    What's this?.......

The whole beach and the trees behind were absolutely covered in, quite literally, hundreds of turkey vultures!  Living in the Piedmont of North Carolina you quickly grow accustomed to groups of "turkey buzzards", as the locals call them, but I have never seen a huge congregation like this before. Surely they must be feeding on the rotting remains of the last group to try swimming in Jordan Lake?    Actually no, they were just drying off after the storm, but we decided not to bother them and moved a little further up the shore.   The vultures were actually very cool, but cooler still was a beautiful bald eagle that was also sitting in the trees watching our every move while drying off.

What are you guys doing at my lake?

From here on there were no more omens or portents and I very much enjoyed the clinic.   As there were only five of us we got more "wet time" than usual and some nice individual attention from Marty and Bri.  The sun even came out!   I won't bore you with the details of the lessons and drills, but I picked-up some great tips that I will be trying to put into practice over the coming months.

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