Deep Trouble (Port Dickson Open Water)

Whatever I said about riding downhills are scary - I take that back. Nothing... NOTHING, beats what I went through this morning!

With Singapore Biathlon coming in 3 weeks, Kash and Ian were all too kind to offer to do open water swimming at PD for me to familiarise myself outside our pool, after Eric can't make it. I was seemingly nervous and dejected, and ignorant at the same time. After all, I've registered and the worst case scenario would be stuck at the line, like I was at PADE last year. Can't be bad, right?

before the everything, Bayu Beach as witness

So we gathered - myself, Kash, Ian, Nadia, Jaja, Kabus and Amir, later joined by Nazli when we were in the water. The sea was calm when we parked at Bayu Beach, and I was calm. I had a good dream the night before about the swim, but kept on having the images of saltwater crocodiles during the day. We changed, and hit the warm water. Ian and Kabus are the designated sweeper on both right and left, and Nazli in the front. The first testing drill was to swim some 50m out to the first post, turn left to second post, and head back in a triangle.
Without warning, we swam, which I realised too, without warm-ups.
Pro camni le kot...

I had a push and started swimming, and felt very buoyant in the water. Everything I see below was just murky green, nothing beyond 1 metre off my goggles, so it was ok. As I turn to breathe to my right, I saw Jaja and Ian, but I soon broke away, and found Nazli's fingernails on my hands. We made the turn, although I drafted out to the right a little, and managed to return to Nazli, and we turned at the second post, and back. I managed few sightings, and looked back to the gang behind and swam. Instead of making a triangle, I swam a rectangular pattern when I heard Kash called out, and I readjusted back to the shore. When I felt the shore with my hands, I felt relieved. Finally, I am back. 

First round was a success. I have never swam out that far, but I was not feeling nervous whatsoever. Instead, it was kinda cool! The strokes were easy, not laboured, and felt 50% less than the drills we did with the coach. I thought, doing 5 sets of these today would be OK, I'd be alright.
But no, Ian pointed out 2 bungalows, seemingly 2km away from our shore, across the marina. Swim to the second post, and head out. I estimated that I'd be able to complete, not feeling eager or proud, but I supposed that's the confidence I built up swimming for awhile.

Again, without time to think, and after my coy proposal to swim by the shore to the marina was submerged in their laughter, Nazli started to swim. 
I set my eyes on Ian with the buoy on my right, and was pleasantly happy to see Jaja's green cap next to me. So we swam to the second post and turned left towards the bungalows. As I breathe to the right primarily, I see blue skies whenever I turn my head up, and at that point, it was still happy thoughts. Without adding speed, I was toetouching Nazli again, and steered to his left, so I could see him when I breathe. A quick turn at the back I say bobbing heads of Kash and Ian, as I scanned Amir in his kayak. There was no sign of him. 
In fact, I was happy to pace Nazli and felt completely relaxed swimming with him. At that point I know, my worst case scenario would be climbing onto his back (hahahahaahahahahahh!). Once in a while, I sighted, and we were making good progress.

Until Nazli decided to stop and wait for the rest!

My mind went completely blank as I looked back at Nazli in stationary, as the rest of the gang approached him, and I completely forgot how to stop and tread water, so I figured, I would just swim. My calculation looking at the bungalows, I am somewhere halfway, so I'd make it. So I happily swam.

Minutes went by when I looked back and couldn't see anyone, and I sighted, I saw I was swimming towards the open sea, and the bungalows are going further away on the left. The current was pushing me out, and I could feel it's energy!
I quickly swam to the left, hard flutterkicks until I see the buildings ahead aligned in front and trudged on. This happened about 5-6 times when I realised that I was actually swimming further out to the sea. That is when I started to panic. That was the time I needed to cough it out, sneeze the extra phlegm in my chest, and calculate on my survival. The rate of sea water in my mouth could have easily equals the gatorade for my LSD, and more.

What should I do? The first though that came to mind was the guys had went straight to the bungalows, having Nazli heading them, and arrived there while I was moving further away. And they would not be able to see my blue head somewhere, and I'd be lost, drowning, all alone! I was scared shit! I cannot think to stop and breaststroke for a while, and re-focus, as I was too stricken and overwhelmed with all the mind numbing thoughts. I'll tell you - the fear is indescribable. When I was at that point, I knew I was alone in the open sea!
Giving up is not an option - but I need to rest, hold on to something but this is not a lap pool... the bed of the water where I was could have been easily 10 metres deep. Again I sighted for Amir, but in my hastiness, I made a quick turn and aborted the kayak plan.

First time doing open water - catastrophic! 

I would have done this!

The first sensible thing I could think of was to swim to the nearest shore. I steered left - hard, seemingly back as I roughly worked the geography and the sun on my right. OK, I was moving away from the sea. I looked up and see the shore SO FREAKING FAR! My heart stared to pump hard, and I felt some cramps building up on my right calf, possibly from the overkicks when I was panicking just now. 
I tried few minutes and looked up again, and with my soft pulls, I could feel the currents are going away from the shore, and I was not making any progress.

This would be a do-or-die situation. The images of my family, and weird enough, of Nik and Azam hanging by the string on their first open water attempt was both intimidating and comforting. I was seriously freaking out. But I put more energy to my pulls, and finally I could see a clear landing spot near the rocks, some 500 metres away. I just swam, and swam, and swam. Just ensure I was going at it directly and swam. That is all I need to do, no less. Some 250m away, I crossed Amir in his kayak in front of me, and I was relieved! I remembered shouting his name, but I could see he was pedalling away from me, so I just head on with my pulls. The brief excitement sent my left PF on strike. The sharp, sudden pain brought my left feet to a frozen state, with only right kicks. Damn! It must have been the ride up Genting Sempah on Thursday!  Or was it the run yesterday. Crap! Crap! Crap!

But needless to say, I arrived at the rocks, with Amir nearby. Shaken, I assured him that I was ok, and he was off to fend off the guys. Clearly he was awed why on earth I was turning back, as he thought I was making good progress. Little did he know...
When I finally managed to stand up with my wobbly feet, I saw the gang swimming some 100 metres out to the sea and off the bungalows beyond the marina, before turning back in. Looking at that gave me chills. I wished I was one of them, that morning, approaching the pin and claim the victory for the day - but today was not the day. It is not my day.

I went down in the water again, and swam by the shore back to our start point. The remaining time was spent building sand castles while waiting for the guys to return.

We had a sumptuous meal post swim, and everyone bid farewell, and a promise to do this again, soon. Great! A chance to balas dendam, apabila ilmu cukup di dada...

Shark's eyeview perspective (touch wood!)

Looking back, now, in the comfort of our study room, am grateful I made it back. Syukur Alhamdulillah!
But I need to do few things before the Singapore Biathlon - to be confident to tread water, learn to sight more often, and learn how to pace (apparently I was swimming too fast - probably because how freaked I was!). I know there is no turning back, when I have to stand by East Coast Park on 12th February 2011, but I need to conquer my fear. I also need to learn to swim freestyle to breaststroke to freestyle too. Because post swim today, I have an unfinished business.

It would have been a great day, but with the shortcomings on my part, it was a given. I, have lots more to learn, and more experience. But looking back, I was in the deep, man! That in itself, to me, was something. It is, well, bloody liberating! Kash and Ian were right. I have totally enjoyed my swims, and had I knew how to behave and think wisely during the swim, it would have been an awesome day. To gain a certain level of confidence is what Mastercard says... priceless. 

Don't believe me? Try swim out and let loose.


OMG, Syah, that was scary. You made the right call to turn back. Well at least now you know what it felt like to be scared.

Nice write up.
Diket said…
Alhamdullillah datuk selamat. Find wisdom bro, God willing you'll be alright on the next swim :)
tolldoll said…
no worries. you were doing well. open water fear is a serious fear, and your judgements were sound.
June Malik said…
ok i dont think i will try openwater yet lah what with my phobia somemore :) i think you had a great day Syah, managing to outcome your fears and panic and get to safety. well done but yeah do go slowly lah sikit next time. you will be fine at the biathalon. will be thinking of you that day and sending good vibes your way.
amsyah said…
yeah Kash - and I have tonnes to learn

Diket - kalau ada Datuk-Datuk masa next swim nnt, lagi kurang perasaan gundah gulana... isyaAllah. Nasib baik PD Tri lambat lagi

Nadia - it is real... and the fact that I was not scared enough before the swim was more intimidating. But thanks for the company

KJ - I approach the open water differently, so I hope my story will offer you exposures for your own soon, so please discount my personal fear :D. Nnt masa Biathlon tu, we'll see you at the starting line, kan? :D
..::EnAikAY::.. said…
Luckily your first open water swim experience is not during a race... unlike 'that' somebody who suicidally signed up for PD triathlon as his first race involving open water swim, 3 years ago.

Anyway, an experience is an experience for sure.
U'll be better at it, insyaAllah.
amsyah said…
Nik - 3 years ago and see where that dude is now? Top of the waves! Wa punya idola tu...

InsyaAllah, friends together in the water makes it more easy. you must join us soon! We do Bkit Jalil or MSQ swim togedergeder ok
Zack Yui said…
That sure was scary. But that's a good experience to have, kan?? Gud luck bro!
IJAM said…
aku dah kata, breastroke best!!...freestyle penat...
ziff71 said…
Alhamdulillah you managed to get back to the shore. You were doing superb as far as I am concerned. With that experience, your second open swim would be awesome and incident free :-)
Che said…
thanks god nothing bad happen, although baca report half way ingat perkara buruk dah.. well, i'll stick to solid ground je lah.. hehe..
Dancing Ciken said…
i maintain breaststroke je that day, dah lama tak swim so better amik langkah berjaga-jaga. i plan to swim with u guys on weekend, roger2 la.

dulu masa i mula2 join tri, i make sure i swim dekat dengan tali, akibatnya teruk kena tendang raba mati katak, adehhh

good job on your first time!
Fong said…
nice one there =) i had my first open in race.. last2 kene ketuk ngan paddle kayak.. suh swim back to the race course.. i was having my own course.. hehe..
amsyah said…
Zack - yeah, orang kata, what doesn't kill makes you stronger... jangan le mati pulak ye...

Ijam - breaststroke tu kelebihan kau je... aku tak pandai :D
amsyah said…
Ziff - My second open water includes the 'certain' new batch of students of Luvis from PADE jengjengjeng

Che - itu pengalaman masing-masing. Having said that, swim open water memang best, kena nak cukup ilmu di dada je lah
amsyah said…
Kak tipah - saya punya breaststroke tak pawer... takut terkelenjat pulak. oh nnt mesti ada swim lagi before biathlon approaches. nnt kita hello

tapi tengkiu join sabtu lepas... memang hilang gemuruh, cuma I nak kena belajar pacing lah

Fong - hahahaha, lucky ada kayak... kalau tak dah sampai mana dah :D
tsar said…
I'll leave the open water swim to the big boys.
Aku lepak kat wading pool klcc pun cukup lah. Hahaha

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