Cute but mean

There’s a pond about 15 minutes’ drive from our house where I practice my open water swimming about once a week. Last weekend, I was swimming with some other athletes, and I had my wetsuit on first, so I took a few strokes by myself to get acclimated. As I was doing this, I saw something like a stick protruding from the surface of the water directly in my path. I didn’t think anything of it until I was 3 or 4 yards away, and it vanished.

I realized it wasn’t a stick at all, but the head of some kind of creature, probably a turtle. And it reminded me that in open water swimming, I’m usually sharing the water with creatures who are more at home in it than I am. It usually isn’t as bad as sharing a lane with another swimmer at the pool, but it’s a little disquieting sometimes.

I’m glad I don’t live in Florida, where I imagine you often have to share the water with alligators. And now, I’m glad I don’t live in Duluth. According to an article in the Star Tribune on Monday, a triathlete named Leah Prudhomme, swimming in Island Lake near Duluth, Minnesota, was attacked by an otter.

Photo “Otter” by William Warby from Flickr. Creative Commons license.

The otter in the photo is not the one that attacked her. I found the photo on Flickr and put it up there as decoration and to show you what an otter looks like, on the slim chance you don’t know.

At 33, Prudhomme is not geriatric, but what happened to her doesn’t seem to be age related. The little beast bit her 25 times, shredding her wetsuit and leaving dozens of bites, some as deep as 2 inches. I wish I could draw something practical from this incident, like how to avoid otter attacks. But the truth is, if you can swim well enough to evade an attacking otter, you don’t need advice.

Prudhomme was given tetanus and rabies shots, and has had to continue with the rabies shots. Her wetsuit is ruined.

Prudhomme plans to race the Duluth Triathlon on August 18. It’s a half iron, with a swim in the same lake. It will be interesting to see whether the otter has the guts to face 750 (the registration limit set by the organizers) triathletes.

Thanks to Rick Christ for finding and pointing out the story.

Today’s weight: 155.4
Waking pulse: 55

A toe in the water, so to speak

It is the 17th day after the accident, and I’m really feeling almost normal. I have little pains here and there, but they are the kind of muscle soreness I am used to, the kind of soreness I have accepted as the cost of doing business ever since I took up triathlon. I probably shouldn’t be having this soreness if I’m not working out, but the pains feel like they belong there.

So I decided to risk a brief workout. I went to the pool before work and swam 1100 yards. I meant to swim 1000, but as usual for me in a continuous swim, I lost count of the laps. My habit, when I realize I have lost count, is to add another lap to what I think the total might be. I have a watch that counts the laps (better than I do, obviously), but I’ve never been able to look at it while swimming. So I just sort of let it surprise me at the end of the workout.

The watch said I did 1100 yards in 23:11 (1246 strokes). That comes out to 2:06 per 100 yards, which is fairly normal for me. I am a mediocre swimmer. But if I could put together the time to focus on one of the disciplines, I know I can realize far greater returns from improving my biking or running speeds. For the swim, I try to do enough to keep from deteriorating, which is about 3 swims per week in normal circumstances.

I had no particular issues in this swim. My neck and shoulder bothered me a little, but I forgot about them for hundreds of yards at a time, so I think they are getting better. I had no problem at all with my hips. All in all, this swim was pretty normal.

That’s not to say it felt comfortable. I worked at keeping my form the same as it was last time I swam, but swimming today felt a little stressful and frustrating. Previously, I felt far more at home in the water, maybe even a little graceful. It’s surprising how quickly I can lose that. I expect I’ll get it back, but my intuition tells me it will take longer to regain it than it did to lose it. We’ll see.

I guess I’m ready to work my way back into my regular schedule. I retrieved my bike from Fit Werx yesterday. It looks as good as new. They told me they had gone over it carefully and couldn’t find any sign of frame damage. They even took the fork out of the head tube and inspected the steerer. They charged me $49, and that was mostly for the time they spent in the examination. Any time a triathlon expenditure comes in at less than $50, it’s a bargain. I love those guys.

So now comes the real test. Can I keep up with this blog <I>and</I> my workouts? We’ll see.

Today’s weight: 155.6

Waking pulse: 55