The lure of the unknown

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From Contributor Susan Kasimer

On May 27, 2001, I found my love for open water swimming. I've been a pool swimmer all my life, but ready for a new experience. By the age of 19, I was qualified for US Masters swimming events and was intrigued by an annual lake swim in Reston, VA that my father ("Daddy-o"), his teammates, and my sister (Lauren) had participated in for years. How about swimming two miles with no lane lines, following black lines on the bottom, or even knowing how deep the water is?

The course that year was a "cable swim" in which a half-mile heavy-duty rope connected by various floats swam up one side of the cable and the other, repeating a total of two miles. I was previously briefed on the concept of "seeing" while swimming in open water (because you can't see where you are going due to underwater visibility), which involves lifting your eyes out of the water to make sure that you are still on the water are right way.

I remember feeling a little nervous that morning, mostly because I didn't know what to expect from an open water race. When I arrived at Lake Audubon, I met friendly people and a relaxed atmosphere that calmed my nerves. When it came time for my heat to come, we entered water that was much colder than most pools I'd been in recently. Our race began and we soon swam to the other end of the lake. I tried to stay as close to the course line as possible, which often resulted in my hand hitting the cable and floating (not a good thing). But despite the bruises on the back of my hand, I really enjoyed myself. The dark water didn't scare me (like many others), and I felt free from the constraints of walls and lane lines (except for the silly cable that kept getting in my way). This was far more exciting when I was used to the excitement of the pool competition. The unknown of swimming in open water and its murky water felt more like a friend than a stranger.

I ended up taking first place in the women age group between 19 and 24, which was pretty exciting, especially because I received a neat piece of glass that was etched with the name of the breed and a picture of two dolphins. The icing on the cake was a second piece of glass won by the Mixed 19+ season of my Daddy-o, Lauren and me!

I left that day feeling pretty complete. I wanted more of what open water swimming had to offer. I didn't know how important open water would be for my future wellbeing and my psyche. Stay tuned…

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