Triathlete's first venture into murky water
Adrienne LaGier swims a safety stroke during an open water swim in Hawaii.
June 15th, 2012
03:02 PM ET

Triathlete's first venture into murky water

Editor's note: Adrienne LaGier is one of seven CNN viewers training to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta as part of the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. Here LaGier shares some lessons she learned while doing her first open water swim at home.

One of the major fears I had when I started my CNN Fit Nation triathlon journey was the viability of swimming in the Bay just 1.5 miles from my house.

I’ve heard horror stories from friends who have battled brutal infections in their skin and bloodstreams after swimming in the Chesapeake Bay.

I’m here to report I’ve survived my first open water swim in the murky water and thought I’d share some novice tips I learned from the experience:

1. Go with a group. However much I am tempted to just hop in the Bay and go for a swim, I now realize it’s dangerous.

The small group of Annapolis Tri Club members who invited me to a swim in the South River showed me how it’s done. We had two kayakers – one in the lead, one in the rear. Having a kayaker in the water helped alert jet skiers, boaters and others in the water where we were.

One of the gals who hadn’t swum in awhile needed to be towed a few times during the 1,600 meter swim, and the kayakers came to the rescue.

2. Wear a bright swim cap. Seems obvious, but it helps with the whole not-getting-run-over-in-the-water mission.

3. When jumping off a pier, jump far. Don’t slide in. Four of my toes were causalities of my attempt to lower myself off the pier into the water. Thank goodness we weren’t in the ocean, or I’d have been shark bait.

Adrienne LaGier and friends pose after an open water swim in the Chesapeake Bay.

4. Just keep swimming. I panicked a few times in the water. I would take a few strokes, stop and poorly attempt to do breast stroke (next to impossible in a wet suit). On the way back, Chris, my fiancé, told me to just flip on my back when I needed a break from freestyle.

I ended up keeping up with the pack when I resorted to my safety back stroke. I ran into a few people, yes, but didn’t get left behind.

People keep telling me when it comes to the swim in the race, no one cares how you get through it, so just keep swimming - any stroke you can.

5. Don’t be freaked out if there is zero visibility below the water. This one is still hard for me, especially after one of my students told me about all of the sea snakes she encounters while boating in the river, but swimming with a group really helps take the edge off of the what-am-I-swimming-in frantic-ness.

To adhere to our CNN Fit Nation coach’s guidelines, I still have at least nine more open swims to complete before we leave for Malibu on September 12. As the water warms up in the Bay, the jellyfish become more intense. Here’s hoping for a sting-free summer.

This past month has been one for facing my fears. Not exactly conquering them, but facing them head on... with the help of a few friends.

In Kona, it started the day our bikes arrived. Since I had been falling with dismounting the previous weekend, the producers ordered a flat pedal bike so I’d feel more comfortable riding along the Queen K Highway.  When I looked at the bike, I knew it was now or never. I wasn’t going to make any progress with flat pedals, so the clips went on.

Roni, CNNHealth's executive producer, ran to my side as she saw me hesitate. She talked me through unclipping left, hugging my bike with my right leg, and leaning left as I dismounted.  She then said, “Okay - go do it five times around the hotel circle.” Five for five. No more dismount distress.

Riding on Queen K was one of my biggest fears. Reading in the book "Iron War" about the winds and heat that plague this portion of the Iron Man course was daunting.

During most of our group rides, I fell dead last. That's partly because speed still scares me, as I feel I have the greatest potential for serious injury on the bike and want to be as cautious as possible.

On our 24-mile ride into the Natural Energy Lab, my buddy Glenn was there to ride with me. Watching Glenn on the bike is an inspiration in and of itself. To get our minds off the final miles, I asked him how he felt about being the pastor at my wedding. I had mentioned it to him once before, but now I think he realized I was serious. He said it would be his honor.

As we hopped off our bikes, he screamed in a way only Glenn can, “Dearly Beloved! We are gathered here today...”

Then came overcoming my swimming with fish fear. Jeff Dauler with his calming humor and presence took the edge off my first ocean frolic. Nancy Klinger, with her child-like glee for swimming with sea turtles, made me want to go see what all of the fuss was about.

And then came unexpected support.

I scheduled a mid-week massage during a block of free time and when I checked in, the attendant said, “We have you for a 2:30 p.m. massage followed by a 3:45 p.m. facial, complements of Nancy Klinger and Denise Castelli. Happy Bridal Shower!"

I started crying in the entryway to the spa. Their gesture was one of the most thoughtful, surprising things anyone has done for me.

I would like to thank my fiance, Christopher, for being there through it all. Through my freaking out on bike rides, through all the tofu dinners, for building a vegetable garden mecca in our backyard, for making me feel like a rock star while I was in Hawaii and you were home with our girls, and for coming along on this journey with me each step of the way. I couldn’t be more proud and grateful to have you in my life.

My advice for anyone starting your own fitness journey: Don’t be afraid to involve others along they way.  I wouldn’t be where I am right now without each of my CNN Fit Nation family members.

You can follow Fit Nation on Facebook and Twitter.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. NancyK

    This is am amazing blog, Adrienne. So honest, sincere, and upfront. We all have fears, and if we take a chance and face them head on, the result will be positive. To me, you are the epitome of what the CNN FitNation Triathlon is all about.

    June 15, 2012 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. robin fincher

    great read! I love hearing about your adventures ... Very proud of you ! Love Aunt Robin

    June 15, 2012 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. trihardcarlos

    Adrienne, it was so cool to see you 'clip in' at Kona. you inspired me to 'clip in' as well because I was headed towards the pedals myself. Thanks for the boost of encouragement!! You rocked Kona!!

    Carlos : )

    June 16, 2012 at 00:54 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.