Open Water Swim Training in Hagg Lake

Hagg Lake is a 1200 acre reservoir which has provided the backdrop for my open water training this past year. Since returning recently to racing, I have rarely trained in open water. Previously, my training has been done in a pool, and then I just show up  at an open water race. While the 1+ hour drive to Hagg Lake makes it an inconvenient and time consuming trip, certain things about training for a long open water swim cannot be reproduced in the pool. 

Hagg 1 H-L

Photograph by Bob Needham

For the distances I swam this past year, primarily 5K and 10K, I did get in a number of open water training sessions. These were a great help in improving my sighting (a fancy way of saying I could see where I was going and I could  swim a straight line), but I continued to rely almost exclusively on training in the pool. Not bad if you have access to a pool like the 50 meter pool at Mount Hood Community College. It also requires a bit of a drive, but it is worth the effort. Unfortunately, most of my swimming has been done in the standard 60's pillbox-style indoor pool. Instead, I have relied on nearly 50 years of off-and-on swimming in open water. 


Photograph by Bob Needham

As a young boy, my mother took us to a small beach in Oyster Bay Harbor on Long Island. The only swimming lessons I've ever had were at that beach: Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park. It is a very small beach, and only a short drive to his home on nearby Sagamore Hill.  I have this memory of lying on the dark silt-like-sand in 2" of water and being told to move my arms in a certain way. That was it and off we went! It helped that the beach dropped off so slow that you never got in deeper than your chest - and a 5 year old's chest at that. I don't claim to have learned to become a proficient swimmer there, but I did learn to love the water. I also learned that when swimming in open water, there are no lines on the bottom to help you see where you are going, and that try as you might, you will not be able to see what's under you. Those, as it turns out, were 2 important lessons. There were many more lessons to come after those, but maybe none more important than learning to relax in the water and to not be afraid of what you can't see.

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