La Mer Open Water Swim 2018 and How I Survived as a First Timer

Expat Life

I love the waters (the pool specifically) and swimming. It always excites me to be able to take a dip and swim a few laps.

Though I’m not a professional swimmer, I did compete in several local meets and age group competitions when I was younger and in the annual sportsfests while in college. Then after that, I took an 8-year hiatus because life happened.

Coming back from a vacation in our hometown, where my love for the sport started, I decided to join in an open water swim race for two reasons; 1) to conquer my fear of swimming in the open sea therefore confronting the scary sea monsters in my head, and 2) to take the first step to getting fit and healthy in my 30s.

I remembered what my father (who also happened to be my coach and trainer back then) used to say, “The depth of the water is immaterial when you know how to swim.”

This stuck with me but somehow couldn’t wrap my mind around it because every time I dip my head in the ocean and swim a few strokes, I freeze and forget that I know how to swim. Also, I am pretty damned scared of the waves and not being able to see a black line leading you to the other end and the many unknown creatures I have formed in my head.

If you have seen me splashing and waddling in the sea seemingly delighted, please know that I really am but a part of me is scared stiff especially when my head is already underwater.

But turning 30 last month gave me the extra courage to be dauntless. Heck, it’s now or never. Forget the fact that I haven’t had training for the last 8 years and had zero exercise —um well, if the squats and walking I did towards the end of my pregnancy last year would count, that’s about it.

Prior to the actual race I joined in, my friends and I volunteered as marshals for an open water swim event at Kite Beach. Seeing all the participants both young and old, pro and recreational swimmers enjoy and finish their respective events gave me the boost of confidence that I might just be able to pull it off.

Can you spot race number 162? Yup, that’s me.

Fast forward to two weeks later, on a sunny Saturday morning at La Mer South Beach, there I was in my black bathing suit —anxious, nervous and worried of the ‘what ifs’ but more than ready to get it done and over with. I went for a swim before my event started to test the waves and temperature of the water and was relieved that it wasn’t that freezing. 

The La Mer Open Water Swim 2018 was organized by Super Sports UAE and is the first leg of a two-part series of their open water races. This was held last November 10 at La Mer South Beach in Jumeirah 1 with more than 300 participating swimmers.

The race categories were  200m, 400m, 800m, 1.6km (the mile) and the fun relays. You register once and may enter in as many categories as you want. Although it was an inviting strategy, I didn’t bother joining other events knowing how out of shape I was. 

I would have opted for the shortest distance but apparently, 200m is an event exclusive for kids. Haha! I had no choice but to go for the 400m instead. Race to finish. That was my only goal.

Making our way to the first and second buoys.

Our group needed to swim around four buoys then back to the shore to complete the course. Being a first timer, I opted to stay behind and on the outer side of the pack. The run towards the open sea was aggressive so I held back a bit on the running and carefully made my way through the water. 

Once I got comfortable, I swam and swam then rested, and rested some more and finally swam the last leg to the shore. You’re supposed to swim to the very end up until your hand brushes the sand when you pull but as soon as I felt that it was already shallow, I stood up and just walked towards the finish line feeling like a zombie trying to catch my breath. 😂

Last 25 meters of the race. Barely breathing but I did not sign up for a refund so I had to make it to the finish line. :p

I finished 110th out of 252 with a time of 00:10:35 while the first placer clocked-in at half of my time. I wasn’t that bad, I suppose; I did not panic, I did not have cramps thank goodness, I did not drown, no imaginary shark attacks, most of all I did not give up although my left arm almost did.

I still feel sore now but a good kind of sore and I can’t wait to participate in another race. I’d still be sore after but less scared everytime I step out of the water. 

If you’re interested in joining any of Super Sports’ events, you may check out their website and Facebook page for details.

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