A friend’s wedding brought me to beautiful Asheville, North Carolina this past weekend. While hunting ’round the ‘net for a place to swim while in town, I noticed Asheville Masters was hosting an open water clinic Saturday morning. I emailed coach Andrew Pulsifer to ask if I might join them and swim around on my own during the clinic. As luck would have it, two AMS members are also preparing for upcoming long swims – the Noblesville 25K for one guy, the Ft. Myers 10K for the other guy. Andrew graciously invited me to join them.
I rolled into the tony Biltmore Lake community around 7:45am and found Coach Andrew setting up. I was the first swimmer to arrive. We chatted for a bit and I was soon reminded of how small the open water swimming world can be. One of the guys I’d be swimming with was a fellow soloist from the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim.
We helped set up the buoys and set off on our workout. The lake (man-made – there are no natural lakes in western North Carolina) covers 62 acres, but we were confined to a triangular 200-yard course near the beach. Liability reasons, I guess. Around 8:30 the clinic participants began trickling in.
I ended up swimming for about 90 minutes, including a couple breaks to watch the clinic. Andrew’s an excellent coach, and he included lessons not only on open water technique (sighting, turns, drafting), but also on psychological issues. For many of these swimmers, the first order of business was just getting comfortable in the open water – figuring out how to relax when there’s no lanelines, walls, or black lines telling you where to go.
It was inspiring to see people with little open water experience overcoming their natural fears. And it was inspiring to see their dawning realization, after a bit, that hey… this is fun! Asheville’s not a big town, but the clinic drew 45 people. That’s got to be a hopeful sign for the future of the sport.
There’s a nice wrap-up of the event here.