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How I crossed Bosphorus

Bosphorus Cross Continental Race 2014

At 20:45 I arrived at St Görans Hospital emergency entrance. I took a number, registered myself then had a seat. That evening I was supposed to be at my place relaxing and sharing my emotions after the Bosphorus Cross Continental Race. It’s been a week since the event and I still couldn’t find the energy and inspiration to write about it.

That’s right my friends, your brave life advisor landed herself in the hospital. A taxi cab swerved into me while biking to the gym. Not my lucky day!

Suddenly, at 21:00 and still waiting for a doctor to examine me, I was hit with a rush of inspiration – so I broke out my laptop and began writing.

BOSPHORUS

 I don’t know about you, but I have a Bucket list* and every summer I try to cross off at least one event. Last year, for example, I went sky diving over St. Petersburg, Russia as well as deep-sea diving in the Atlantic Ocean in Spain. This year I planned to swim from Asia to Europe in an annual event organized by the Turkish Olympic Committee (read more Wish me luck and It is time to cross continents) – and I did it!

BACKGROUND

Boshorus

Boshorus

I am not a professional swimmer and I never was. When I turned 20 years old, and recovering from surgery on my right leg, I hired my first swimming coach (read more about  it  When doctors told me not to run).

In 2013 I earned a swimming instructors license – and since then, I have taught adults who were unable to swim. While teaching them basic breaststroke techniques, I was also training and preparing myself for the triathlon Olympic distance.

PREPARATION

 I made the decision to participate in the Bosphorus race about nine months ago – and all I did was swim in a pool 2–3 times per week for 1 hour, covering between 2-2.5 km, while making no special adjustments to open-water swimming.

 I also hit the gym approximately 1-2 times a week, working on swimming-related exercises (I’ll write a separate post about my favorite training exercises for the back, arms and shoulders).

But in the middle of the May my business increased, taking up a lot of my free time. And the swimming pool was closed for the summer. I was also sick a few times that summer. So, the amount of the training in that two-month period, before the start of the race, was next to nothing.

GOGGLE ISSUES

Norda is scared

Where are my perfect goggles?

During one of my swimming sessions, before departing Sweden, I realized that my goggles started get quite foggy – basically they were too old and worn out – so I bought new ones. But, they just didn’t seem right so I had to return them. Ordering a new pair was out of the question, so I headed off to Istanbul without my favorite Orca Profiles. You can only imagine the stress I was in, risking the possibility of not finding the perfect pair in Istanbul!

Luckily, there was a shop (called the Arena Shop) located at the Kuruçeşme Cemil Topuzlu Park where all the participants gathered, registered and took a boat tour through the Bosphorus Strait before the big day.

I immediately purchased a pair of Arena Vulcan X goggles, tested them straightaway at the hotel swimming pool – my soul was saved.

Arena X Vulcan from my favourite triathlon store wiggle.com

 STRATEGY AND FINISHLINE

Two days before the race, every participant had a chance to take a ride on the tour boat and listen to a presentation explaining the route, the currents in Bosphorus, and how we should navigate through the water.

In the middle of Bosphorus is where the current is strongest – with a speed up to 5 km per hour. So, the plan is to find that current and remain swimming there as long as possible until the finish line.

Participants who previously competed in Istanbul made it very clear that:

  1. DO NOT MISS THE FINISH!
  1. IF YOU MISS THE FINISH OR TURN TO THE FINISH TOO LATE, YOU HAVE ALMOST ZERO CHANCES TO COME BACK TO IT.

Apparently, close to the bank of Bosphorus, the current flows in opposite directions – pushing swimmers backwards!

***

The nurse in the hospital asked me to fill out additional papers (of course), so I placed my computer to the side and proceeded to fill in the blanks.

 I noticed that everyone around me were either talking on their phones, playing games, or texting messages – but one man with a surprised look on his face just sat and starred…at me typing. He was probably jelous about my inspiration.

THE RACE

Stretching before Bosphorus Cross Continental Race

At 9 a.m. all swimmers in orange (swimmers with disabilities), yellow (older group of swimmers), and green caps (my group of swimmers) were on board. And to tell you the truth, it was the strangest boat I’ve ever been on. Just imagine all those people on board: everyone in swim suits, white slippers provided by the organization, and tight, colored caps. On their legs they had a chip attached, which tracked the time. It was so strange to see everybody smearing silicon creams on their bodies…then stretching and pumping up for the race. When it came time to exit the boat, all that was left was 1750 pairs of white slippers…

First the orange caps hopped in, and watching them struggle through the current with limited use of arms and legs suddenly made realize that I can do this. All my fear instantly disappeared!

START!

 I had some concerns about the “start” – mainly because of a video I once saw from previous races where it appeared people were jumping one on another. At first I thought it was much harder even compared to the Triathlon start, but it turned out that actually there was enough space and time to jump in water without getting hurt or hurting others. The water temperature was perfect!

MIDDLE

Bosphorus 2014

Reaching the middle of the Bosphorus, the water temperature was as expected: it was cold. And, it was impossible to see the other swimmers – it was actually creepy. It felt like everyone disappeared. Thank God I was informed earlier about this! In fact, the closest swimmers to me were a few dolphins and some jelly fish.

***

I’ve been sitting in the hospital hall for nearly three hours now and supposedly I’m next in line for an x-ray. My fingers are crossed! I need my hips, knees, and all other bones to be unbroken. Otherwise, I will not be able to compete in the ITU Triathlon, which takes place in 30 days with the Olympic triathlon distance, which is also on my list for this year.

FINISH

 I was very anxious about turning too late, so I turned early towards the finish. I did 5.6 km in 50 minutes and was positive that the last stretch would take only nine minutes. After all, there was only 900 meters left to swim.

Oh, how I wish that was the case…

The graph of my swimming recorded by Suunto

The graph of my swimming recorded by Suunto via www.movescount.com

 Turning a bit earlier, I ended up approaching a boat for “Press and VIP” that somebody decided to park not far from the finish – and the waves coming from other boats, and the fact that I was already in a backwards current, made it a huge struggle just to stay away from the Press boat (I noticed my speed drop by looking at my Suunto watch). You can see how the speed dropped down on a graph above.

Suunto Watch is a Life saver for me both in racing and training.

 So, my estimated 8-9 minutes turned into a 28 minute battle! TWENTY EIGHT! This is proof of how important strategy is in this race!!!

POST FINISH

After finishing the race, I couldn’t stand on my own two legs. The last 28 minutes almost killed me and my swim-time ended up being 1:18:10.

 26

Feeling the ground under my feet and hugging my boyfriend who bravely waited for me at the finish line was one of the happiest feelings in my life. It is so cool when somebody is waiting for you at the finish line.

CONCLUSION

Taking in to consideration that I was not in my best shape or totally recovered from the “flu,” and that my aim was to swim from Asia to Europe, I can proudly say “I DID IT” – even though I’m not satisfied with my time. But it was an experience that I will use for the next time I’m in Istanbul.

 It doesn’t matter how many times I fail, it only matters that I stand up and keep going… or keep swimming!

***

The happy doctor, with a smile (which is pretty rare for a Swede or anyone working the night shift), said that all my bones are intact – then prescribed painkillers.

–       Doctor, may I train? I have a triathlon coming soon.

–       You may, but be careful, she said. You still will have pain.

–       Pain is ok. Pain is only temporary…

See you at the 24 th of August in Stockholm, Sweden at ITU Vattenfall World Triathlon Stockholm!


* Bucket list - A list of things to do before you die.
 Comes from the term "kicked the bucket".
 There is a movie “The Bucket List” which opens the meaning
 of the expression perfectly.

12 Comments

  1. Pingback: How I crossed Bosphorus | Life as an Investment

  2. Зайчик Энерджайзер!:) Умничка!:)
    Выздоравливай быстрее и удачи в следующем соревновании!:)

  3. Liesel says

    Awesome job, Anna!
    Don’t worry about your time. My marathon times totally suck, but I still did it. That’s what matters, having the courage to start and having the tenacity to finish. In the end, the race is not about swimming, it is about courage and tenacity.

  4. Thanks for this. Really interesting to read about your experience. I’m going to be signing up for the 2015 race in July. Fingers crossed I get a place. Well done on completing it and thanks for all your tips.

    • Hi Sarah,

      the whole Bosphorus experience was so great I want to repeat it and improve my time!

      The tip I can give you is to apply as soon as possible, control that they got your papers, call organizators if they do not reply via email. Take into account that every country has an amount limit so if you have double citizenship – write this down in your application form.

      And good luck!
      Maybe see you there!

  5. Thanks for sharing. Do you mind posting the GPS trace of your swim, so that one could see where you turned in early ? Thanks VM !

  6. Bulent says

    Thanks for sharing your experince. I will be attending this race for the first time this year. I’ve done long distance runs but nothing like this ever before. Any landmark they suggested to watch for before the turn? And does that oil really work? I am just skeptical that it will be any helpful in a race that is mostly about endurance. Never tried it so I’d appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!

  7. Pingback: The courageous you: 10 steps to overcome fear - Life as an investment

  8. Pingback: Stockholmssimmet tomorrow: excitement and fear! - Life as an investment

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