Tips for Rookies

While iX2020 will be like no other, we still encourage you to challenge yourself, and make the crossing your own. Much of what Jen shares below is valid, whether you swim, paddle or row.  Will this be your first open water swim? Your first Islesboro Crossing? Are you excited to swim in August, but looking for advice from an experienced swimmer? Well, look no further! Jen Porter has some excellent advice for you. 

Jen Porter's Tips for IX Rookies: 

I was a rookie in 2017. I am not a great swimmer, and this event was a HUGE accomplishment for me. As a definite non-professional, I can still remember the anxiety, the excitement, and the feeling of the great unknown! Below are some tips that I learned along the way that may be helpful as you prepare for the Crossing.

If you are like me and haven’t made it to the pool as much as you had hoped, DO NOT STRESS! There's still time before the big day, but it’s time to get focused! Do you have your swim bag organized? Have you found goggles that feel comfortable and don't leak? Have you started a routine that supports you getting in the pool at least 2-3 times per week? Are you stretching a lot (before + after workouts) and pacing yourself by slowly & sustainably increasing your time in the pool? Swim using all the different strokes you know. Switch it up! Backstroke, side stroke, breast stroke…add a few laps of each sprinkled through your freestyle. 

1. Start fundraising now! The more you do early on, the less you have to worry about later! If you haven’t personalized the message on your fundraising page, do that this week! Start asking your friends and family to support you. It feels so good when the donations start rolling in (and it makes them feel good too!). 100% of the people I talked to were so excited to support my efforts to help LifeFlight. I don’t like asking for help, and especially not for money! But I eventually got over my shyness around this and raised over $2,500. The more personalized your "ask" is, the better! Don’t expect to just paste something on your Facebook page and think that’s enough. It takes phone calls, emails, talking to people in the Hannaford aisles, and even sending hand-written letters. By the end, it actually felt good to raise money by talking about what LifeFlight does and getting people interested in the event. Don't be afraid to circle back and remind folks! What started out as a big challenge for me ended up feeling like an enormous accomplishment. You can do it!

2. Get in the pool as much as you can. Just do it! I found it more pleasant to swim for time, rather than number of laps. I realized I didn’t like having to keep track of the number of laps in my head. I’d swim for 30 minutes, then 35, then 40…and by the end of June, I was swimming in the lake. It was a little creepy at first, all the mossy logs and occasional trash, and even a few fish…there were lots of chilly foggy mornings of flat water, and breezy afternoons with little waves chucking water in my mouth when I came up for a breath…sometimes the lake felt skanky, and other times it felt pristine. I worried about snapping turtles, and motor boats, and I always swam with a buddy. At the end of June, I bought the least expensive wetsuit online from Triathelete Sports in Bangor (around $300) and at first found it very uncomfortable. In fact, my movements felt so restricted and my buoyancy felt so off. I remember thinking “there is no way I can swim in this thing!” With perseverance and patience, however, I eventually came to love my suit. I got to the place of feeling safe and comforted wearing it— it kept me afloat, warm, and gave me a little protection from anything that might find me interesting, like slimy fish or turtles!

3. Finally, don’t stress about all the details, but do think about the nuts and bolts to make your experience successful. Have you found a paddler yet? If not, think of someone you can ask who is comfortable on the water, who has kayaked before, who ideally will be able to meet up with you a few times before the Crossing to practice swimmer/paddler teamwork. You may even be able to find a volunteer paddler to train with. I’ll talk more about swimming in the ocean in my July Rookie post. Until then, enjoy getting stronger in the pool (and perhaps the lake!), focus on fundraising, and leave the anxiety behind- #IX2020 is going to be an AWESOME experience!

Jen Porter