In recent years, we have seen an exciting trend — more and more people on the open water. Even those who have never been noticed in affair with swimming, are no longer afraid to swim. Our editorial team is extremely pleased with what is happening, because there are many interesting women among those who are in love with water. So when Dasha Mukosey swam over the Volga, we asked her to tell us and you about how it happened.
By Darya Mukosey
Photos: Courtesy of Author
Once upon a time I dreamed of doing a triathlon, but it didn’t work out, and then — the great social networks! — I came across a commercial for the X_Waters. I didn’t even know it existed at the time. I should have told my friends that it would have been interesting to swim some distance in the open water, and here’s a surprise. You’ll never guess what they gave me for New Year’s Eve! Slot to swim across the Volga: distance — 3 km. I was shocked. Why exactly the swim? Why not 1 km, but 3 km at once? Apparently, I was so fed up with my mountains that they decided to distract me. I had to go through all stages: panic, denial, acceptance, delight — before I decided to swim over the Volga.
I have no problems with swimming, I’ve been on water since I was 5—6 years old, but as an amateur: my mother taught me, gave me the technique, the university added some knowledge. But to participate in such an event?! Yes, never. The peak of my swimming career was in the 7th—8th grade, and it was participation in school competitions. The swimming pool was an escape for knees after injuries, so it was easy to swim 3 km there. Moreover, I swim for 2—3 hours in the sea without any problems, in the Mediterranean Sea, where you can see the bottom. At the time, I didn’t know what was waiting for me…
I had to go through all stages: panic, denial, acceptance, delight — before I decided that I would swim over the Volga.
Stage one, panic. It all started on January 2, when I got a slot in a beautiful envelope. So a harmless joke turned into a serious adventure. You have to be more careful with your desires. After thinking about it I decide to swim. That meant I have to prepare, long and hard.
I read some literature, remembered university classes, made a plan and started preparing. Expectations: swimming pool 2 times a week for one hour, plus dry swimming once a week, plus aerobic skiing and running 4 times a week.
Reality: aerobic training and general physical preparation were held on hurrah, but the pool did not get along — once I went in February, the second time — in March. My conscience sometimes prevailed, and I took espanders and did swimming exercises. Then in an hour I was quite calm to swim 3 km and was satisfied. Swimming then was like a cherry on a cake. The body, which can no longer stay without physical activity, simultaneously trained and rested. My one-time training in the pool was absolutely the same: a small warm-up of all joints, then two lengths of the pool in different styles, and then I front crawled 120 pool lengths in the mode “1 breath — 3 strokes” (I do not know how to call it correctly in swimming, but on my language it is “third mode”)… No, I was not bored. Probably, patience has come for 12 years of track and field athletics, after all, from cyclic kind of sport to cyclic is much easier, plus someone’s feet under the water changed quite often, and it was even fun. I just lay down on the water and started stroking. I always wanted to do strokes faster for the first 4 lengths of the pool, and no matter how slow I slowed down, nothing came out. Maybe my body was trying to show me how strong it is, but after 100 meters we both calmed down and swamn the planned 3 km at an smooth pace.
Reality: aerobic training and general physical preparation were good, but the pool did not work out – once I went in February, the second time — in March.
For an entire hour alone with myself, my head was given quite easily: at first I imagined how my muscles worked, watched the technique, stretching along the string, then counted the number of strokes by 25 m and 50 m, then I counted the number of breaths. By the 20th minute, we (me and my head) were moving on to more global problems: for example, assessing the color of the pool tiles, the sound, and discussing what it would be nice to swim more often and not in a 25-meter pool. By the 40th minute the most difficult thing started — thoughts about food, which did not leave me until the end of the training. In this part I turned on the mode “1 breath — 6 strokes” and at least got a little distracted. In the end I swam another 100 m on my back to finally calm down and ran home to eat.
And if that would went on… but by the end of March I decided that I wanted to go to the mountains more than to swim, and the mountaineering preparation began, but I decided not to sell the slot and returned to the pool once a month, the same hour, the same 3 km.
The mountains suddenly “appeared” in my life in May, and while working on trail on one of the snow fields I thought it would be nice to swim rather than beat the path. And the thought of swimming came back. By the end of the training camp, my knees had revolted, demanding me to leave them in peace. I had to agree. And since neither body nor head can live without physical activity, the acceptance phase began.
The mountains suddenly “appeared” in my life in May, and while working on trail on one of the snow fields I thought it would be nice to swim rather than beat the path.
The first thing I did was went looking for a wetsuit. And once again, the great and powerful Internet saved me. After evaluating the offers, I went to the Decathlon. This is a separate story, the main lesson of which is not to go to try on a wetsuit alone. Never. No way. Especially if the zipper on selected suit goes not from bottom to top, but vice versa, so the most difficult thing is to insert it inside the slider. From the first time it was not possible to buy anything, and from the third too. In fact, after each try-on I wondered, “Do I need it?” From the fourth try I did choose a 2mm triathlon suit with a 3mm reinforcement and that exactly zipper with which I performed the show in each store, and once even fell out from behind the curtain in the fitting room.
So, the wetsuit was bought, the quarries melted, it was time to start serious training. It happened exactly 2 months before the swim — May 28. My delight was limitless. I had never swimmed in a wetsuit before. It’s warm, nothing presses anywhere, the buoyancy increases so that you can lie on the water like a star. As a matter of fact, that’s what I did during my first training, having floated 300 meters maximum, the rest of the time I was fooling around. The next day I got myself together and started swimming, but it wasn’t so easy.
Everything was fine until the bottom was gone. I tried to put my head down and make strokes further, but this sinister darkness gave me no peace. The best I could do was swim 25 meters from the shore and went back, even though there were people swimming around. After several more unsuccessful attempts, I had to admit to myself that I was uncomfortable in the open water where I couldn’t see the bottom. No, the truth is I was scared, very scared, but I couldn’t understand why, because at Mediterranean sea I was calmly diving 6-7 meters deep and everything was fine. Anyway, I was done with the pool – now training only in the open water.
Everything was fine until the bottom was gone.
Thing were going well, I started swimming 150 meters from the shore, and I was quite satisfied with it. I was warming up, as previously, but I was already wearing a wetsuit, I swam 300 m in different styles, and then there was the main part of training, on which I usually swam 1–1.5 km, did exercises and went home.
And then summer was over, the water got cold, and people stopped swimming. A new problem has arisen – I can’t swim alone in a pond. I honestly tried, persuaded myself, but the maximum I could squeeze out of myself was 25 meters to the buoys and faster back. That’s the moment when I wanted to sell the slot. After all, there, on the Volga, I will also be alone, there will be no visible bottom, there will be a current, and I will not be able to return to the shore and go home after 25 m.
I started looking for a way out of this situation, and found it, but not right away. Water training had to be reduced to once a week, but increased running so the lungs wouldn’t forget how to breathe. In my general fitness I paid special attention to my back and hands — push-ups and climbing were not enough and to be completely honest, I still consider my hands weak. All I had to do was figure out how I could still practice on the open water.
It was funny: I dragged all my friends to the beach, and while they were playing volleyball, sunbathing, reading books… I swam and was sure that I was under supervision. My fears came to end, when my mother said she would watch me from the window (my house is 750 meters from the water repository shore), and although she had been honestly watching for an hour, I realized that I could really do it and my fears were only in my head. But what I remember most from training are the days when one of my “assistants” rented a sup at the boat station and swam nearby while I was stroking along the quarry. At any moment you could stop, grab the sup, have a bite to eat, and swim on. I quit swimming practice 1.5 weeks before the swim. At that moment I realized that I want, really want to swim over the Volga, and I am ready.
I felt the mandrage as soon as I arrived to Nizhny Novgorod. Oh, it’s a nice feeling when you’re participant, not organizer. After check-in time seemed to go faster and I was always afraid of being late, and I was still hungry. At the briefing we were informed about the final schedule, adjustments for the current and wind, after that everyone was sent to prepare for the transfer. We started the last ones, so we had enough time to tune up, put on our wetsuit, take a good look at the starting point and set some landmarks.
I quit swimming practice 1.5 weeks before the swim. At that moment I realized that I wanted to swim over the Volga, and I am ready.
There were buses to the starting point, everyone was so happy and pleased – it also gave strength. There was no fear or doubt, I knew for sure that I would swim, and I already wanted to swim.
We were given a buoy near the start arch and were told that the start was delayed, but that was good news. More time to warm up, fight a wetsuit and even swim. Plunged into the water, I realized that it was not in vain to warm up on the water, it seemed cold enough and took a breath, but I quickly calmed down, and began to feel a little sorry for not taking hydro socks. It was not fear but a desire to swim that grew from minute to minute. I do not remember such zeal at competitions before. We were once again clarified the landmarks, wished good luck, softened up – and the start was given. To my surprise, there were no starting clusters, the judge just stopped the flow, with his hands spread out. For me it was really nonsense, because at the race someone still breaks through the barrier. There was no crowd, although the first meters were tight. Adrenaline rolled over. It was no longer embarrassing that there was no bottom, the wind was blowing, there was only the finish point and the landmarks.
Circa the middle of the river I began to dive into my thoughts, but the running people quickly brought me back to consciousness.
Stroking was easy, but, frankly speaking, I wanted to look around, watch the competitors, who and how moves. I was really happy with everything that was going on. But my glasses let me down: they were sweating all the time, no spray helped, so I turned over my back quite often to wipe them off, I can’t do it any other way. Circa the middle of the river I began to dive into my thoughts, but the running people quickly brought me back to consciousness. How? How did they run in the middle of the river? There were bushes far to the right, but there was no way it was shallow. I lowered my legs and touched the bottom, but decided to swim, not run. I was choosing approximate landmarks, not only on land, but also on water.
Like, “here’s that bright pink suit floating in my trajectory,” or a bug that says… oh, yellow hat, so they swim 5 km. Anyway, the closer the shore was, the excitement grew more. And for some reason my strength didn’t run out. I swam in my “third mode”: one breath at 3 strokes, and by the way, I did not regret that I swam without socks, it was hot, and I periodically launched water into the suit. The side wind did not dicturb at all, but when I swam into the Oka, the water seemed very stinky and warm. We were warned at the start about the temperature difference, but that much?! The water mixed, there were cold areas, and some hot, but the finish was so close, and I tried to gave all 100 percents, but failed, the strength still remained.
I climbed out to the pontoon, gave five to the judge, took off my hat and only then realized that I really did it — I swam across the Volga. My happiness was endless! I wanted to jump and hop with joy, I do not remember the last time I was so happy! The volunteers and the host were great, they kept the atmosphere at the highest level! The ladder of the fans is a special pleasure, you going up and looking for your friends, and everyone congratulates you and gives you five.
What’s the outcome? Firstly, if you want to show the result, you need to prepare not 2 months before the start. My result is 59 minutes and 48 seconds, although I hoped to be faster. Secondly, do not stare at the sides while you swim, thirdly, it is good to choose glasses that do not crack at the start, for example.
I would not change anything in the capacity of training: the combination of general physical training, running and swimming gave a good result. I was lucky to have a wetsuit, it sits well, I didn’t even have to smear Vaseline at the seams. I swam in the organizers’ cap: despite the fact that it is thin, it worked 100%. I didn’t have any food on the track, and I didn’t really want it.
I would like to say a huge thanks to X_Waters for the opportunity to participate in such an event, to test myself, to overcome fears, to find weaknesses and strengths! I will return! It is not even discussed!