Thursday, June 16, 2011

Open Water Swim Update

I have a 1.2 mile open water swim under my belt now. Unfortunately it was not the Nav-E Sink or Swim but was the LavaSwim in Lavellette, NJ.

The Nav-E Sink or Swim was a disappointment for me. I decided against getting a wetsuit and I had no open water swimming before the weekend of the race. The Sandy Hookers Tri Club has Monday and Friday swims in the Navesink River and I was able to attend one on the Friday before the race. Being out in the open river was scarier than I expected. Especially after I got a foot cramp that just would not go away. I ended up turning around and heading back to the beach on my own. Not a good start. Rather than make me feel good about my prospects in the race I now had some serious doubts.

I was still excited about the race on Sunday and Saturday ended up being a rest day.

On Sunday I got to Rumson, NJ about an hour before race time. I was feeling good but I still had some doubts. As I looked around at all the experienced swimmers with their wetsuits I started to feel like I was out of my element. I was one of the few that had bare arms and torso (I wear the now banned by FINA swim tights so my legs were lightly covered). My plan was not to be competitive but to swim my race and if I came in last it really did not matter.

At the start of the race I tried to line up in the back. I figured I would let the fast swimmers go ahead and I would drop to the back and maybe make up positions as the race progressed (I have learn from my days of running 10ks and doing centuries that the folks that go out fast often fall to the back later on so it is often possible to pick up positions).

One thing I did not count on was how much getting knocked around by the other swimmers would bother me. As I was heading out of the start area to the first turn I kept getting hit. Finally a father and son team swam right over me. That was kind of the last straw and I had a moment of weakness were I decided that I just did not need this and I again turned around and went back to the beach. This was a huge mistake for a couple of reasons. From a personal safety reason I had forgot that the women's 1.2 mile heat was lined up on the beach and I could hear the count down. I knew that I was going to be in their way as I got back to the beach. While I was trying to avoid getting in the way of the women I was feeling a great sense of disappointment.

I ended up watching the finish of the 1.2 men's race. The whole time thinking that I should have been out there and that I had wasted a good opportunity.

Since Monday was Memorial day I was not sure if the Sandy Hookers would have the Monday training but I has determined to show up if they did so that I could try again. Once I got the invite that the swim was on I decided to show up and swim the course again. I ended up having a good swim on Monday so I now needed to find a race that would allow me to get some redemption.

I found a race in Lavallette, NJ called the Swim-A-Palooza or LavaSwim. The only problem was that it was scheduled for next Sunday and I had already agreed to ride up Bear Mountain with one of the groups I sometimes ride with. After some thought I decided I really needed to complete an open water swim race ASAP. I signed up for the race and told my friends I would not be joining them for the ride.

The weather forecast for the LavaSwim was not great (The conditions at the Sink or Swim were just about perfect) but as I loaded up the car for the 40 minute drive down the Jersey Shore I was pleasantly surprised how nice the day was looking. It was cloudy but the sun was out. It was not warm but not too cold either. Maybe the storms would hold off until I got out of the water.

The LavaSwim is a square course in the Barnagat Bay. The start is off shore since the beach is a sandy shallow area that leads a quick drop off. The race starts with everyone treading water. There was a good turn out but not as big a crowd as at the Sink or Swim. Again I found my place in the back. When the start came I again felt the self doubt creep up on me. I was being bumped but I kept telling myself to just hang in.

The first leg was not really that much fun. I was having a hard time finding the rhythm that I usually get in the pool. The head down freestyle technique has some issues in the open water since there is nothing to guide me. I would think that I was head towards a maker only find out that I was way off course. I did a lot of breast stroke (I hate the breast stroke) in order to aim at the markers. As the made the turn at the first buoy I started to feel good. I was able to swim my own pace and I was comforted by the well placed life guards.

Once I knew that I was going to be able to finish I started to have fun. It did not seem as strenuous as my long swims in the pool but there were some other challenges. Mostly related to navigation but the currents and waves factored in. I also had some lower back pain as well.

The 2.4 mile leaders caught me on the third leg (they started 20 minutes before 1.2) but since I was happy just to finish I did not let it worry me.

As I saw the finish line I started to pick up my pace. I eventually hit the shallow part and stood up to run in. My legs were not really happy about this and almost refused to hold my weight. As I came across the line I heard the announcer yell "Patrick McMillan of Holmdel, NJ getting it done at 50 years old". My first thought was I am not 50 am I but then the excitement of finishing took over and I knew that I had a big smile on my face.

I hung around the race finish for a bit and watch the last of the 2.4 swimmers come out of the water. I decided that I would have breakfast somewhere to reward myself. I ended up stopping at the Dunkin Donuts in Pt. Pleasant, NJ.

I ended up placing 86 having spent about 47 minutes in the water. Not a great time but OK. I think I could shave off 7 minutes easily but I might have to wait until next year since I have not been able to find any more local races this year. I do want to get a 2.4 mile swim in as well.

So far the swimming has been a good change up from the workouts I was doing before. My overall muscle tone has increased and swimming seems to hit all the muscle groups. I will have to thank all of my Tri friends for inspiring me to get off the bike and into the water.

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