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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Race (that wasn't) Report: Zoot Open Water Swim (4K)

It sounded like a good idea... an early season 4K swim in open water to simulate the 3.8K at Ironman.

Didn't quite turn out that way.

The Preparation

I got there quite early and it was clear it was going to be a chilly day. Around +8C, not exactly beach weather.

It took a while for me to psyche myself up to get going... it just felt so cold, the water looked cold, and the wind was making the lake choppy. As a guy who has swam in open water a grand total of 3 times, this was a bit intimidating.

Pulled on the new wetsuit - fit snug but that's what they're all about. Joined my fellow swimmers in the water and did a bit of warming up (cooling off?). Mostly I wanted to get comfortable with exhaling in the cold water, I'd had problems with that before.

The Start

We all lined up to get going, when it was clear the buoys were not staying put... they sent a boat out to go fix the furthest buoy, but to no avail. Race director announced we'll only use 3 instead of 4, 750m loops instead of 1000m (probably not all that accurate!). So right there my Ironman swim simulation was gone...


I started out and it all started coming back. With the headwind (and head waves) it was hard to feel the nice gliding sensation from the pool. I let the wetsuit do its job holding me up and concentrated on reaching out and breathing, it took some getting used to but I began to get my mojo. The bilateral breathing was not going to work, as the waves kept filling my mouth with water to one side, so I stuck to breathing one side, worked OK.

The water was shallow - too shallow, my hands kept hitting the bottom. That was annoying.

I went around the far buoy which was now clearly drifting as well... as was the 3rd buoy... I headed back to shore to finish my first lap, following the crowd which was now just doing an out-and-back.

As I headed out on my second lap, I noticed swimmers already coming the other way... my first thought was "wow they're fast" but then I realized the far buoy was completely gone. The race director guy was with them, instructing everyone to turn back and "he'd explain".

Long story short: conditions were too bad to safely race.

Frankly, I think this wasn't really accurate, it was shallow water and the waves were annoying but hardly dangerous. It was really just that the buoys wouldn't stay put, properly anchoring them would have let us race. But at this point I guess it was too late to fix, so they had to cancel it.

Most of us then went out on a practice swim loop, might as well once you're out there and in the water! This was helpful for me, as I need all the open water swim experience I can get.

Came back to shore, got my refund, and went home a little grumpy that I hadn't been able to get in my Ironman test swim distance. But I learned a few more things about open-water swimming so I have a few take-aways for what to work on.

  • Need to practice breathing to one side only - I only ever breathe bilateral, which may not be possible
  • More open-water swim experience is a must - I want to figure out how to feel the glide I get in the pool when I'm in open water
  • Need to do longer stints without stopping in the pool - I felt the need to pause more often than I'd like


Anonymous said...

I've done a few of RL's races and the Race Director prides himself in accurate distances and safety.

Jon P said...

I have no doubt he had the best of intentions, and he handled it as well as he could... but anchor the buoys a little better and the race could have gone off without a hitch. The waves weren't that bad at all.