Friday, September 27, 2013

Triangle Open Water Championships - Race Report

A few weeks back I was eagerly reviewing what workouts The Coachman had scheduled for me on when I noticed:

Saturday September 14th
"1.2 mile open water swim. Triangle Champ Swim would be good."

A quick online search told me that FS Series would be hosting the final event of the Triangle Open Water Swim Series - the championships - at Vista Point on Jordan Lake that day. Now that all sounded a bit intimidating, but when the Coachman told me that entry was free if I volunteered, the cheap bastard in me took over and I signed up!

Saturday morning came and I woke to an early alarm and headed out to Vista Point (which was also the site of the swim portion of the Raleigh Ironman 70.3 event) in plenty of time to get there for 06:30 when I was needed to help with set-up and the registration table.

It was chilly! The wind was whipping and I was pleased that I decided to wear an extra layer over my T shirt! Brrrr..... It was pretty dark when I arrived, but I knew that the water conditions wouldn't be pretty!

We soon had the registration tables set-up and registration lists, T shirts, timing chips and swim caps laid out and waiting for the first arrivals.

The early crew......

Pretty soon the first competitors turned-up and the whining about the cold started! Now it certainly felt chilly after a long Carolina summer, but it wasn't that bad! The water temperature was still around 80 F, so the race would not be wetsuit legal.

The big concern in my eyes was not the temperature, but the wind! The flag on the FS Series trailer was whipping around and, sure enough, once the sun came up we could see white caps on Jordan lake and waves coming ashore. Not exactly ideal conditions!

Another major concern (for The Otter at least - she worked very hard not to stand next to me!) was that I was still coughing and sneezing as a result of a nasty late summer cold that I had picked-up. Breathing was a bit of a struggle - not exactly ideal for swimming!

After checking-in 120 or so hardy souls, it was time to head down to the start area on the beach and get ready to swim! There were 2.4 mile and 1.2 mile races and I was thankful that I had signed-up for the shorter distance!

The course was an elongated rectangle - out on the left side; right around a buoy; a shorter leg to the second turn buoy and back to the beach (2 laps for the folks doing 2.4 miles).

As expected based on the wind, conditions were tough (but at least the water was warmer than the air temperature!). The wind was blowing on-shore and slighlty from the swimmer's right, so the first long leg was a relentless "face wash" as you swam into the wind. I like to breathe every third stroke, but I soon figured that breathing to my right just resulted in a refreshing drink of muddy Jordan Lake water, so I switched to breathing every second stroke on my left hand side.

The outward journey felt like hard work, so I was happy to reach the first turn buoy. I made a reasonable turn and tried to sight to the second turn buoy, only to find that I had gone blind! The glare of the sun off the water was intense and, coupled with the chop, it was pretty much impossible to see. For a while I just followed the swimmer in front of me and hoped that they had either super eyesight or a better sense of direction that some people I know (Compass!). Eventually I made visual contact with the buoy and was relieved to realise that I was at least swimming roughly in the right direction! I made a slight course correction and switched to breast stroke now and again on the second leg to make sure that I was staying on track.

Finally I was on the final leg. The swimming finally got easier was there was a nice surfing effect from the waves. The only issue was that they were coming from over my left shoulder so, if I wasn't careful I would find myself being pushed to the right and off-course.

I finally made it ashore in the horribly slow time of around 45 minutes, but am certainly not beating myself up given the conditions, the fact that it was a training outing and, in particular, because I was having trouble breathing on land, let alone in the water! For reference, I swam the same distance in 39 minutes at the Ironman Raleigh race.

All-in-all, I was pleased that I did it. If I can do that in tough conditions and without a wetsuit, the swim at Beach-to-Battleship 70.3 at the end of the month will be a breeze!

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