Sunday, July 6, 2014

Open-water mile and aquathon race report: Four and a half minutes

It was a beautiful day for a swim. And a run. And another swim. And another run.

Nearly four and a half minutes. That was the theme of the day, because that's how much time I took off both the open-water mile and run-swim-run aquathon I did today (from last year's times).

So, let's recap:

This is easily the most laid-back race I've ever done. Everyone just shows up a few minutes before their race (mile at 9 a.m., aquathon at 10 a.m.), grabs a milk crate and a spot of sand on the beach, and mills about eating their banana until it's almost race time. There are no timing chips; we're lucky we don't hand over popsicle sticks at the finish. Last year I swam the mile in 41:57, so I wanted to go sub-40 this time around.

I warmed up in the water for a bit — it was chilly, but fine once I got all the way in. Honestly, I was surprised to see a few wetsuits. If I'm going without, you know the water is pretty warm. After a few instructions and going over the course, we were off! I admit I still get a bit of that panicked feeling in my chest at the start of every race — it's all the flailing and splashing making it hard for me to sight, I think. But I concentrated on finding my breath and relaxing all the way to the first buoy, and settled into a good rhythm.

After I made the first turn I kicked it up a bit. Every time I found myself relaxing a bit too much, I thought to myself, "How badly do you want to see that 39?" It was two laps total, three turns each, and after I made the final turn I kicked it up a bit more. I spotted the chute, people on the sand, swam until I touched bottom three times, and stumbled onto shore. I looked to the clock and saw a 37!!! I was shocked! My final time was 37:31, a full 4:26 faster than last year. Hurray!

The faster you swim the mile, the more time you have to relax before the aquathon, of course. I caught my breath, sucked down a Gu, used the restroom, and eventually put my shoes and socks on. (Yes, I race in socks. Sue me.) The course was a 2K run (about 1.25 miles), a 750-meter swim, and the same 2K run again. Once again, we went over the course, and were off!

I actually wasn't feeling great on the first run. It felt hard, and I felt like I was wheezing up a lung. (I wasn't wearing a Garmin.) I told myself to keep a steady pace and I could cool off on the swim. There were a few hills but it wasn't bad, and I just chugged along until I got back to my crate. Shoes off, socks off, grabbed my cap and goggles. I somehow got my cap on while I was running and wet my goggles as I jumped in the water, and I was off again!

It was another two laps, although the buoys were brought in much closer to shore. I could tell I wasn't as fresh, but I still kept a steady pace and didn't do too badly sighting. Kicked it in hard, back to my crate, fresh pair of (rolled-up!) socks on, shoes on, sunglasses on, and I was off for the last time of the day! The run course felt easier this time and I was able to pass a few people. I found a high gear in the last couple hundred yards or so and passed two people right before the finish, although I couldn't catch one last gal in my age group who was two seconds ahead. As it turns out, this didn't cost me a "podium" spot, anyway. I hadn't gotten a look at the clock this time, so I was anxiously (OK, not really) awaiting for the times to be posted. As it turns out, my final time was 38:59 — a full 4:25 faster than last year! I was thrilled!

Even though I'm thrilled with my improved times, my showings weren't as great this year. Last year I won a water bottle for placing 3/5 in the aquathon, but this year I placed 5/5 in my new AG. However, only three people in my AG showed up for the mile, so I got a third-place medal. Hey, I'll take it!

All in all, a good day, a fun event, and proof that I am making improvements on the swim. And more confidence in the open water before my 70.3 next month.

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