Sunday, June 19, 2011

Popoia Open Water Race Report

Dirtbag Fitness had a successful morning, fans and friends.
Today was the Popoia Open Water 1.6mi race. Yes, 1.6 miles is plenty far to swim. Put it this way, the swim leg of a Half Ironman is 1.2mi. For a swimmer like your's truly, 1.6mi isn't that long, but it is long enough. Long enough to get plenty tired, long enough to need to trust the swimmer brain to pace correctly. Turns out, though, it wasn't the length of the swim I should have been concerned about.
It was the open water part.
I'm as comfortable in the water as a person can be. If swimming was a video game my Confidence Bar would be full. I've found all those crystals (red orbs/coins/horns). Better have after over ten years of competitive swimming. So I'm not intimidated by being out away from land. This morning's fun came from the surf.
Surf was rocking today. The last race I did out here stayed relatively close to the shore, which means the water was calm and flat. This race took us out and around Flat Island, where the water is not so much flat as it is rough and choppy. To be honest, I don't think it was that bad. Like, in a kayak it would probably have been alright, if a little rough. But in the water, trying to swim, trying to breathe, it felt brutal a few times. Put it this way, if it was possible to get sea sick while swimming, and I was so inclined, it would have happened.
Mass Milling-Around
What this meant for my race is that the whole plan pretty much got thrown out the window from the get go. To start, it was a mass water start that I may not have been ready for. That is to say, I was swimming a short warm-up to the first buoy (a warm-up that was cut short because some very-friendly dude wanted to chat while I was getting ready. Nice enough, but excuse-me-I-need-to-swim-a-bit), and was treading water out there when suddenly people are calling,"Five seconds! We're starting in five seconds! GO!" we're going then. Ok. So my head wasn't quite where I wanted it to be right from the start. Nevertheless, off I went. And the whole, "keep up with the lead group" thing wasn't happening. Partially because I started a little out of position, and partially because there is not a whole lot of seeing going on in choppy water. So I may have been near the lead group at the start, but it's hard to pick out little orange caps bobbing in the surf when you are also a little orange cap at surf-level. A few times I stopped and breast-stroked to get my bearings and to make sure I was on my way to Flat Island and not, say, Maui. So I swam my own race. Which is fine, I trust myself and I know how to pace. I have  a fairly good internal gas gauge (my wife has a good external gas gauge, "Honeyyyyyy, ewww! Go outside!") when swimming.
So I swam. And swam. And pushed myself. And measured technique. And remembered not to forget to kick. And for some reason had Tenacious D stuck in my head. Got passed by a few fifteen year olds from the local swim team. Jerk kids. (15 year old took second with a time of 36:25. Little punk did butterfly for the last 100 yards. Which is something I would have done if I had thought of it. Punk.)
Dirtbag Post-race gasping
Coming around Flat Island was an adventure in using the surf to my advantage. Which means that instead of swimming into and over/under the waves coming towards shore I was heading in the same direction as those waves and was able to pseudo-body board for a few yards. That or get caught under it and pushed forward a little. Whatever.
At this point I could pop my head up and see the final buoy, so I turned it on and really went for it. I dug deep that last 1,000 yards. The water was calmer, so I was able to bring my stroke to bear and get technique working that had somewhat fallen apart in the rougher stuff. Strong kick, long strokes, and in I came. 41:05 was the official time.
Envelope of Winnings

This put me 21st overall. More importantly, this put me first in the Men's 26-30 age group! My first first! And second podium. And it was pretty much dead-on to my predicted time. Which really thrills me because at the halfway point, when there was some Dirtbag Battering going on, I was sure I was going to be way off.
I'm Number 1...or 21
I want to acknowledge my sponsor, Background Profiles, and thank them for their support. More importantly, I must thank Super Awesome Sexy Wife for waking up early with me and coming to watch a sea of orange caps, one of which is her husband. And of course to everyone else on Team Dirtbag who supports, encourages, and plays hard. I'm hoping Cycle Dirtbag writes something about his metric century I can link to so everyone can be impressed.
Next Sunday is the Firecracker Sprint tri and then it's off to the mainland for the Dirtbag and Stitches Annual Summer West Coast Family Tour.


  1. Your first FIRST - WOOHOO! Great swim, good internal gauging. You continue to amaze me son. So proud.

    Love ya

  2. YAY!!! Congratulations! That's amazing, so proud of you :)

  3. Good Job! Looking at the surf report, might have some surf this weekend.