Sunday, July 31, 2011

North Shore Swim Series: Chun's Reef To Waimea Race Report

Distance- 1.6mi (map here)
Time- 47:46

Cap-wearing simulation
I should be disappointed by this time. Just over a month ago, in what felt like much more difficult conditions, I managed a 41:06 over the same distance. The difference though, and the reason I'm not all that disappointed, is I'm out of shape. I've been in the water, not counting yesterday, three times since my last race, the dopely-swum Firecracker Triathlon. This does not a good time make.
I tried to think about this race as merely a prep swim for the longer North Shore Challenge, a 2.3 mile swim in the other direction down the coastline in two weeks. I mention the direction because I think that will have an impact on my time. I'm all about swimming by feel, but I don't have a lot of feel right now. I heard many of the swimmers talking about the Chun's race as having plenty of current against us. I didn't notice too much except for one part, but I think that has less to do with me being a He-Fish and more to do with my touch not being where it should be. But, since the North Shore Challenge flows in the other direction, maybe the currents will be kinder. On to the race report!
"Stretching" aka "I will not smack the girl behind me"
The race organizers collected, body marked, and chipped swimmers at Waimea Bay, put us on buses, and ferried us the 1.6mi down the road to the beach we were starting from. It was that or let 600 people wander down narrow North Shore roads. My bus was so crowded I stood in the aisle. Don't try this during a field trip, kids! Once at Chun's we milled around, meeting other swimmers and talking, fidgiting, and waving our arms around (what swimmers call "stretching", but its flailing, see 1:16 in this link for proof). I ran into an older couple I met at the Firecracker Tri who embody the "We Only Do This For Fun" philosophy to the hilt. They are a relay team who calls themselves Team Bloody Mary. Only the husband was doing today's race; the wife runs, and their neighbor rides. And they have been known to greet their transitioning teammates while smelling of, you guessed it, Bloody Marys. Really nice, funny people. (The husband was bummed when he looked at the results post race, "Aww, someone in my age group finished after me! I try to finish last so no one feels bad.")
After brief announcements, "Be nice, don't kick each other, if you feel lost sight on the church tower, watch out for Dirtbag, he's super-fast and good-looking*," we were sent out to the start. This is not as easy as it sounds.
Check out the name of the starting point again. Chun's Reef. Now imagine 600 swimmers gingerly picking their way across a shallow, pointy, underwater playground of ouch and damnit. It was a water start, we had to get out between the buoys and tread water until everyone was ready. So I took my time skulling over the reef. No reason to hurry like some of the Type-A's out there and have to tread for ten minutes. Do-de-doo. Finally everyone was out and ready.
See me?
I never heard to start. Again. But I don't think anyone did. Suddenly the front line was horizontal and splashing instead of vertical and talking. So we followed suit. Ummmm, READYGO!
There are worse places to do an open water swim than Hawaii. Like nearly everywhere on the planet. The water is clean and clear and warm, the reefs are pretty, there are fishes aplenty, and when you pop your head up to sight, its still great to look at. I set a strong-but-sustainable pace and got to work. An open water swim, even one of this size, spreads the field out quickly. Some people go closer to the shore, some go further out, some are fast, some are slow. It is possible feel very alone for a while if you don't take the time to look around. This brings us to a new feature of Dirtbag Fitness-
Things You Think While Open Water Racing:
- "Oh! Fishes!"
- The same line to one song over and over and over and over
- "Is that an old anchor down there?"
- "Where is everyone?"
- "Seriously, am I somehow lost? Am I headed to Molokai?"
- "More fishes!"
- "I wish I could get this song out of my head."
- "ROCK! Must swim around. Where the hell did that come from?"
- "I should be thinking about swimming this race and not about how my blog will read when I write it."
- "You know, I think I've only seen one of the three guiding buoys so far. Am I lost, or just oblivious?" (Answer- Oblivious and way to the right of two of them.)
- "Hey! Swim caps. I'll just catch that group then." (that was my swim ego)

Dog + SUP= bored wife photo-op
Eventually the crowd bunched back up as we swam between two rocks signifying the entry to the bay. For a few hundred yards before that I had been having a race in my own head with some guy in a white swim cap who ended up near me. We both got yelled at by a lifeguard going in to the rock area because we were too far shoreward and would have made rockfall in moments. Back out to the sea! I think he eventually pulled ahead of me, but it was nice to have a friend to race with for a while. Thanks you Mystery Asian Guy.
Up and across the line!
Then I joined another group, slipping into a draft position right off two pairs of feet for the final push towards the two buoys marking the water exit. Drafting helped a lot. I tried a few time to really go for it and race the final 500 yards, but it wasn't happening for as long as I wanted it to. I could push for a few minutes, but then have to dial it back down. Being out of shape will do that. So my new goal was to beat the two pairs of feet in front of me out of the water. We had a little race, and I did win right at the end. I'm not sure if the other two swimmers knew we were racing, but I beat them anyway. Nah nah nah! And across the line! Where a small child for some reason handed me a chocolate. Some races give finisher medals, this race said, "You know what a swimmer wants after 47 minutes? Dark chocolate!" Probably a good motivator. And I got a nice t-shirt and fancy red cap.
So my final time was over six minutes slower than the last time I did this distance, but I'm ok with that. I set out to make it a training race, a workout, and that's what it was. I came in fourteenth in my age group and would have only placed in the top three of Men 25-29 if I could have shaved time off my PR. Meh, I'm ok. Looking forward to the next swim. Much thanks to Background Profiles for their support. Speaking of support, Super Awesome Wife has decided to take a sign to th next race reading, "Spousal Support Team, brought to you by Dirtbag Fitness. We have snacks. Sponsored by Background Profiles." She'll have a cooler with drinks and snacks and welcomes all non-participants waiting a the finish.
Oh yeah, after I finished and was waiting for the rest of the swimmers, Super Awesome Wife and I watched some spinner dolphins playing a few hundred yards off shore. Which means now you get gratuitous pictures of dolphins!

*I made one of those up, can you tell which one?

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