Sunday, August 14, 2011

North Shore Swim Series: North Shore Challenge Race Report

Distance- 2.3mi
Time- 1:19:14

According to nearly everyone I've talked to, heard from, and Facebook-stalked, the fourth and final event of the North Shore Swim Series, the North Shore Challenge, was somewhere between an utter disaster and really annoying.
But, you know when you and a bunch of your friends complain about something incessantly, (i.e. the food sucks, the waiter sucks, the movie sucks, she didn't look like a dude, she didn't look like a cop, whatever) there is always one guy, one jerk, who looks at the group and says something along the lines of, "What? I didn't think it was that bad at all."
I'm about to be that guy. I don't want to be. I don't want to sound like an asshole. But I can't help it. I really didn't think the course, the swim, the current, or the pre-race advice was all that bad.
I want to add a disclaimer here: I've never done this swim before. I have nothing to compare this particular course to. I've never even swum this distance before at my current fitness level, so I can't with much certainty say what my time should have been. I guess a lot of people got pulled or got out. Not once did I feel remotely like that needed to happen to me. I do feel bad for everyone who didn't finish for one reason or another. I can only imagine how bad it must suck to have a lifeguard come tell you that it's time to get out because you've had enough.
On to my report, which is not all sunshine and rainbows, contrary to what my extended introduction might suggest.
We arrive at Waimea Bay nice and early so that Super Awesome Wife could set up her Spousal Support Group Tent-brella. It was a brainstorm she had at the last swim and, though not many people stopped by, I think it has promise. I think the sign needs to say, "WE HAVE SNACKS." People will come, Ray, people will come.
Of course, after getting there early I managed to catch the very last bus shuttling swimmers to the start. Why? Because I got distracted talking to the parent of one of my students, there because her older daughter is swimming and she volunteers the snack tent. Love parents like that. Way to be involved! *teacher cheer* But I'm not sweating being on the last bus, the race director is too, and they can't start without him. Our fates are tied. On the bus ride over we noticed the swell was much more western than he expected. This was going to change things. It would mean there would be an unexpected current and he was going to have to advise as best he could.
Once we reached the beach the pre-race meeting went off right away, with the race director telling us to stay more to the outside of the buoys and away from the shore. He and the lifeguards thought that would keep us from the bigger swells and from getting dragged around too much. Worked for me. Not so much for others.
Just keep swimming...
The swim out to the water start was much easier than last time (see: reef, ouch), and I made for the far buoy to try and get a good position right off the bat. I did hear the start this time and was off in good form. In fact, unlike Chun's, I swam in a group for nearly the entire race. This was both good and bad. Good because it let me keep an eye on my competition, follow people, and feel like I was racing rather than just our for a swim. Bad because, well, people piss me off sometimes. We had the entire ocean to swim in. All of it. And I understand the start of things like this get crowded and that's fine. I understand the waves throw off your line and that's fine too. But stop cutting me off and running into me. You have open water three feet to your right, go over there. I'm swimming here. (I promise, only one more grumpy thing about other swimmers.)
The best part of being right in the thick of everything was being able to find friends swimming about my speed and hang with them. I spent a lot of the race thinking, "Ok, where did Guy In Black Zoomers go? And what about Guy In Full Body Tri Suit? Did I lose him?" And then swimming with them. About that, listen to me, Guy In Full Body Suit, you don't need to buy those things for swimming. There is not way the only trunks you own are BlueSeventy Swimskins. I understand you bought them for swim racing, but Guy In Sports Authority Speedo-Brand Zoomers (you're truly), just passed your expensive ass. Spend more time in the pool, then go buy that stuff. (And yes, I would totally wear one of those suits if I owned one. I would immediately become a hypocrite. I'd feel all special and fishy!) And thinking like that helps. I swim a little angry, it helps keep the blood pumping and keeps me competitive. Wait and see how it helps me finish strong.
I knew my training was working and I was getting stronger because my mindset was so much better this time around. I wanted to get some, I wanted to mix it up, and I wanted to catch some people. This is called A Glimpse Inside The Head of The Tattooed Wake: "I see feet. I will catch those feet. If I can see you, I can reel you in. Given a long enough course I will pass you." That is the mind of a competitor. And when I'm in and my body is working as well as it was Saturday, that's all true in my head. I will pull you in and push you by. It's gonna happen.
Also in the head of a competitor, though, is a shorter fuse than normal. As in, "If you don't get the hell off my feet right now I will kick you in the head!" Some dummy spent at least a thousand yards drafting off me. Which I don't mind in and of itself. That's part of this kind of race and I'd do it to him. But he touched my feet every other stroke for a thousand yards. I want you to imagine how annoying, how aggravating, how maddening this can get. Feeling fingers brushing your feet, toes, and ankles constantly. I never stopped, but god how I wanted to. Smack him in the head and tell him to pass or back off. I tried accelerating and cutting by other swimmers to shed my shadow, kicking extra hard, and finally went for it and turned the intensity way up for about a minute to get separation, which worked. Grumble grumble douchebag grumble.
I should note that through I didn't see too much wildlife during my time on the course we did pass the aptly named Shark's Cove. Not a clever name. But a cool one. One which appeals to your favorite Dirtbag.
And after one hour and eighteen minutes I was nearly done. The last twenty or so had been the hardest. For a while there it was me and one other guy with no other swimmers in sight, very different that the rest of the race. I settled into a, "Gee, hope this guy knows where he's going," mindset, ignoring the thought that he probably was thinking the same thing about me. At some point I could see the top of the church which marked the turn-in point and was swimming hard at it. Distanced are deceiving at the water line so it felt longer than it was and look shorter than it was to get to the finish. I was hurting by the end but the whole swim my body had been working like I expected it to. I'd had strong, steady strokes, no major muscle issues, and only one problem. Chafing. I know, right? But for the last twenty or thirty minutes I'd developed what felt like a rash at my left armpit which burned every stroke. Not sure if it was the rubbing of skin on skin plus the salt acting as a irritant or if I managed to swim into something that stung me, but it kind of hurt. I was ready to be done. I wanted to finish. And I was pushing hard for it.
Can you see my little orange head?
Then I saw her. There, to my right, just off my hip. A Stanford cap! No way in hell am I letting some tart from Stanford beat me! Not now. She put up a good fight but the day was mine. Psh, Sanford. Whatever. 
And if you're looking for inspirational stories about people not named Dirtbag, check this out: The lady in a wheelchair finished this race too. Very cool to see her and her friend swim in, wave for the special beach chair, and get pulled across the line.
Go! Mush! Mush!
All in all a nice day our for me. Again, I'm sorry so many people didn't enjoy their swim and there was so much struggling. If I could change anything about the course I would ask for more marker buoys. I know there were three on th course, but I only saw one. Two more might have helped. I am curious to know what my time would have been had conditions been ideal. I'm looking to drop a few minutes next month at the Waikiki RoughWater. We'll see how that goes.
As always, much thanks to Background Profiles for helping make this possible for me. And thanks to Super Awesome Wife for her support.
Get some, go again.


  1. Were you a distance swimmer back in the day? Good job.

  2. I have to agree with practically everything you said... the manners of folks sucked, the conditions weren't ideal - but weren't horrible either (I've seen worse), the water was murky, but it was a fun race. Congrats for the finish and good luck at the WRS!

  3. PS - Next time grab a jar of vasoline for the spots that chafe, it totally helps.

  4. TriCook- Actually, I was all about the butterfly and IM when I was a swimmer. Not a big fan of the 500 or longer. Guess things change.
    santapookie- I don't know what your name means but I love it anyway. Good idea on the Vasoline (if that was you.)

  5. That's funny. You're the 5th swimmer that I've met who does these races that wasn't a fan of anything long stuff. I was a sprinter back in the day. Nothing over 100yds for me. Pretty sure my coaches would flip out if they found out what I'm doing now.