Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lowcountry Splash Race Report

This race report may be more pictures than report because it was more beautiful than race. I was looking for a challenging long distance swim that would push me in the water longer than an Ironman swim. After checking out a few 5k swims, the 5 mile Lowcountry Splash seemed to fit the bill. It was in Charleston, SC so we could go down and visit my brother Michael for the weekend, and it looked like a fun race.

I took Friday off from work, again, and after a fantastic slow yoga practice Kelley and I packed up and hit the road. After taking Evil Genius to Indian Princess camp and Ella on the Epic Mountain Adventure the last few weekends, this was time with the wife that I had been looking forward to for a while. We needed it, and it was wonderful. We hit the packet pickup first, and hit some traffic on the way, but eventually we made it down to see this little one

My adorable niece
Saturday morning came not too early. We executed the plan and made it out to the USS Yorktown in plenty of time for me to take the bus out to the starting line on Daniel Island.

Once out to Daniels Island, we got the prerace instructions. Lube up everything. Keep the buoys on the left until you see a green one, then cross the channel and turn right at the next green buoy. Give your number to a coast guard guy on a boat, and when he calls your number back, keep swimming with the buoys on your right until the finish. Seems simple enough.

We started out in waves of 10 people at a time, I had bib #73 so there were plenty of swimmers in the water by the time I jumped in. I was told beforehand that #75 was going to win, he was a local guy that absolutely flies down that river. I jumped in and tried to follow his line to the first buoy. And just like that my race was started!

On the grounds at the USS Yorktown
Swimming race reports can be very boring. I jumped in and started swimming, then eventually I stopped swimming. This one was in a river with a strong current, so swimming straight wasn't really an issue. Sharks, now that could be an issue. But there was a kayak every 10 feet or so, and there was always a buoy in sight. So logistically this race was pretty hard to screw up.

I started out keeping the buoys on my left as instructed. Before you know it, there was that green buoy so it was time for the channel crossing. Kind of caught me by surprise. The crossing was the hard part of the race. Missing the 2nd green buoy would be an instant DQ. Did I mention that this river was about 400 yards wide? It's the major shipping channel going into the port that the freighters go into to unload their containers. HUGE. And about halfway across, I couldn't see the 2nd green buoy. I stopped, took my goggles off, and got my sightline established. It was the only time during the entire race that I broke my stroke.

HALF of the cooper River Bridge. huge river!
When I finally got to the 2nd green buoy, it was being towed by the boat! I called out my number and got a callback, so I kept on swimming even though I did not make the right turn as instructed. hoping that since there was no space between the boat and buoy I could escape the disqualification (I was right). After making the turn we could sight on the bridge, and that was the one part of the course that seemed a bit long.

I didn't think I was ever going to get to that bridge! The current kept pushing me closer to shore, and I tried to stay out more towards the buoys. Finally crossing under the bridge was really cool. That's not the kind of thing you get to see every day.

After the bridge we had 0.9 miles to go until the finish line. A volunteer told me to aim for the Yorktown. It went by incredibly fast. Before I knew what was happening the Yorktown was in sight and it looks huge from the water. On the other side of it was the finish line.

There was a rope with pool noodles to corral the swimmers towards the dock for easy extraction from the water. The current was so strong right there I had to grab the noodle rope and hold on tight while apologizing to the dude in front of me for sexually assaulting him. I mean, we're both in speedo's and all. The current was incredibly fast.

How fast? I swam 5 miles in 1:18:21. Now, I'm normally about a 25 to 30 minute miler in the pool so my 5 mile time should be between 2 hours and 2:30, not half of that time. I finished 91/138 swimmers, and 7/9 in my age group.  Normally, I'm also one of the stronger swimmers in the field so finishing in the bottom third of my age group is also strange. These long distance swim races only attract the strongest swimmers and I can't control who else showed up to race, so that is what it is.

But it's still kind of odd. There were two other swimmers from the RAM team that came down to race. Laura was the 3rd overall female with a 1:06 finish, and Tom finished 4th in his age group with a 1:10. So 8 minutes over a 5 mile swim race shouldn't be much at all. The top 3 in my age group all put up a 1:07. So really I was only 11 minutes off from an award. And that's not much. That was such a strange race and odd finishing time!

In the end, I was looking for something stronger than an Ironman swim. My Ironman swim splits were 1:14 and 1:05, so a 1:18 in double the distance isn't much more. I may look for another long swim race to try later in the summer.

USS Yorktown

Kelley found some eye candy

Walking back after the finish

Happy to be done!

The finishing chute with noodle rope

Me at the finish line

That's a big bridge!

We swam around the Yorktown
Then it was time for the after party. We walked around the marina some, got plenty of food, and just enjoyed an unbelievably nice day in Charleston. It was sunny and around 75*, a perfect morning for hanging out drinking beer at 9 am.

Got some IPA

Hanging with my sweetheart was the most important part

Pretty good sized finish line event!
The rest of the weekend we were just hanging out with my brother and his wife & kid. All three families of the RAM swimmers got together Saturday night at Bowens Island Seafood for some good eats. We had a blast, and the food was amazing. Sunday we came on home and that was about it. 

This was a great weekend all the way around. The race was cool, I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for a less intimidating long distance swim. Charleston on Memorial Day weekend is always fun.

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