Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Fourth Deuce

Last Saturday night was the Big Deuce, a local 2 mile open water swim race in Jordan Lake. This was my 4th time swimming this race, it's been my favorite Ironman tune-up race for swimming, but this year I had high expectations since this is the first time I've raced it on a swim-focused year instead of an Ironman focused year. So I knew it was going to be rad.

I put up my fastest time here in 2013 at 58 minutes and took 2nd place in my age group. So that was the bar I set for myself going into the race. In the pool, masters practices have really increased in volume over the last few months and that has seriously increased my speed. My goals were simple, just to beat the 58 minute time I set 2 years ago.

You cannot compare open water swim races year over year. The water is different, the winds are different, there are different competitors in the field, and all you can really do is take every race for the day that it is, and deal with what the day brings for you. This would turn into an important lesson.

pre-swim - beautiful day!
There were lots of RAM swimmers out on the day. I was excited to see everyone, and certainly got tons of support and words of encouragement from my teammates. I have recently moved up a lane in practice, into a group that regularly does 100's on 1:15 to 1:20 instead of the lane where you normally keep a 1:30 to 1:45 pace. If you don't swim regularly, that's a huge gap. It's like making the leap from running 8 minute miles to 6:30 miles. But I earned the jump by putting in lots of volume, hard work, and listening to the form tweaks from the coaches. I have even started doing flip turns! So now it's time for that hard work to pay off. All of that training, all of those laps, all of the sprints, now is the time to translate that into open water speed over 2 miles.

Now I'm up to KC's lane - and still coaching her through her first ironman

Now it's time to hit the water. The 2 milers mass started at 8 am, and the 1 mile race started 4 minutes later. I lined up towards the front left. My buddy Jason screamed a countdown and the race was on!

Getting to the first turn buoy felt like it went really fast. It was crowded, but not full on washing-machine packed. I got hit and kicked a few times but mostly just swum strong, maintained my form, and tried to keep a clean line. This was a triangle course, so after making the first turn, it was only about 200 yards before the next turn to head back to the start/finish line. I tried to push a bit harder before that 2nd turn buoy, then hold form and keep a consistent effort going back to the start.

By the second lap, something was strangely different. Getting out to the first buoy again was harder, the wind really picked up and gave the water lots of chop. I bet that was problematic for less experienced swimmers. When I made the turn, everything got really choppy, maybe 6" waves slapping me around some so I would only breathe to one side. I felt like I over-corrected on that turn anyway and got off course a bit. But before I knew what happened I was making the last turn and heading for the finish line.

The 1 and 2 are mile markers
I hit the finish line, and stopped the Garmin at 1:03:17. It said I swam 2.83 miles. Zooming in on the map above it looks like I swam in a bunch of tiny triangle to make up that one bigger triangle, so there is no way that the Garmin distance calculator was accurate. But you can clearly see how I over-shot that first turn in the top left corner, and wavered off course on the whole right hand side. I can believe that I actually swam close to 2.3 miles, which puts me at a 1:30 pace per 100 yards. that was right at the effort that I was hoping to get out.

I ended up getting 3rd place in my age group! 3/8 in the Men's 40-44, 21/41 men overall, and 44/91 overall combined. It was a large and fast field this year, the overall winner was a woman (in 43 minutes) who also won a swimming bronze medal at the Beijing games. Other RAM swimmers included Tom who won his age group in 52 minutes, KC won her age group in 53 minutes, Gregory was 3rd male overall, Addison got 2nd in her age group 55 minutes, and Billy took 3rd overall in the 1 mile race. Kristen missed an award by 30 seconds but still swam 56 minutes.

After

KC and I with our awards
KC, me, Tom, Kristen
I am proud of doing well enough to get the award, but I did beat myself up pretty good for missing my time goal so badly. For several days I was just in a funk mentally trying to figure out what I did wrong. Did my form break down? Did I fatigue too early? Was I just not pushing hard enough? This was my first race as a 40 year old, maybe the body was just breaking down?

Finally my swim coach convinced me that you just can't compare swim times year over year. Last year I was getting 1:45 hundreds in the pool and swam a 1:04 at this race. This year I'm putting 1:18 hundreds in the same pool and only got a 1:03 at this race? Part of me still thinks that I just didn't perform but I can't pinpoint where I broke down. Sure I got off course a bit, but even if I swam perfectly straight I still wouldn't have put up the 53 to 55 minute time that I really wanted. Don't compare year over year, don't compare your performance with what your friends did. These guys were all scholarship swimmers in college. I've been hitting speeds for a couple of months now, they've been there for years (decades even). It's hard not to compare, but no good will come of that.

Bottom line, I wanted to hold my (new, corrected, good) form and I did. I wanted to push myself the whole time and I did. And I got an award for my effort. This is still one of my favorite races every year and I'm grateful I got to do it again.

4 comments:

Tea said...

You shouldn't be slowing down at 40. Take it from someone who is amidst 50 and been racing since 1983.

More than likely, it was what your coach said. We can't compare open water races. It can be anything: form, conditions, other competitors. Take the day and move on.

Abby said...

Sorry you didn't hit your goal, but good job working on your form and competing such an crazy long swim.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

That is frustrating that you didn't hit your goal and also surprising since you have become an even stronger swimmer! It sounds like conditions were tough with those big waves, though! All in all, though, great job! And congrats on taking 3rd place, though!!

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