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!|
|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 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.
|KC and I with our awards|
|KC, me, Tom, Kristen|
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.