Today was one of my "B+/A-" races of the season, the Capital Classic event in the Ocean Swim series. A 2.8k swim in the harbour, out to the lighthouse and back.
I felt pretty daunted by this event when I signed up for it last year, but focussing on my swimming and a couple of short stroke correction sessions have helped me to improve my form and stamina immensely, so by this morning I was feeling pretty good. My super dream goal was to come under an hour, realistic goal was to beat a famous polititian who I knew was doing it (I panicked a bit when I read about the training he'd been doing with an elite triathlete over the holidays) and my "hmm" goal was to make it back before the cut-off.
P was volunteering at the race (sorry honey!) so had to leave at 5:30 while I slept. I was pretty nervous, and instead of my usual hearty pre-race breakfast, I struggled to get down cheerios and yoghurt. Hmm. I made some toast, but couldn't even face adding peanut butter, so chucked it out, added a banana to my bag and set about getting ready. It had started drizzling by this stage and the forecast predicted southerlies dying out so I was a bit nervous about the water on the other side of the harbour! My Miss Negativity training buddy wasn't helping at all (friends sure help increase your motivation, but not when you have to spend the whole workout trying to make them enjoy it!)
Listened to some power tunes, danced around the house and then walked down to the venue, collecting my thoughts and enjoying my nerves and excitement. There's nothing like a new race to really get the adrenalin pumping! Fortunately, once I could see the other side, I saw that it was calm, and that the fog was high. Although there was quite a current, visibility looked fine and I didn't think I'd have to put up with seasickness or waves breaking in my face. I was so relieved- I'd have been frustrated if the swim was hard, but was absolutely dreading the possibility of a contingency plan (1500m in 2 750m laps! boring!)
The water was quite cold, from torrential rain last night, but I'm reasonably tough in that respect (compared to my friend, anyway), so although I went for an extra cap, it wasn't too bad. I warmed up, working on keeping my stroke long and slow. Race briefing was boring (though I did find out that my man to beat was wearing a purple cap, amid the sea of baby blue), we seeded ourselves at the back, and before we knew it, we were off. I wandered slowly down, hoping that avoiding the adrenalin rush and "race" feeling would help me get off on the right track.
It was bedlam out to the fountain (the first major obstacle) but I was able to swim my own stroke most of the way. After the fountain I was in virgin territory- although I had done sea swims of over 2k, we had never felt safe enough by ourselves to head out that way (although we had done some sighting practice). I felt happy and free, and excited to be passing all sorts of "landmarks" on the shore. It was hard to tell what my position was or how it was changing, as everyone had a different view of what a straight line to the lighthouse was! The lighthouse seemed so far away, but it was steadily getting closer, and I had some people around me who I worked to stay with.
I sneaked a peek at my watch as we rounded the lighthouse and was blown away when I saw 24:31. Woohoo! I lost track of my buddies in the mass of arms and legs and headed back to shore. Time to pick up the pace! The way back was a little harder to navigate. There seemed to be people all over the place- miles out to the left and miles out to the right. I think I lost a bit of time zigzagging, but I soon found some new buds to stick with (unfortunately including sleeveless bumping man, who seemed to think the best place to swim was wherever I was..) and kept going, passing the buoys and looking out for the last buoy at the raft on the way back. Finally got there and tried to get a sprint, hit the ground and we all looked around at each other, kind of dazed. My calves cramped and my feet protested as I hit the soft sand, but it made it up the beach and through the long finishing chute, to see 52:54 on the race clock. A guy asked for my chip, but I pushed past him to P. What's the use of making your man volunteer if you don't get to have him take your chip ;-)
It seems that times were fast today, and I wonder whether the course was short. But I don't care- I blitzed my goal and I can wait to go sub-50 (or better?) next year. Mr Purple Cap came out of the water, looking absolutely overjoyed, about 10 minutes later and my friend finished in a little under 1:05.
The whole thing was won by a 16 year old (nicknamed GPS because of his amazing ability to navigate open water courses) in about 28 minutes (woo! another "goal" was not to double the winner's time), but the guys who impressed me most were the 12 year old he did 35 minutes with NO WETSUIT (it's coooold in Welly) and, of course, the two guys in the 70+ category (beat them, at least)
All in all, a great morning. I'm so happy that I've worked on my swim, and I really love ocean swimming. My only complaint? 2.8k just doesn't seem that long when you're doing it. Maybe I should find an IM team event for next season (I'm planning a half, but would love to do the 3.8k swim too)...
(Sorry about the lack of pics in last two race reports- camera is in the shop. Grr)