First Open Water Swim in the books!

Posted: June 21, 2011 in Training
Tags: , , ,

Saturday’s race up in Holland went just about as well as I could have hoped for.  My goals going into the race were pretty well defined:

  1. Improve on last year’s race time of 19:30.
  2. Break through the 19:00 minute mark.
  3. Give absolutely maximum effort in memory of Scott Birk.
  4. AG win for the third consecutive year.

Things came together just about perfectly up in Holland and our time of 18:51 made it a four for four sweep of our pre-race goals.  Race days like that don’t come along very often, so I made sure to enjoy it as much as I could on Saturday.

Sunday morning arrived like it always does, and there was a shift in focus from a training perspective.  Yes I do in fact have 3 more 5K races over the next 4 weeks as we wrap up the Summer Sunstroke Stampede Series.  I need to post times in 8 of the 12 races to be eligible for any year-end awards at the banquet, so I will be sure to toe the line in at least 3 of the remaining 6 weeks.

But the next “A Race” on our calendar is Jack’s Generic Triathlon on July 31st.  Held on my 44th Birthday this is “only” a Sprint Triathlon, 500M swim, 13.8 mile bike, 3 mile run – but for someone who just started swimming 11 weeks ago, this is a big deal.

My first ever triathlon, and while I know it is always smart to have very simple goals in your “first ever” anything, such as:

  1. Finish.
  2. Have fun.
  3. Do your best.
  4. Don’t drown …. Things like that.

I really do want to leave it all out there on my birthday and race to the best of my abilities.  I have plus or minus 40 days to go before race day and I want to make sure that my race doesn’t end before I even get out of the water.

Last week I received an e-mail from Coach Claudia titled, “It’s Time”.

I knew before I read the message that she was implying that it was time for my first Open Water Swim.

This would be the final frontier if you will for my swim training, and it was a big, big deal.

No pool to stand up in.

No big black line to stare at to swim straight.

No wall to push off of.

No short breaks as you catch a breath at the end of each length.

Just me, out there swimming in the lake.

Claudia took me to Pure Austin – an indoor gym for outdoor people.  Truly an amazing facility over off of Braker Lane in North Austin.  A great gym, wonderful lap pool and of course access to the Quarry Lake for an Open Water Swim.

The lake is set up with floating platforms every 150 Meters or so to mark the course and also give swimmers a place to take a breather if they needed it.

The plan was for Coach to rent a kayak and paddle along next to me in case I ran into any trouble.

We walked down to the lake and stowed our gear, the next thing I knew Claudia dove into the lake and popped up.  I think she did this so I wouldn’t have a lot of time to really think about what we were about to do – she’s smart like that – so I just dove in right behind her.

She asked me to swim to the first platform on the right of the course, what would traditionally be the last buoy if you were swimming around the entire 750 meter lake and get used to the water.

I tried to remember all of the advice I’ve gotten about swimming in open water (OWS), and just stayed as calm and relaxed as possible.  I found my stroke, found my breathing and swam out to the platform.

We chatted for a minute or so, I caught my breath and she asked how I was feeling.  The truth was I felt pretty darn good and we swam back in to the dock.

Claudia asked if I thought I was good to go without the kayak for support and I told her that I really did feel just fine.  We headed out, Claudia swimming off of my right side and made our way to the first platform.

I was going a little bit too fast, and could feel my shoulders getting a bit tired, but I was smooth and was doing a pretty good job of sighting.  Every 5 or 6 strokes instead of catching my breath and then immediately rotating into the water with my head, I would sneak a quick peak to the horizon and spot the next platform.

I was swimming pretty straight for my first OWS, and we went platform to platform.  After 450 Meters I bypassed the final platform and swam back in all the way to shore.  300 Meters or so without stopping – I felt like the last 10-11 weeks of swim training had all been worth it.


Afterwards we did some fast, slow, fast, slow, fast drills using the buoys in front of the dock to mark the intervals.  Coach wanted me to practice swimming hard in the water, then getting back on pace and getting my breathing back under control.

This way if I got too excited on race day and went out too fast, I would be able to get it together, calm down and find my groove.  A pretty successful first OWS, like I’ve said before, it helps to have a great coach.

Pure Austin = Pure Awesome

On Monday I decided to head back out to the Quarry and hop in for my 2nd OWS in 4 days.  There is nothing like repetition when you are trying to master a new activity or task.  I thought that the sooner I could get back out there, the better.

This time with no coach alongside I swam around the entire course without stopping for a rest.

750 Meters.  1 ½ times as far as I will have to swim at Jack’s Triathlon.

17 minutes and 24 seconds.

I took a brief 2-3 minute rest to enjoy the accomplishment and then I went out and did it again.

750 Meters, this time in 18:24.

I was a little slower on the second loop, perhaps I did not sight as accurately and ended up swimming a little bit longer or perhaps I was a bit more fatigued – but the important part is that I did it.

For the first time I actually feel like a triathlete.  I don’t think I’ll refer to myself in that way until after July 31st; I’m still a marathoner trying something new.  But I’m getting closer that’s for sure.

Now it’s all about getting faster …. Right up my alley.

  1. Good job! I’m swimming there tonight for the Splash and Dash. You HAVE to do one of them soon! They are so fun. It’s that 750 loop then 3 loops of the run course (3k). Good practice for your tri!!! and good to see what it’s like to swim in a big group too.

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