I had two more races today and one was a USMS National Championship race! Even though my body was pretty beat up and all I really wanted to do this morning was sleep I packed up the car and split from San Francisco around 6:30 in the morning to make my way out to Lake Del Valle. I was running a little later than I wanted to, but at least there was no traffic in the city and I made good time out to Livermore. The lake is set out in some rustic, very classic California Wine Country. Burnt out grass on big hills lined with grape vines. Very pretty… and very hot!
When I got to the lake I was impressed with how nice it all looked. There were a ton of swimmers already there, but I was on time to get all my stuff for both races. Registration was a 4 step process: Get your registration card, get your race number drawn on, get your timing chip, and get your goody bag. And while we’re talking goody bags, the bag itself was probably one of the best bags I’ve ever gotten, I was really impressed with it. It’s a reusable tote sort of thing they sell at a lot of stores now for you to use instead of plastic grocery bags… dark blue with the race logo and the sponsor logos on it… anyways, back to swimming :)
First up was the .75 mile race. In theory this was my Alcatraz recovery and 1.5 mile swim warm up. I just wore my Rob Aquatics drag suit for this on and saved my B70 for the main event. Out at the start line I was playing with my camera a bit when I heard “hey is that Rob?” “It must be he has a camera!” It was my friends Katelyn and Sarah. Sarah’s the one I have the ongoing breaststroke grudge match going on with (I’m up 2-1 btw, she’s still about a second faster than me in the 200 breast), and this was her first Masters open water swim!
From the get go I could tell that this “race” wasn’t going to be pretty. Most of my heat separated itself from me pretty quickly. I was dragging ass. My stroke was ok, I just wasn’t as strong as I was yesterday. Luckily I had a perfectly calm lake instead of the churning waters of the SF Bay to contend with. The first two turns were uneventful, but the long stretch back down the lake towards where we started was a little more exciting. From the beginning of that leg I couldn’t sight on anything. The glare on the lake pretty much erased the course for me. I had to just chase the people in front of me and hope that they were going the right way. Half way down I saw my friend Sarah pull along side me, normally I can’t really tell who is who out there but I recognized the goggles. Seeing as we have an on going make believe swim feud in progress I figured right now would be a good time to not be slower than her! I held even-ish with her until the last turn and then I took off for the beach. I figured I needed to do a quick section anyways in this warm up race and this was the perfect opportunity. I turned up the kick and made my way into the finish chute, she turned up maybe 30-40 seconds later… phew!
After the race I wandered around on the beach a bit to find friends and catch up a bit. Even though I’m swimming almost every weekend this summer a lot of it isn’t in California so I have to take these opportunities to see everyone when I get them! I also made sure to drink whatever I could get my hands on and down some energy gel packets so I’d have something in me for the 1.5 mile race.
Before the 1.5 mile race they gave another race briefing and I walked down onto the beach to listen and get a full idea of the race course. I had a pretty good idea of where we were going but I wasn’t 100%. Once the announcer was done we didn’t have much time before the race actually started and I was in the first heat, yikes! I rushed back to my pop up tent and got my B70 zipped up and had my girlfriend rub some body glide on me where ever my suit might end up chaffing me. From there I had to book it back into the water and to the in water starting line. I made it with maybe 8 seconds to spare! The yellow flag was down and I could see the official in the boat holding the green flag waiting for the word to wave it in the air.
The swim to the first buoy was ok even though it was a little demoralizing to see the really fast kids break away so quickly from the rest of us. Around the turn I got kicked real hard in the hand just past the buoy. Someone in front of me decided to breaststroke kick in a big clump of people and I was the lucky winner of that transaction. It bent my fingers up and backwards in a fun way, but despite not feeling good at all everything was still working so I kept plugging along.
After the next turn it was a long shot all the way down the lake. I settled into a pretty decent rhythm and did a little better job sighting now that the glare from the sun wasn’t quite as bad. I did hold a line a little off to the right of a lot of swimmers though, that happens to me a lot on counter clockwise swims because I’m a right side breather and tend to list to starboard in these situations. During this leg I also picked up a really aggressive drafter. Regardless of my line he followed me. After getting kind of pissed off from repeated tappings/slappings/pokings of my feet I put my head down and tried to drop him. I increased my pace for maybe 100m and veered off to the left a bit to throw him off my trail. It worked, or so I thought. A few minutes later we were back to me getting poked in the bottoms of my feet. Grrr. I’ve done enough open water to know to expect a little contact during a race… I’ve been kicked in the stomach and punched in the head, but this was pretty obnoxious. It’s one thing to draft, but don’t keep reminding me you’re right there please! While I was busy being distracted by my drafter I was the lucky recipient of another breaststroke kick to the same hand. This was one even harder and even more on target, hooray! I decided that once we got the the next buoy I was going to turn wide and stop for a second just to get out of the situation so I could go back to swimming my own race without dragging along someone else. At the buoy I pulled out and my drafter took a few strokes and stopped to pick up his head and see where his ride went. Wow. Anyways he picked another target and I was left to swim in peace. (Going back and reading that last paragraph I sound like a whiner, but having someone swim up your ass for a half mile isn’t really my idea of a good time.)
I swam the last couple turns by myself much happier :) Overall I wasn’t as fast as I should have been, but I figure my 3+ mile race the day before was an excellent excuse! Towards the end there were few people from the heat behind me that passed me on the way to the finish. Whoops… I wasn’t the last person in my heat to finish, but I definitely wasn’t towards the front! I think this really added up to a good training swim and a very good excuse to play with my friends at a random lake tucked into the mountains. I gave it what I had, but I was pretty much running on empty at the time.
I spent about an hour on the beach afterwards talking with people and capturing some video for a project I’m working on. I also hung out for the awards portion. They started with the .75 mile race and I got a 3rd place medal for my age group (I don’t think anyone finished behind me though!). After waiting through all the other age groups up into the 70′s it became apparent the 1.5 mile results were going to be a little while. I hung out for a bit but ultimately I had to split before they handed them out. I’ve been away from home since Friday and there was about a 4 hour drive waiting for me. I’ll find out for certain later what my place and times were when they post results.
Even though I was a little grumpy in the middle there and I wasn’t as fast as I would have liked I still had a really good day in the lake. Lots of my friends were there, the water was warm (to me anyways) and I got to swim 2.25 miles worth of open water. Tri Valley Masters put on a really good event and I’m glad I made it out for both races. Next weekend I’m making my way out to Maryland for the 4.4 mile Chesapeake Bay Swim! It should be a good (long) swim!