This morning I ventured out to Lake Water Valley just a little bit south of Fort Collins to hit up the USMS 3-6 Mile Open Water Championships. The race of the day was a 6k which isn’t really too much shorter than last week’s 4.4 Mile Chesapeake Bay Swim. I was a little worried not about the distance, but the general disposition of my shoulders. Towards the end of the Bay swim I started grinding a bit in my shoulders and I was worried that would return here. I had only swam maybe 1 mile since then because of a pool closure and travel time so I hadn’t really tested it out since that race. I was a little worried/curious about the difference swimming at altitude would have as well, but I don’t think it had too much of an impact on me… I’m just hoping this high altitude training helps me in my 125 yard fly race against Mike in my lap swim showdown later this week :)
When I got to the lake there was maybe only 10-15 people there. I wasn’t exactly sure how long it would take me to get there from my hotel so I erred on the side of too early. I took an opportunity to walk around and check out the lake and the little community that it’s set at the middle of. You basically have what I’m assuming is a man made lake with a island in the middle which is basically a small park. There were houses and condos being built on the far side of the lake and golf course on the near side. After a while people started to show up and at 8 they opened up check in. Pretty standard fare, numbered cap, goody bag and a body marking station. The one thing they did that was kind of interesting was stencil your number on you with big thick lines. One on your upper arm at the shoulder and one on your back. They put them all on the right side and I think that was because we were swimming a clockwise course, this way the official could read your number from shore. They posted an official at each buoy in a lawn chair to make sure we were all good kids and staying inside the course.
As we got closer to 9 I made sure to go get in the water just to get used to what the lake felt like. Despite announcements of 70 degree water temps, I’m not buying it. It felt like 66-68 tops. The visibility in the lake was maybe 4 feet through the water, but there was a lot of tiny pieces of stuff floating around in it. I didn’t really swim swim while out there I just floated until they called us in for the pre race briefing.
At the start of the race the plan was to break it into 3 waves: Men under 45, Men 45 and over, and Women. I think the race was small enough they could have shot us all off at the same time together, but I will say this is probably the first open water race I’ve done with virtually no contact with another swimmer. I was in that first wave and well… most of it smoked me off the start. I was coming into this thing pretty fatigued and there wasn’t a whole lot of pep in my step that first lap. It also didn’t help when swimmers from the 2nd and 3 waves (each wave was 1:00 apart) started rushing past me. I knew there were and would be plenty of people behind me, but all I was seeing were the feet of all the fast kids.
The way to the first buoy was reasonably easy to sight, but the 2nd buoy was essentially impossible. It was a long way to that next buoy and you just couldn’t see it. You basically had to guess and then course correct once you got close enough to actually see it. This course definitely could have used some intermediary buoys! The other exciting part of this leg of the course was it got really shallow down closer to the buoy. On that first lap I actually ran aground! Like on my belly with my hands straight out and feet in the air! Whoops! At least I wasn’t the only one, everyone I talked to at least got a few handfuls of sand in the course of each lap. The next leg was a little more guessing as to where the buoy was. Once you got about half way there you could actually see it. From there it was a straight shot to the bridge, which was very easy to see, and basically rinse repeat x 4.
The first lap was basically me finding my rhythm. I got pretty steady in lap number 2 and more sure of where I was going, but I was definitely feeling some grindage in the shoulder… not good so soon. At the first buoy on round 3 I stopped to eat a gu packet real quick. I grabbed the camera while I was at it and snapped a few pics/videos. While hanging at that buoy I saw my buddy Chris from the US Swim Foundation go cruising by… holy crap… I was getting lapped already. That was a bit of a wake up call. I stuffed my gu packet wrapper in my suit and started to make moves to the the next far away magical mystery buoy. I still wasn’t setting the world on fire, but I did catch a few people that were starting to run out of steam. On the way to the 3rd buoy on lap 3 I did like 4-500m of 1 armed fly drill. My shoulder was really getting pissed off at me and I needed to just move it a different direction for a while. Funny thing is I think I was going faster doing 3 strokes on each side!
The last lap was all a blur… my body was hurting, but I was running of the anticipation of actually being done! I think I’ve decided that I much prefer point to point swims, doing laps kinda sucks. You see the finish over and over again but you’re never done. I like being out in the middle of nothing knowing that the only way to go is to the finish because there’s no bailout point. Once I passed under the bridge for the last time I tried to launch into a bit of a gallop. I wanted to at least finish fast. I definitely went faster than I had been going, but I don’t know that it would actually classify as fast. The finish was in water and to not much fan fare. Those that were done were wandering around on the beach and in the parking lot and there were still a fair number of people in the water. On the beach I caught up with my friends Evan (read his race report here) and Chris who were both dressed and dried off already… each one was a national champion in their respective age groups for the second time this year! By the time I looked at a watch it was a little after 11 so I knew I at least kept my swim under 2 hours. I didn’t know what my actual time was, but I at least beat my secret goal time that I was keeping to myself until I beat it :)
About an hour later we got into awards and I got 2nd in my age group out of what appears to have been 3 guys total. No idea how I did overall though. People swam anything between 1:16 to 3:00, I came in around 1:54. Again not that fast, but considering the schedule I’ve been keeping I’ll take it!
After the race I went out to lunch with a group of 5 others which was a lot of fun for me. Besides Chris everyone at the table was new to me, but swimming being the small world it is we all had friends in common. One even roomed with my coach at Nationals! When we were done there I made my way to downtown Denver. I figure my flight doesn’t leave until late tomorrow so I might as well stay in the middle of everything. First order of business was de-pond-scum-ifying myself and contemplating what to do about the super awesome cap line burned onto my head. With as much time as I spend swimming outdoors I thought I was impervious to that kind of stuff, but apparently not. Good thing I brought a hat! My hotel is right on the 16th Street Mall and I went wandering for a while on foot. I walked all the way down to the Capitol building and stumbled into the middle of a Gay Pride Festival. A little unexpected, but kinda fun. There were tons of people all dressed up, lots of music, people speaking, and it was a really beautiful day here in Denver (even if it was a little too hot for me). Tomorrow I’m going to bum around town for a while and then split for the airport in the afternoon. My next official race isn’t until July 10th and I think that’s a good thing. My body is pretty beat up and needs a moment to itself to recover.