On April 6th, 2014 I competed in my first OWS of the 2014 season! The swim was in Tempe Town Lake near ASU in Arizona. The event is one of three open water swims included in the AZ Open Water Swim Series. I’ll have to miss the next swim due to the dates overlapping with SCAR, but plan to compete in the last of the three – on June 8th in Lake Pleasant, AZ.
This swim was scheduled to start at 8:30 am, but due to a slow moving registration line the race was postponed until 8:45. After getting checked in and marked with my race number I sat my gear back on a grassy hill near the start, I had brought my sleeveless wetsuit but was on the fence about wearing it. Everyone else seemed to be wearing some sort of wetsuit, so I assumed the water was cold. I should’ve asked before putting my suit on because the water temp was a comfortable 65 degrees F. It would’ve been fine to go sans wetsuit.
We were allowed a short warm-up before the start; I swam for about 2 minutes then treaded water at the start line until 8:45 when the wave of 4000M swimmers started together. The course was extremely well laid out- almost a perfect rectangle following a wall the entire time, with small sighting buoys along the course and large bright turn buoys to sight off of. All turns were 90 degrees, which also made sighting easier.
The first 300 meters were scary… it was a new experience for me, and I was very happy to be as comfortable in the water as I am. I was pushed under, grabbed, boxed in, cut off, pulled backwards – I hadn’t planned to take off so fast right away, but it was almost a necessity to get away from the brutality! After about 3 or 4 minutes of the thrashing, most of the group began to fall back, but I still had someone on either side of me and they both kept swimming inward, towards me. It was claustrophobic, but I held on until the first turn buoy (about 400 meters in) to stop and make a move toward the inside of the two swimmers. I was able to drop one of the swimmers over the next few minutes, but found myself also being dropped by the leading female swimmer. I was already at my planned pace so instead of pushing forward with her, I settled in for the next 2000 meters.
The race set-up was planned well, but definitely made it more difficult for the faster 4000 swimmers. Every 3 minutes another wave was sent off after we started, each wave was a shorter distance (2000 and 1000), typically this means the swimmers may not be as experienced as the longer distance swimmers. After my first smooth lap (13:47) I ran into heavy swimmer traffic. Most of the swimmers were travelling very slow and stopping abruptly or were swimming in a zig-zag pattern. This made my own spotting significantly more challenging! I was now playing a game of “dodge the swimmer” as well as “find the correct buoy” which continued through until the end of the race.
After my second lap (14:35) I started my “back-end” strategic push to catch the leading female. What this means (for me) is that whatever the distance of the race is, I consciously hold back for the first half of the race, if I still feel decent by the middle, I allow myself to speed my pace up and descend to the finish if possible. I sped up on the third lap and clocked a 14:00. I think sometime during the beginning of the 4th lap is when I passed the leader, although it was a guess due to the number of swimmers in the water – I could’ve missed when I passed her altogether. Regardless, I felt confident that I had passed her but that she wasn’t far behind so I continued to speed up throughout the race. My last lap was around 14 minutes as well, and I finished in a total time of 54:26, second place was 54:52.
I was very happy with my results from this race, and definitely feel a little confidence boost in regard to my SCAR training. This race was very different as it was only a 4K and took me less than an hour, but my tactical skills and OW technique got some good practice and I felt fantastic and strong in the water.
I was able to do a lot of networking after the race and saw some other swimmers I have met in AZ through various master clubs, meets, and other open water swims. Overall, I had a great experience and am looking forward to the June race in Lake Pleasant (much pleasanter than Tempe Town Lake!)
A special thank you to blueseventy to providing me with comfortable goggles, tasteful swimsuit, fast wetsuit, and a classy gear bag! To buy your own blueseventy gear, visit www.blueseventy.com and use my code: bluecrewkj for a 25% discount on all blueseventy gear!
Also, I’d like to give a quick update on fundraising efforts:
- One of my age group swimmers here in Flagstaff has offered to help raise money for FARA by selling his handmade candles for $1 & $4. He will deliver anywhere in flagstaff! If you don’t live in Flagstaff, but would like to order from him message me and I will place the order and mail them to you. All April proceeds will be donated to FARA. To place an order send an email directly to: Mt.EldenCandles@gmail.com .
- Randy Bell has organized a fundraiser in Dallas, TX to help raise funds for Team Juneau Joneses. The high school swim club is doing a “swim-athon” type of event to raise money for FARA research. Whatever the swimmers are able to raise, the swim team has pledged to match up to $1,000! The event is taking place on April 25th, 2014.