Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My first 2.4 mile swim race - The JackRabbit Jerseyman Open Water Swim - coming in last never felt so good!!

On May 7, 2011, just 6 days after completing my first half Ironman, I participated in a swim race called The JackRabbit Jerseyman Open Water Swim (held in Clinton, New Jersey, about 75 minutes from New York City).  I signed up for the "Ironswim", a 2.4 mile swim, the same distance as the swim in an Ironman race.   I need more open water swim experience and my friend (and Ironman) LW told me that this swim is in a nice lake.  The lake is also used for the New Jersey Devilman triathlon.  My friend MH also decided to come with me and ended up doing the 1.2 mile swim (despite the fact that he hasn't gone swimming in a long time).  He even drove which was totally awesome!!

The longest open water swim that I'd done prior to this race was 1.2 miles last weekend (took 50 minutes).  The longest swim I've ever done in the pool is 1.75 miles (1 hour and 8 minutes).  I thought to myself "what do I have to lose?"  My goal for the Ironman swim in Canada in August is to beat the 2 hour and 20 minute swim cutoff (if you don't finish the swim within this time they take you out of the water and you are not allowed to go on).  I'm a weak swimmer (by triathlon standards), but my training times in the pool have been consistent and based on these times I felt like I could beat this cutoff time (not by a lot).  Then I had a horrible swim in Miami on 4/10 and my confidence was shattered.  I began to really question myself and whether or not I can really do an Ironman.  So, I signed up for the half ironman on 5-1 (had a great race) and then this Ironswim on the Thursday before the race.  I decided to put myself in the highest possible state of "discomfort".  I'm going to feel that way during the Ironman swim, so why not now?  Training is a perfect time to be uncomfortable.

So, I got on my wetsuit and touched the water with my toes.  It was freezing!  I decided not to do a short swim warm up.  There was a swim coach giving a clinic before the swim which was cool.  He had some high school kid there showing us swim techniques and of course the kid was an amazing swimmer. 

For the race, Swim participants could choose to swim 2.4 miles, 1.2 miles, or 0.6 miles.  The 2.4 mile swim started first and I was in wave 1.    The swim course was two 1.2 mile loops.  No pictures were taken during the race, but I took this one of the course (you need to zoom in to see well).

The swim was clockwise, with the buoys alwasy on our left.  We swam all the way out to the the triangle buoys, across, back to the beach, and did it again for a second loop

My chip to record my time - had to wear it on my wrist
The race director counted all of the participants swimming 2.4 miles (there were 63 of us).  Everybody else looked like a swimmer.  I mean, come on, who the heck is crazy enough to sign up to swim 2.4 miles in freezing-ass water in early May?  Either a serious swimmer or an Ironman.  The race director said the water temperature was 62 degrees but in my opinion it had to be in the high 50s (earlier in the week the water temp was 55).  The horn sounded and the race was off.  Of course I let everybody else go out first.  I mean really, I looked at the rest of the swimming field and thought to myself "there's no way in hell that I can swim faster than any of these people, just no way."  So, a bunch of us waded out into the water.  Almost immediately, I thought I was going to go into shock because the water was FREEZING!  No kidding, my feet and hands felt numb and I had absolutely no desire to subject my head and face to the same feeling. I immediately thought to myself "there is no way I'm doing two loops - I'll just get out of the water after 1.2 miles, I can't handle this for 2.4 miles". Other swimmers around me felt the same way.....quickly the water was too deep and each of us had to swim, but there were many people around me swimming without putting their head in the water!  A bunch of us were actually talking during the first minute or so of the swim!  "man, this is freezing!!" or "man, this sucks, I definitely didn't expect it to be this cold!".  Talking to others and knowing that they were also struggling made me feel better.  Finally, I put my head in the water and started to swim.  It took my body a few minutes, but after that I felt fine.  I swam nice and easy.  I found sighting to be much easier and less draining.  A few minutes in, the second wave of swimmers all swam by.  Soon, I was all alone.  I decided to push a little bit during the last part of the first loop, came up on to the beach to the timing mat, checked my watch and it read 48:36.  YES!!!!  I just swam 1.2 miles in 48 minutes, a PR for me!!!  I also thought to myself "one more loop to go and I can take my time!!  I'm going to make the 2 hour and 20 minute Ironman cutoff!"  So, I took my time wading out for the second loop and took my time for the rest of the swim.  I was all by myself the entire time (there was one guy behind me but he started in the second wave).  I absolutely love swimming in the open water.  It is a million times better than being in a pool.  As I breathed and sighted, I would look around at the trees, the beautiful sunny blue sky and that, coupled with the fact that I was actually going to swim 2.4 miles had me feeling very happy.  The water was more choppy than I expected (particuarly in two places) as it was a little windy, so I found it harder to swim through the chop, but other than that the swim course was awesome.  Finally, I finished.  It took me 1 hour and 45 minutes, on the faster side of the 1:45 - 2:00 range I thought I would come in at.  I came in last out of 63 participants!!!!  Despite this, I am extremely proud of this accomplishment (plus my swimming confidence is back).  I'll make up some of this time on the bike and the run during my full ironman in August!

For fun, I checked the Ironman Canada swim results from 2010.  While a 1:45 swim time is definitely near the bottom, there were at least 20 other people that were slower last year, so I'll have some people to talk to while I'm in the water finishing at the back of the pack!  As long as I beat the cutoff, I'm happy!!

Next up:  the Rev 3 Quassy Half Ironman on 6/5 (unless I can fit in a race or two before then)

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