|Cherry Creek Reservoir - sight of the Aquaman swim races
According to the website:
The AQUAMAN Open Water Swim and Aquathlon Series is the perfect opportunity for swimmers and triathletes of all ages and abilities to practice their open water swimming in a fun, competitive environment and at distances not previously offered at other venues. It's also the perfect opportunity for triathletes to practice their open water pacing and swimming in a mass start format with the bonus of an added 5K run.
Each week, the races offer a barrage of events and you can pick and choose any that you desire:
1/2 mile swim
1 mile swim
1.5 mile swim
2 mile swim
1/2 mile swim followed by a 5k
1 mile swim followed by a 5k.
If you're lucky enough to be a gifted swimmer, or one of the uber fit triathletes seen hording the beach beforehand, you can earn lots of points by however may races you enter and where you place, and then win some prizes at the end. Though I consider myself a fairly "Okay" swimmer, I didn't do the races for the points - I'm a far cry from being in any serious condition like those that will win these prizes. I swam competitively in college for a couple years - so I have the swim stoke technique skills required to be a swimmer, but since my departure of the college swim team, my time in the pool has been mainly as a great recovery for my achy running muscles and nothing for speed. My pace in the pool could easily be described as either "slow" or "very slow" - depending on how sore I was from running.
|In the blue, swimming for the University of Northern Iowa in either 1981 or 1982.
Sorry for the crappy pic, I have only 3 to choose from and this is about as good as it gets
The last triathlon I did was in 1989 (I apologize to all those I mistakenly said 1987...when you're old, you forget dates easily). I really don't remember much about it other than the run was first, it was hot, and was on some sort of grassy, hilly cross country course. Next was the bike and since I really never spent much time on my bike (a theme continued to this date), I was just lolly-gagging the bike part and felt super slow (a theme continued to this date. Hum). The swim was the finale and in a pool. Back then, I swam a lot faster than I do now and I remember just being annoyed at all the non-swimmers hanging on the lane rope to survive. I swam under water a lot just to get around people; there was very little actual freestyle swimming involved. I have no idea what my split times were or how long the course was (but I do know the run was a 5k), but I finished in 53:30.
|I am NOT the spandex red shorts girl with terrible form
|Back in the days before triathlons were the "it" thing, bike racks didn't exist.
You either had a kickstand or you laid it on the ground. Me: white top, aqua shorts...
done with the run and hunting for my lost bike
|Official triathlon clothes also didn't exist. I wore that swim suit
under my running/biking clothes and loved how it rode up my girl bits running!
- My last triathlon I did was 23 years ago.
- The swim portion was in the pool (and so was the only other tri I did about 3 years earlier); it was last, not first like they are these days.
- I've never done an open water swim.
Yeah, these swim races are a great idea: the more experience I could get the better (that apparently doesn't hold true for anything related to my bike, since I've rode about 8 times this year).
The first race I did was July 3rd and I opted for just the 1/2 mile swim since I had no clue what I was doing and wanted to mostly just observe and learn. I opted to also participate in a swim clinic offered beforehand from Carmichael Training Systems. For those of you who are in the uber triathlete classification, you are familiar with Carmichael and how awesome their training and coaching programs are (also ver ex. pen. sive!!). About the time I showed up for the tri clinic coincidentally was the exact same time a cold front decided to go through and the water was producing some serious swells.
Okay, maybe not THAT bad, but the white caps were intense and I felt like a rag doll just being tossed around. Nothing like introducing yourself to some of the harshest race conditions on day 1!!
I held my own though and plowed through those waves and actually wasn't all that worried about others around me kicking and fighting their way around the orange buoys - which initially I was terrified of. I just swam and somehow finished. Stats: 6/11 female with a time of 12:15 (later we found out the course was shortened due to the bad weather so this time isn't for an actual half). I swallowed a ton of muddy, murky, e-coli-ridden lake water and felt pretty icky for a few days after. I instantly went and bought nose plugs for future races.
The next week I thought I needed more punishment so went for the mile swim. Thankfully, in much calmer waters than the week before.
|Before the start. Never, ever, ever wear a white top in
muddy, gross lake water.
The mile swim was 2 laps and you run through the above shoot after lap one then head back for lap 2. On the 2nd lap, I seriously thought my arms were going to fall off. I've never swam a mile without stopping to talk to Tara for awhile or kicking a billion laps in the middle. So this non-stop 1-mile was uncharted territory for me and I definitely felt it. I finished 8/14 with a time of 28:44 for 1-mile.
This past Tuesday was my 3rd of the series and again I opted to do the 1-mile again. I sprained my inner left ankle last week and it was still bothering me at the race (and still is - so not happy about that!) so I wasn't going to push the swim super hard (like that's an option anyway). There was also a record number of swimmers there - 191, so I knew it was going to be a little more congested than the past races. I convinced fellow blogger, Katie, to join me since she's dong the same triathlon as me, which just happens to be at the same place as these swim races. She gave me some great tri transition tips and I was so excited to finally meet her; she's a sweetie and we got along great!
|Someone obviously needs to hurry and get their swim cap on!
Myself, Katie and her friend, Audrey
I felt a lot better this week than I did 2 weeks ago when I raced last, but my 2nd lap I was tiring and felt like I was drinking half the lake again. I "tried" to push the pace some but just felt like I wasn't making much progress in the speed department. I passed a ton of swimmers in the first lap and no one in the 2nd (but it thinned out considerably by now since a lot of swimmers did the 1/2 mile option). I finished in a much higher position with a much slower time: 6/18 in 30:12. I later found out that these markers can easily float around and distances are not set in stone and can actually fluxuate in distance from lap to lap as the buoy can move some ... my friend told me later the course was long this week so I felt a wee-bit better about that. But really, it didn't matter that much to me.
I've learned tons about open water swimming through these races and have had an absolutely great time doing so.
- I'm not as freaked about the mass start as I once was and the kicking and hitting by other swimmers wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be.
- Swimming a mile non-stop in open water is a LOT more difficult than swimming a mile in the pool where I can stop and kick laps in between (hum...who'd have thought?)
- I breathe much differently - almost every stroke - in ows vs the pool where I breathe every 3rd stroke. I just feel like I can't get enough air every 3rd stroke out there in the open water and it bothers me to breath on my "bad" side.
- Looking up frequently to make sure I'm not off course from the orange buoy and repositioning myself takes a lot of practice. And is a lot harder than I thought. And it makes my neck hurt.
- All the fine-tuning my college swim coach did to help perfect my stroke went straight to hell in the open water; I felt my arms were just thrashing and slapping the water with no direct point of entry.
- Not able to see my arms in the murky water pulling through is a little unsettling.
- Drinking half of a disgustingly gross lake is....gross.
- Swimming in high water chop can make you seasick. Trust me!
- Nose plugs are dorky. But who cares!
- Swimming a mile leaves my body utterly exhausted a couple hours later. A full body workout for sure. I usually sleep well the night after a swim race....I seriously should do a mile race every night!
- Triathlon clothes you can wear in the water are expensive. Like $80 for a pair of tri shorts expensive. Holy crap!! But I admit, they feel fantastic and I think made a good choice - for once.
- I have a ton of work to do if I ever think I'm going to do a full Ironman for my 50th birthday next year.
- I look forward to the challenge.
There are two more swim races in the series - one before my August 5th triathlon. I think I'll do one more next week before the race but not sure about the other.. I've had a great time poking with my past and pushing my threshold swimming. I've become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. I've become more confident with the uncertain. I'm a less nervous about my upcoming triathlon in a few short days than I was, but I'm sure it won't be easy and I'm sure I'll make many rookie mistakes along the way. But I'm excited and feel pretty lucky I've done these races to help get me ready.
Before I close, fellow blogger, Chris, is looking for pacers for the upcoming Leadville 100 miler on August 18-19. I will be up there pacing/crewing for a teacher I used to work with so don't think I can help Chris out, but if anyone is interested, please shoot me - or Chris - an email. Guaranteed fun times and I bet the experience that will leave a permanent mark on those laminated pages in the memory bank!
Until next time...
Swim on, friends!