Race report: 2014 Tropical Splash Open Water Swim

**Editor’s note: The editor isn’t sure how more than two weeks have passed since this race occurred. The editor promises to get her (expletive) together and get back on top of her schedule soon.**

At first, we thought the loud, sudden boom that woke us in the night was an explosion.

It roared and crackled for what felt like a long time—maybe five seconds—before giving way to a low hum. Thunder, followed by rain.

It was the night before the 2014 Tropical Splash Open Water Swim in Siesta Key, Fla. The rain had been in the forecast all week, but I had mostly brushed off any concern about it. A thunderstorm in the middle of the night in Florida in October? What were the chances?

The rain continued into the morning, as I ate my pre-race breakfast in the hotel room I was sharing with Steve and my mom, my fearless cheering section. We watched the huge green blob on the radar screen on The Weather Channel with interest and confusion. Really? This? Now?

In between Weather Channel updates, I checked the race organizers’ Twitter feed for information (kudos to the team for keeping us well-informed!). The registration was postponed, but race organizers  via the organizers’ Twitter feed that forecasts indicated the race would go on. The rain poured on. A message flashed below the radar image on the TV: Rip current warning.

“Do you think the people organizing the swim know that?” Steve said.

“I’m sure they do,” I said unconvincingly.

Then, as suddenly as the storm began, it was done. The race was, indeed, on. But the 5K, the longest distance—and the one I signed up for—was cancelled, leaving me “downgraded” to the 2.5K.

As we drove toward the beach, my inner cranky teenager had a field day. Why had I done all those long training swims if I was just going to swim a 2.5K? Why did it have to storm today, of all days?

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The voice fell into a quiet awe when we walked onto the beach. The storm clouds still hung above the turquoise water, which was churned up into a foamy froth. A rainbow danced above us. As I surveyed the course from the shore, it occurred to me that while this wasn’t exactly the race I had in mind when I signed up, it might just be a cooler experience rather than a “downgrade.”

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That idea was affirmed as soon as I started swimming. Large swells pushed us swimmers forward, then sucked us backwards. A slight diagonal current pushed us off ever-so-slightly off course. This was not a chance to PR on a glassy lake—this was a rare opportunity to test my endurance and mental toughness. I dug in and committed myself to enjoy every moment of it.

I’m not going to tell you that it was over before I knew it. At many points during the race, I found myself expressing gratitude that I only had to swim one lap of the course, not the two I would have completed for the 5K. But I will tell you that it was tremendously fun and exciting, and that after I ran across the finish line and met up with Steve and my mom, I could initially only sit down on a cooler next to the finish line and mutter breathlessly: “Wow. That was something.” I didn’t even bother looking at my time—the race wasn’t about that. ‘

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But after breakfast, and before we proceeded to the Daiquiri Deck for the requisite post-race drink, I did stop to looked up my time and place. Amazingly, my time, 48:49, was the fastest for women in my age group that day.

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If we only wanted PRs in closed environments, we’d swim only in pool races. If we want adventure, surprise and awe, open-water swimming is a great place to find it. This race was a lovely reminder of that.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Race report: 2014 Tropical Splash Open Water Swim

  1. Great report! Sounds like you went in expecting one kind of experience, and ended up with something totally different, but that you really enjoyed it. Very cool! Also, a very well written post.

  2. Chuck Beatty

    Had a similar experience at the Big Shoulders 5K in September. A big t-storm came through overnight. Water temps that had been in the low-70s the previous week gave way to angry water in the low 60s with 3-foot waves and a strong north wind by race time (and no wetsuit). While I would have preferred warm and calm, the conditions made me feel like I’d accomplished something beyond just completing the 5K.

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