Can I be honest and tell you that I was a little disappointed I didn’t leave the 2-mile Chris Greene Lake Cable Swim in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday with a medal?
I’m still scolding myself for being such a baby about this even as I type it, but this blog is supposed to provide an honest perspective on training. So. I’m being honest, and telling you I was initially a little disappointed. And, as you’re about to read, a little pathetic.
I was so confused and troubled by my poor age-group finish (six out of seven among 25-29-year-old women), I decided to result-stalk the women ahead of me. Yes, that’s right — I Googled ’em.The sense of entitlement was based on age-group finishes at the only other open-water swims I’ve done, the 1-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim and the 2.5-mile Swim Marathon in Jacksonville, Fla.
I learned: That the women who beat me are all former college swimmers. That one, a 28-year-old woman, won the swim around Key West a few years ago, completing the 12-mile distance in a little more than five hours. That another, a 26-year-old, still holds a Virginia swimming record for the 100 free (56.03).
I also learned that I should never do that again. First, I didn’t feel much better (although I did realize my disappointment is kind of like being upset about not placing in the Boston Marathon based on getting a medal at a local 5K). I only felt silly about wasting so much time.
Plus, getting uber-competitive about other swimmers flies in the face of the reason I swim now: For a sense of personal achievement, for an endorphin rush that I believe combats all ills, to physically exorcise life’s heartaches and stresses. And to see what kind of person I am: One who can dig deeper than she ever imagined when she needs to most, one who’s scrappy and tough. One who signs up for races that scare her a little to motivate her to train. Not one who spends an hour Googling random swimmers.
Now that I’ve confessed that sin, let me tell you about my beautiful dip in the lake yesterday morning. I couldn’t have asked for better weather or water conditions, with bright blue skies and the lake temperature just chilly enough to feel good once you’re swimming.This was my first time at a lake swim, with my previous open-water experience — plus a few disasters forced on me by a high-school swim coach — and the lack of current and waves almost made it feel like swimming in a pool.
Organizers started swimmers in waves of ten, based on seed times. I didn’t put in a seed time (the last time I swam a 1,650 in a meet was, um, 1997), so I was seeded third-to-last, the 97th swimmer to start. It was nerve-wracking watching dozens of other swimmers start while I hung out in the background, but it was nice not having to scratch, claw, kick and grasp for position, like one does in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim.
The swim consisted of four laps around a course marked by a cable stretched tautly between two wooden pylons. I wasn’t exactly sure how to pace the 2-mile swim, so I treated it as I would a timed 1,650 in the pool: I like to start at a moderate, steady pace, and step it up as the swim goes on. In retrospect, I could have maybe pushed harder on the second and third laps. But then again, I swam my heart out on the fourth one (I may or may not have grunted in the water), and finished feeling like I’d just done 900 tricep dips at the gym.
My time: 56:15. And though my age-group finish was a little disappointing, I was thrilled that I came in 29th overall out of the roughly 100 swimmers.
Even better: Charlottesville is close to Shenandoah National Park, so Steve and I made a quick side-trip to try out my beautiful, new suspension-frame backpack! The trip included about 9 miles of hiking (split up over two days) through a cool, green river valley next to the most scenic waterfalls you’ve ever seen, plus TWO black-bear sightings! In the second instance, we saw two cubs scamper up a tree with a speed that left our jaws hanging. When we saw a giant, black blob in the distance, we picked up our jaws and booked it out of the park — if the babies were that fast, we didn’t want to find out how quick mama was.
Next up, swimming wise: The possibility of the 5K Smith Mountain Open-Water Lake Swim Sept. 26. It’s another US Masters Swimming event, which means it would be the same uber-competitive field. Still, with the right attitude, I think it could be a lot of fun. I’ll think about this one, along with another in Wilmington, N.C. I’ll keep you posted.
My beautiful new backpack, which I got to try out in Shenandoah National Park post-swim!
Passing a sister mid-swim. This ego-booster happens a lot when you’re seeded almost last.