Our swim team hosts the Death Valley Open Water Meet every year. I first swam it back in 2000, I think, when I was racing triathlons, and I thought, "Huh. I'm a pretty OK swimmer and it would be fun to do a swimming race. How about 5K."
Right. That was tough. It took me 1 hour and 42 minutes. I remember watching the shoreline change as I swam along. That was also the race where a very sore left shoulder helped me realize why alternate breathing is so important. I staggered out of the water, got some pizza, went home and passed out.
I have swum that distance a couple of other times, too, and it is always a killer.
This year we swam the 3K, partly because we did not want to endure the 5K, and partly because the 3K was the USMS National Championship.
The race started in waves: first all the people swimming in the open division of the 3K (including a bunch of very mighty 13-14 year-old kids); then the Masters men; then the Masters women. As the women's wave was treading water in the lake, waiting for the start, one woman said, "All right, ladies, let's go pass some men!" Then the starter yelled to us, "You get extra points for each one you catch," and someone in the water yelled, "of course you've got to throw them back."
The race started and off we went. They had big BEMA buoys every 500 meters, smaller BEMA buoys every 100 meters, and for the first 500 meters, there were milk jugs strung in a line, one jug every 10 meters. So the first 500 was pretty easy, because very little buoy-sighting was required.
The pack spread out very quickly. I deliberately chose a positions off to the far side of the start pack, so I never had interference with other swimmers. There were some absolutely amazing women who were off the front immediately and never looked back. But mostly the swim was a very solitary thing, apart from the occasional kayak or canoe patrolling the course.
Then, of course, it got a little trickier, especially since we were sort of swimming toward the sun. But I was able to find a comfortable "trail pace" with a two-beat kick pretty quickly, and with the exception of a few times where I had to pause and ask WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THE NEXT BUOY? I was able to sustain that pace. I worked very hard to concentrate on maintaining good body rotation and high elbows.
At about 1300 meters I passed my first man. Points!
The second half of the race, after the 1500 meter buoy (it was an out and back race) was pretty easy, because the sun was behind us and the orange buoys were easy to see. Until the 500-meter buoy floated away to shore, leaving a gap in its place and a random buoy way out of line: that made quick sighting pretty tough. But once we passed the point where that buoy SHOULD have been, the milk jugs were back, which made the last 500 meters so much easier. This was really lucky, because by then I was feeling a little tired (I had picked up the past at the turn), and a little less confident about what I was seeing.
I passed the last pair of BEMA buoys which sent me into the finish chute, and by then I was really kicking hard, trying to finish fast and strong, and hoping my coach would forgive me for the 2-beat kick I used throughout the race. (He is not really an open-water coach, and he does not believe in anything save the six-beat kick, which would have killed me by 500 meters.)
I finished in . . . . . . . well, I don't really know. I know I finished a couple minutes after the PP, but the results were not ready by the time we left the lake area to go home and watch the end of Ghana beating the Czech Republic. I think they'll be ready soon, though, and then I'll fill them in.
The bad news? I had a pretty bad allergic reaction to the lake water. I have had this before: my nose runs uncontrolably, my sinus passages close up, my eyes get itchy and swollen, my ears feel funny, and my throat is all tickly. But this was a particularly bad one, so it made the evening a bit miserable. But at least today there is air passing through my nose again, although I am still very congested and my eyes itch.
p.s. Did you see the Italy v. USA game? It was CRAZY, with three ejected players, a million yellow cards, very aggressive play, one bloody nose, and 2 legal goals (both scored by Italy, but unfortunately only one of them was in the appropriate goal).