Iron Mike's Marathon Swims The life so shorte, the crafte so long to lerne

Pictorial tour of the Sochi Swim Festival

October 9, 2017 / by ironmike

As discussed previously, I spent last weekend in Sochi, Russia, for the end-of-season swim festival put on by the wonderful folks at the Champions Cup. I went down to Sochi with my daughter, who acted as our collective crew, and two friends from work, Jen and Sabrina. I competed in the 5.5k while they competed in the nautical mile. All three of us took part in the 3 x 1000m relay. What follows are pictures from the festival.

We must of course start with a picture in front of the event sign. It was a beautiful weekend, air temp in the low 20’s Celsius. Sun out all day. It was wonderful.

During registration I saw this sign and couldn’t have been happier.

The sign reads “Water (temperature) 25.2 (degrees Celsius). NO wetsuits.” Despite this, Russians still wore shorties and those suits that supposedly are legal for triathlon. This despite the water getting up to 26C on open water day, which was Sunday the 1st of October.

The first day was for clinics and pool swimming. They held some events in the pool (30- and 60-min swims and 3 x 15-min team relays) that we weren’t interested in. So we went walking to find a place to dip our toes in to feel the water.

You know the water is warm if Russians are swimming in it. Then we had to walk to the Olympic village because: Sochi.

View from the hotel room. Next stop: the Olympic rings and flame.

This was the view of the Olympic flame. Jen had been here before and told us about a fountain show when it got darker. So we went on a quest to find the rings to get pictures in front of.

Near impossible to get an unobstructed view and photo in front of the rings, so this is all we got! Then the lights went on at the flame.

The moon cooperated and lined itself up perfectly for the picture. Then the show began. Wow. Wish I could embed a video here, it was just so spectacular, especially starting out with Queen’s The Show Must Go On.

After 4 or 5 songs, we decided it was time to return to the hotel to get some rest before the events of Sunday.

My event, the 5.5k, was first up. Jen and Sabrina both showed up nice and early to see me off.

As you can see, we’d be swimming inside a walled off section of the Black Sea. At the southern end (left side of the pic above) there was an opening to the sea for all those sailboats to travel through. For the 5.5k, we’d be doing 3 loops inside this area. My daughter caught the start; I’m in there somewhere near the back.

I found this woman a couple times during the loops. The organizers got a close-up of us swimming, me trying to draft off of her.

Little did I know that I’d get to “know” her even more at the end.

This is me coming in. Note who beat me in by less than a second. She and I were racing the last couple hundred meters to try and hit the finish first.

She immediately looked at me and asked or said something. I was too out of breath to understand. I told her my Russian is horrible. Then my right calf cramped up.

Turns out she was telling the RD that I skipped the last buoy.

I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about till I got out of the water, which took a bit because I had to forcibly move my foot till my calf was loose enough to climb up a ladder onto the pier. The RD said “Mike, the girl says you skipped the last buoy.” I protested vehemently. I told him that I took every buoy as instructed, on my left shoulder, including the last one. He told me not to worry about it.

I found the woman at the top of the ramp after I got my medal, water and banana. I told her the same thing, that I didn’t skip any buoys. (How the hell would she know anyway? I didn’t swim around any buoys with any other swimmers close, as far as I could tell.) She told me simply: “Well, I didn’t see you.” I was too dumbfounded to think quick on my feet, but what I should have answered was “Well, I didn’t see you either, but I presume you went around the buoys properly.” Frankly, I think she was just mad I was tapping her toes occasionally during the race. (If you don’t like contact, then don’t swim open water.)

Forget her! On to other things! I managed 1:52:33, 13th out of 23 men, 2nd out of 2 in the 50-54 age group. More importantly, that time was only a few seconds slower than my best (feeling) 5K ever in Raslina, Croatia, two years ago. I was aiming for two hours in this one, so very happy with my time.

Next up was Jen and Sabrina’s nautical mile swim.

This would be the first open water (non-triathlon) swim for Sabrina and the second for Jen. Both of them ended up doing really well in their races, Jen earning 3rd out of 12 and Sabrina 2nd out of 3 in their respective age groups. Next up, the relay!

I’d seen the term эстафета before and knew it had something to do with multiple swimmers, but because I’d never known anyone else interested in joining me, I didn’t bother looking it up. But once I found two partners in crime for this trip, I looked into it. The term means relay, but this being Russia, I wanted to make sure it was truly a relay and not just the three of us swimming together and times added up.

Sure enough, it would be a relay. We figured we’d either meet in water and trade timing chips or have to swim in to the pier, tap the sensor, exchange timing chips, and then the next person goes. We were close, but not right.

When I was done with my 5.5k, I went back into the registration tent and got the sensor for our relay. Hours later, right before the briefing for the 1k and relays, one of the young volunteers grabbed me and told me something about the timing chip for the relay. I followed him to the table where he and another volunteer had a heated discussion about timing chips, pointing to the list of the 12 teams who’d be doing the relay. I kept holding up my left arm showing them I’ve already got a chip. They kept mentioning another number. (Our team was 150, but they kept talking about 1050.)

Turns out, our second swimmer (Jen) would wear chip 1050, and after I came in (as first swimmer) I’d give my chip to Sabrina, our third swimmer. This way there was no fumbling with the velcro between legs.

The organizers marked our left arms with our team numbers. The theory being that when the first swimmer was approaching the pier, the RD would yell out “Team so-and-so, second member.” Then another volunteer would hold the second swimmer back until the RD yelled “Go!” I asked the RD if he could yell out in English for Sabrina and Jen and he agreed.

I managed my lap in 21:53, Jen hers in 22:28 and Sabrina hers in 26:25 for a total time of 1:10:59. We got 4th out of 5 mixed teams. A good time was had by all!

That relay was such a blast, I’ll definitely try and compete in them again next season.

That was it for the swimming. We had a pizza party an hour or so after the picture above. No comments on how much pizza I (we?) ate. But later that night we found a brewpub and partook in some tasty adult beverages. (Sadly, Sabrina and her husband had to depart early Sunday evening so couldn’t join us.)

Cider for my daughter

Marston’s Oyster Stout for me. And Mort Subite Wit for Jen

So that is it for Sochi, and that is it for my 2017 season. Not so bad, I’d say. Next summer will be my last in Russia and I’d like to do more (than four) swims here. We’ll see what the 2018 season brings!

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