4K Open Water Swim Challenge…

…or how to enjoy a triathlete-organized open water swim.

This past Sunday, 29 July, I swam a 4K open water race in Little Elm, TX (great town btw), just outside Fort Worth. Good news up front: I swam it in 1:13.48. My goal was 1:20, based on 20:00 per 1000 meters, taking into consideration my lack of navigation in previous open water swims. So, way ahead of goal, and I think, better navigation on my part. Also good news: I was 2nd in my age group, out of 7, and 19th out of 50 total men. That’s an improvement over the last few years.

My navigation was seriously improved. The course was a rectangle with one long side. (I’m sure there’s an official geometric term for this, but I’m many years from my 9th grade geometry class.)

texas ow swim

The map is not all that clear, so allow me to explain. Everyone started at the start gate, at about the middle of the picture with two small red dots to the left. You swam down that green arrow, between the red trapezoid (is that it?) and small red dot, then direct to the yellow buoy. That yellow buoy was much further away than in the picture, so that once you turned around it (a 3/4 turn) you headed straight to buoy number 3 (bottom left red trapezoid in the picture), then turn to buoy four, then around four, along the blue arrow, and that’s one lap finished. Repeat, repeat, repeat, then you’re done, and you run up the beach at the bottom of the picture.

Navigation-wise, I rocked. I’m just saying. Behind the yellow buoy was a cleared area with a large house. Otherwise, it was wooded areas. So even if I couldn’t see the yellow buoy (nearly impossible, as it was huge), I could aim for the open area/big house and be on target.

The first time around each buoy, I definitely had to do some adjusting until I found the line. Then each loop I was on the right line each time. Small adjustments needed here and there. I used the sun to help navigate. If, after turning around a buoy, I noticed the sun (from under the water) off to my 9 o’clock, I’d try and swim keeping the sun to my 9 o’clock. That helped immensely.

What didn’t help was my eyes. What is it about these swims, that makes one of my eyeballs gum up. Seriously, this isn’t the first time. It is like one eyeball decides it has pink eye or just really bad morning eye boogers. The eye lashes start to stick together. The eye starts to hurt to open and close. I have to stop to rub and clean my eye. I remembered this going in, and even did what I thought was a good job of washing my eyes in the lake water prior to starting. But no, twice I had to stop and rub my eyes. At least I did it while on my back kicking.

I also had to fix my stupid cap twice. The organizers required us to wear specific colored caps, so we had to wear those crappy lycra ones. Well, my noggin is kind of huge (large brain, I tell my wife). The damn cap at about the 2.5 lap mark ended up on the very top of my head. What’s that called? The nape? No, the crown. Yes, the crown. The damn cap was sitting on the very tippy top of my head. I couldn’t believe it was still on. (My goggles were under the cap.) So, again, I flip to my back, kick like the devil, and try to put my damn cap on. (In hindsight, I should have taken my goggles off, put the cap on, then the goggles. That way, at least the cap would have stayed on. Because yes, my damn cap fell off a second time.)

Considering my four forays onto my back to fix crap, I really like my time. That’s 18 minutes and some change per kilometer. A definite improvement over the last couple of years.

I’ve already spoken on the marathon swimmers forum about the fun I had eavesdropping on the IronMen and Women. But I feel I must repeat it here. This is my second “triathlete-organized” open water swim. Triathletes are so much fun to listen to. Alert readers of my blog will remember my review of my NC 2-mile swim, and the jerk who passed me on the last buoy, with his pull buoy. Well, no pull buoys in this race. But, overheard at the start: “I’m going to try to swim 3 laps.” “Yeah, me too. I’ll try for 3 laps.”

Someone in my race only did a couple laps (one lap?). As the results sheets started coming out, there sitting on top of the 4K male results was some guy who did it in 27-odd minutes. Well, even the triathletes knew that was bogus. Some said, “He’d be in London now!” Interestingly, no one in the entire organization noticed until awards were being handed out and the race organizer (great guy btw) was about to announce the overall winner, when he said, “Wait, this can’t be right.” Ten minutes later, that guy’s DQ’d and the real overall winner (52-something) gets his beach ball.

Oh, and there’s the triathletes who “had to” (their words) walk on the small sand bar between buoy 1 and 2. Funny, I was able to swim it. But they stated for all to hear, “I had to walk it.” Four times. Nice.

Finally, there was the fun of hearing a vast majority of these guys and gals talking about how far of a swim this was. “I can’t count that high,” was what one triathlete said when she heard the race briefing. “OK, men, this is a long swim,” was what one triathlon club’s captain stated. One even said, “Why would anyone swim 4K in a pool!” Knowing how Murphy’s Law works, I didn’t dare laugh or tell anyone that I’ve swum 10K before, in a river and in the pool!

This was a first time race from these guys, and I would recommend it if you’re in the northern Texas area. It really was well run. There was a kids aquathlon before our event, and it was so much fun watching the kids. Better yet, the organizers were very attentive to how many kids entered the water and how many exited. Very nice to see. There were many local triathlon groups there, so team spirit was high. Some of the kids were swimming in kid triathlon groups. (Maybe open water groups should develop kid programs?)

All around a great time was had. And every year from now on there will be awards for 1-3 of each age group. This year being the first year, they only awarded first. Damn! I finally place and no beach ball!

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