Eurasia Cup 11 June 2017, the swim

(The first part, here.)

Now we are on to the swim. I gathered with everyone near the start. I met a local (well, they all are, actually) who mentioned he knew me from my FB post. (Oy.) Very nice guy with pretty good English. (I still spoke Russian with him and everyone, as much as I could.) I reviewed the swim with him as he was doing the 5.8k also. Confirmed what I had heard from the briefing, so I felt pretty confident that I knew where I was going. My new friend looked at me and asked “Will you be okay with no wetsuit? The water is very cold.” I had to ensure him (along with others) that yes, I intended on swimming this event skins.

There were only nine people swimming the 5.8k so it was a nice easy start. We were about 2-3 minutes behind the 3.8k swimmers. I walked slowly into the water till about mid-thigh deep then dove in…to freaking cold water. Of course I knew it was cold. The day prior some of these swimmers went and took a temp in the middle of the lake and got 16-17C, which is just fine. My six hours in Issyk Kul last year was 18-19C, so I knew to expect colder. But boy oh boy that first leap really takes your breath away. Would I be okay for 2+ hours?

As usually happens, within a couple dozen strokes I forgot about it. Well, not actually forget about it, but no longer worried about it. In fact, some spots in the lake were downright warm, probably creeping up to 19 or 20C. Delightfully warm enough to remember fondly during those times I hit the cold 14C spots! All in all, the temperature of the water was no worry to me. I knew I could spend a great deal of time in this water without worrying about hypothermia (or hyperthermia, for that matter).

The weather leading up to my swim was sunny and beautiful. Enough so that I had my wife slather my back with Desitin. Sun even stayed out during the briefing. Alas, 20 minutes later the clouds were out with what looked like no chance of sun for my swim.

However, Mother Nature helped me out a few times. The sun gloriously came out, warming my back and making me feel great. This happened three times during the swim and it was welcome every time.

I managed to stay with some of my fellow swimmers till at least the first three buoys, or about 48 minutes into the swim. Some 10K swimmers started passing me pretty early on, sitting pretty in their professional wetsuits, looking good gliding on the water. No, I’m not jealous. The swim got confusing around an hour in, when I thought I had somehow already done my first loop. Granted, I had no idea how long I’d been swimming. If I’d known I’d only been swimming an hour, I would have known there was no way I’d done 3.8k already.

I was confused because of an object I had noticed prior to the swim. Imagine a two-story houseboat, very large, but sinking a bit on one side, slanted over maybe 20 degrees to starboard. That was sitting halfway between the first and second buoys. At one point I saw it again, and was confused  how I had passed the start/finish area without noticing. You see, the finish area had a buoyed finish chute, that we swimmers would eventually swim through and tap the banner with the hand that had the sensor. On the first loop, we had to swim past that chute on our right and two huge red buoys on our left. (In the photo below, we’d be swimming from left to right. Look at the duck family!) How did I miss that? I swam past this houseboat twice.

(c) Мария Шальнева

Well, it wasn’t the same houseboat. I kept swimming for a while, trying to spot other swimmers with orange caps to follow. I thought I saw the finish up ahead and began to swim toward it. Was I done already? How could that be? Should I swim another big loop? You see, I wasn’t afraid of swimming too much. On the contrary, I was afraid of swimming into the finish, thinking I was done, only to discover all I’d done was 3 or 4K. I didn’t want them to think I was trying to cheat.

I saw an orange-capped swimmer treading water and I asked him if we were to swim to the finish now. He said no, we need to do a small loop yet. So it turned out I hadn’t passed that same houseboat twice. I hadn’t even finished a big lap yet!

I put my head down and headed toward the finish. I could start to hear the announcer and the music, so I then was sure I hadn’t done a loop yet. (Turns out I completed the first big loop in 1:35.) I passed between the finish chute and the two large buoys and proceeded on to the “small” loop. This damn loop took forever. An hour! It felt long. Way too long. I passed that damn houseboat again, this time for real. Other swimmers were few and far between, and many of them with white (10k) caps. Would I be last? Not that I care much about that. As long as I’m not last and an hour behind everyone. That can’t be explained by the wetsuit vs. skins.

Coming around that last buoy I remembered the organizer telling me to aim for the tall buildings. I had two choices, not too far apart. Two large buildings on the right, or three large buildings on the left. I chose to swim toward the middle of them. Which turned out to be the best idea. The finish was right through the middle. That long straightway was into current, which sucks time-wise, but I much prefer over swimming with the current directly behind me. It made it kind of exciting too! When you got waves moving you up and down, you have to adjust your stroke or you get off rhythm, which could affect your speed.

I could hear the announcer as I got closer. That finish chute is so much fun to go through. Really makes you feel like a professional swimmer to come through and tap the banner! Absolutely love it.

Photo finish! (Not me of course) (c) Мария Шальнева

The walk out was nice. Sandy bottom, no rocks like in Issyk Kul. Little unstable as always. The organizer was there at the stairs, and the photographer was crouching in the water trying to get a water-level photo of me. So I smiled. This photo is missing from the FB page, so I probably broke her camera.

(c) Мария Шальнева

The volunteers started taking things off me. The sensor thing on my wrist I expected, but I had forgotten about the buoy; when she started going for my waist I was taken aback. These Russian women are forward! I know I’m a sexy beast, but really, my wife is right there!

Sexy beast, thanks to Мария Шальнева!

Swim complete. Garmin time of 2:36.36. Official time of 2:35.21. Oldest guy there (for this race). Only skins swimmer. Not too bad if I do say so myself.

So what’s next, dear reader(s)? This group will have another swim at this same location on 1 July, which I’ll attend. This coming Saturday, however, is a swim up near St. Petersburg. I’m taking daughter #1. We have to meet at a metro stop at 0500 on Saturday for the 5-hour drive up. Oy! No worries. We’ll get back at 0300 on Sunday. OMG! What was I thinking?!

Next blog post: Swim analysis.

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