Eurasia Cup, July 1st

Yesterday I swam my second time with the wonderful people at the Eurasia Cup open water series here in Moscow. As mentioned before, these folks have a series of 14 open water swims throughout (mostly western) Russia, including four in Moscow proper. It was a wonderful surprise for me this time around in Russia.

The wonderful organizer of the series, Fyodor Teplyukhin, Master of Sport, gifted me the shirt above, the only one in blue. I had asked him over FB how I purchase one of his shirts, and his only response was to ask me my size. When I got to the swim yesterday, one of the young volunteers, Yegor, called to me, “Michael, I have a shirt for you.” I learned a little lesson in Russian next:

Me: How much [does it cost]?

Yegor: XL

Me: Ah! I mean: how much does it cost?

Apparently, in all my years of studying this infuriating language, I never knew that their word for “how much” also applies to the size of things. I had to throw the verb (“to cost”) in there in order for him to understand I was asking how much the shirt cost. Then, of course, he looked at me and said: “Michael, no charge!” These guys are so nice.

Anyway, on to the swim.

It was a nice day, although the last few weeks in Moscow (actually the whole summer) have been weird, weather-wise. We seem to go through all versions of summer here in one day, from blazing hot, to cool breezes, to thunderstorms with crazy winds.* All in one day. Yesterday’s forecast called for partly sunny with 20% chance of rain. It was beautifully sunny upon arrival and pretty much kept to the promise of partly cloudy throughout.

Registration was quick, as they know me. I paid my fee, got my cap and chip. This time the whole family came. Daughter #1 was going to run the entire time I was swimming, in preparation for her marathon in September. Daughter #2 and my wife brought their scooters, so they were set to have a nice day scooting around the lake and verdant parks in this part of Moscow.

I was looking around for people I recognized from the previous two swims. No one looked familiar; seemed there were fewer people there than on 11 June. That’s too bad. I was hoping to see my friend who worried about me without wetsuit at the last swim here in Strogino lake. The girls and I went to the start.

We watched the 3.8k swimmers line up. Very happy to see a couple skins swimmers, including a woman who ended up finishing second, and a couple of men in speedos. The water didn’t feel any warmer than last month, but I was soon to learn that it was. As I started to walk into the starting corral, I heard someone call my name. Sure enough, it was my friend Damir from the 11th. He was there with his wife and son. He came right up to me and said, “Michael, I want you to know that because of your example the last time, I have decided to swim today without wetsuit.” I congratulated him, told him he’d enjoy it, and see him at the finish. (He beat me by about 10 minutes last time.)

Thirteen of us, ready to go, two “brave” souls without wetsuits. I think they all would have enjoyed the swim without the suits. The initial dive-in was cold, sure, but unlike last time, where I would hit cold pockets and feel a little shock, this time there were no cold or warm spots. The water was deliciously cool the entire time. I forgot about the water temperature within about six strokes and just concentrated on following the route, which was a little different than last time.

Last time, we started down the beach about 100m to the right of the finish area (the blue box on the right in the circle). This time we started right by the recreation building, to the left of those “sea” pools (the blue box on the left in the circle). Otherwise, it was pretty close to the same. We didn’t go as far to the right of the lake; in fact, that half-submerged houseboat that confused me last time was no worry this time. We didn’t swim close to it at all. The 3.8k swimmers did that big loop once, while we did a small 2k loop after the big one.

We started about five minutes after the 3.8k swimmers, and I was shocked pretty early on, maybe a kilo in when I passed a couple of them. That is quite a boost, really. However, something about how I wore my cap wasn’t working for some reason. The damn thing kept trying to come off. I had to do quick stops often in the first half of that big loop to adjust it. I got pretty good at using one hand to pull it back down my forehead while stroking with the other arm (aligning with my coaching maxim: Always be moving forward).

The wind was really howling yesterday and there were parts of the swim where I thought I was swimming in the ocean. On that long stretch at the top of the lake, the wind was coming from behind, which a lot of people like. Me, not so much. I don’t mind the push, but along with each wave comes the downward part where you feel like you’re going backwards. Hate feeling like I’m not making progress! In addition to that, the buoy kept blowing up between my back and sometimes between my right arm and body, interfering with my stroke.

A word about their safety cover. Very robust, but not like in the states. No kayaks or SUPs. Nope, they have rubber dinghys, jet skiis, small motorboats. And if they need to get to a swimmer, they don’t care if their propulsion kicks up waves! (They were, however, very aware of where all the swimmers were, so no worries about being run over.) We also had the MChS (Coast Guard) boat out there too. The day being so windy, one end of the lake (left-most in the map above) was full of windsurfers. The MChS guys kept them on their end of the lake, except for the one who got through and breezed by me only about 10m away.

Swinging around on that big loop I caught the wind in my face for what seemed like a very long time. At this point I passed another 3.8k swimmer, and for the entire return trip to the finish chute he was behind me. Another boost to my ego. I made a tactical error when completing this big loop. Last time, there were buoys near the finish chute, and we 5.8-ers were to swim between the finish chute and those buoys and then head off on our small loop. Well, I swam toward the finish chute, but then saw another orange cap (5.8k) swimming along to the next buoy, and the straight line to that next buoy was much shorter than it would be if I went to the chute. I adjusted toward that buoy and put my head down. Then I remembered Fyodor telling another one of the swimmers at the briefing that we needed to swim “near the finish chute.” Damn. I took a sighting again and noticed a different orange cap swimming close, right past the chute. OK, that’s confirmation enough for me. I adjusted tack again and went to the chute. Once close, I took what felt like a sharp left turn and headed out for the small loop.

When we first passed these first buoys, there were four of them. Easy to know if you were hitting them correctly. The first and third had a white top while the second and fourth were all red. In the explanation, Fyodor told everyone “Swim past the buoy with the white hat, then without, then with the hat, then without.” Well, at some point after everyone passed the buoys the first time, they took the third buoy away. That confused me. Did I miss one or swim on the wrong side of it? Scan the horizon. Nope, it’s gone. Head down. Pull.

One of the boats was with me when I turned around the fourth (third now) buoy. I knew to aim for the very large/tall buildings, but I picked the wrong ones. The boat guys aimed me in the right direction, I picked out what to sight on, and again: head down and pull. I was dying to ask them if I was the last swimmer. They stayed with me just about the entire time. But, shortly after turning, probably between pulls 300 and 400 (yes, I count my strokes), I saw another 5.8k swimmer pass me going the opposite way. Hurray! I’m not last!

The wind was blowing so hard that by the time I got to the finish chute, it was perpendicular to me. Initially I thought “Jeez, how off course am I?” Then after landing and waiting for others to come in, I could see how the waves were moving the chute all over the place. I was indeed not the last, or second or third last. While the results don’t show it, there was another male swimmer who came in about 20 minutes after me. I remember because he had bare arms, and Damir’s wife and son thought it might be Damir, until the guy got to the finish chute and we all realized he had on a farmer John wetsuit. He was pretty hilarious, actually, because he put his timing chip on his foot. We were trying to figure out what he was doing hanging on the finish banner, until we saw him pull his wetsuit leg up and hit the banner with his ankle. For some reason, he is not listed in the results.

Damir finished just under three hours. We cheered him in, and I asked him how he felt. He loved swimming without the wetsuit. I think I’ve converted him!

As for me, I cut about 19 minutes off my last time. I think I swam straighter, too, at least that was my thought when I finished and turned off my Garmin. Last time, I swam 7.2k over a 5.8k course. Poor navigation. This time, the Garmin read 5.98k. Wow! Significant improvement. Then I got home and uploaded the tracks and got this.

The Garmin lost sync twice for some reason. I wasn’t doing backstroke or anything. In fact, it kind of pissed me off the first time. See, whenever I train, I set the GPS to beep/shake at me every kilometer. I turn that off for races. I was sure I turned it off. But sure enough, a bit into this swim, the Garmin starts vibrating. Dammit, I thought, it’s still set for every kilometer. Then, nothing else for a very long time. I kept waiting for the second kilometer. By the time I got to the finish chute the first time, I knew something was up. I thought maybe the Garmin turned off for some reason, or I had accidentally (how?) hit the lap button. Then, on the small loop, the Garmin went crazy again. What the hell is going on? Well, that map above shows what happened. And this continued later when we tried to find a different way home. The car GPS couldn’t get a connection either. Weird.

So, bottom line, not sure I swim straighter (5.98k) compared to last swim. I can tell you I swam faster! This time I swam it in 2:16.26 whereas last time it was 2:35.21. Nice!


*There’s a joke in Moscow that goes: How can you tell it’s summer in Moscow? The picnic got cancelled. 

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