Sunday September 26th: Flat River Reservoir Warwick Rhode Island
Air Temperature 59 degrees
Water Temperature 68-70
On the road by 7:00am, destination Warwick RI, armed with a map quest printout of directions and my Blackberry Navigator GPS we still managed to get slightly of course, correct road and exit just a minor detail of going south instead of north, amazing how one simple word can have such a snowball effect, ours was an extra 40 minutes travel time and missing the race check in time. I focused on not stressing about it, ” stay relaxed, it will be fine, I am ready to go”, I say quietly to myself , I call the event director and let him know we are in the area, he is super cool about us being detained, “no problem, you have plenty of time” he says, we arrive at 8:35, the event is due to start at 9:00am, we unload our supplies into the Kayak, one hot thermos filled to the brim with hot tea, a plastic bag containing a warm hat, pants, gloves and wind breaker to be used if I have to get out early, chap stick for dry, cracked lips, throat lozenges in case of a dry mouth and finally my feed bottles, I have 2 new feed containers that I am excited to test today, they have a wide mouth and are a flip top bottle, no more straw feeds which take longer to drink from, I am excited to pull off a faster feed stop, my goal for this swim is to get my feeding down, I plan to take in 250mls of liquid fuel in 20-30 seconds. My last feeds have been 1-2 minutes and time adds up, the costs can be great. Feeding needs a great deal of thought, for example 3 minute feeds every hour for the first 2 hours then 3 minute feeds every 30 minutes will add over an hour to a twelve hour swim, the English Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation recommends feed time to be less than one minute, Ned my mentor told me to go 20-30 seconds and to “gulp that feed down”, I am on it, today is going to be a chug fest.
Kayak support is ready to go, Jeff my husband is my kayak support today, we have our plan of attack down, a stroke count every 15 minutes, at 20 minutes a sign for me to build my speed, at 25 minutes a hand signal to pickup the pace for 5 minutes until my feed stop. We are off, Jeff navigates to get right by my side quickly, I instantly leap into my regular quick first few hundred meters and size up the scene, water is feeling balmy, wow how can 68 degrees feel this good, I feel like I am swimming with that pink poofy dressing gown on and the possum hat, I am feeling toasty and it gives me strength and power, I am immediately relaxed, gliding through the water in a fish like fashion. I try to focus in on what thoughts are buzzing around in my head but there is nothing I am already in the ever elusive “performance zone” the “here and now “that so many athletes struggle to stumble into, today for me it is as easy as diving in, my body is on automatic pilot, driving forwards one stroke after the other instinctively and it feels great, I sit back and enjoy the ride. My only thought now is to relax and enjoy the moment, I estimate the race to take 2 hours and 45 minutes, maybe 3 hours depending the conditions, I want to savour every minute I think to myself, “this will be over before I know it and I don’t want to miss a beat”, I am right it goes fast.
The course is 2 laps, each lap is 5km ( 3.1 miles) we head up the reservoir, at the turn around we encounter wind and choppy water, it slows me down and I have to pull hard, around the turnaround buoy and it is into the current, Ray the event director mentioned there would be a current in the middle of the reservoir, he was right and I loved it, I imagined battling the currents in the English Channel, this is great training I thought as I swam.
My first feed felt lightening fast, it was not Jeff said it was my slowest, subsequent feeds he tells me were around 30 seconds, I was happy as my feeds were much quicker than previous swims and I didn’t throw up! When my mentor was giving me advice on food choices for feeding he said ” pick something that you don’t mind the taste of when you throw it up”, not an issue today as all my feed stayed down, phew!
Lap one complete, I command myself not to ” rubber neck” today, no looking at other swimmers, this is about a training swim for you, I can’t help myself I notice another swimmer about 25 meters ahead of me at the turn around, hmmm….. I love a good race, I pick up my pace, I am gaining, slowly but steadily. I have increased my strength training over the last 6 weeks to build some muscle, I have read from another English Channel swimmer that muscle adds insulation. I can feel that increase in muscle add power to my stroke as I add power to each pull. We reach the turnaround of the final lap just over 1.5 miles to go and I feel great, still in the ‘ zone” I stroke past the swimmer who I have been chasing but it is 30 minutes and time for my feed, I stop, drink a quick 20 second ” chug”, as I begin to swim I say to Jeff ” this is my last feed’, he looks pleased and we are off, we quickly catch up to the swimmer in front of me, she has a good pace and I am pleased she is there to push me to swim stronger, I can’t see her but see her Kayaker and mine, it seems like the kayakers are racing not the swimmers, her Kayaker is in front, them mine moves forward, they jockey about and finally I drive in harder and we pull away a mile to go. I hold my 74 strokes per minute not daring to let up, if you go by someone you better be prepared to hold it. Jeff gives me my 25 minute pickup signal I do the math in my head, always the control queen I figure out I am at 2 hours 25 minutes, I must be within 15-20 minutes of the finish, I wa right, 2 Hours, 39 minutes and 23 seconds I am on the shore, my personal best 10km time , I am pleased. Kate arrives in with a time of 2 hours 40 minutes and 15 seconds a great swim, we high five, I enjoyed swimming with her today, a great swimmer and competitor.
I am unsure if there was another swimmer who finished before me, I am not concerned as my focus today was fast feeding, as it turned out I got to race too, I love to race, it was fun!
Merino sweater on, fuzzy sweatpants, hot tea and a chat to Ray who organised the race. Turns out he is booked to swim the English Channel in 2012 the same dates as I am, we later discover that I am booked with the same pilot as him, he is the 2 way ( double crossing) that I am booked after, I am excited to meet someone that is also training for the English Channel and will be in Dover, England the same time as me, a good day for sure. Ray and I chat he crossed the EC in 2009 and shares some useful tips with me. Then it is awards and off home, it turns out I came in 1st place, that was of course not the highlight, meeting another EC swimmer and gulping down the feeds was top class today. Next up back to Vermont, the cold water training continues as the temperatures continue to drop and the leaves fall from the trees, brrrrr….. Green River Reservoir coming up Wednesday September 28th, wrap up it’s going to be a cold one!
I ‘ll keep you posted.