Race Day is Here…
Last night we took a tour of the course and attended the race meeting, then it was out to slide down a big steak and off to get some shut eye before the big race.
Wake up time is 5:00am, suit on and I am mixing up my swim feeds, I have only enough Maxim for 10 feeds, I had ordered more on Monday, 2 day shipping….it arrived yesterday( Friday ), I got a call from Ron, who received the shipment, ” hey your feed has arrived”, ” have you got enough for the race?”, ” I only have enough feed for 8 hours, so I’ll just have to swim fast and finish in under 8 hours”, was my reply.
I also have my new brew ” Potato Bomb”, Jeff mixed up sweet potato, banana and orange juice with a wisk in the ice bucket at 5am this morning, way to be innovative! I take a sip for taste, it works.
Next, it is lathering on factor 70 sun lotion and out to the car with all our gear, we exit the hotel lobby only to discover that it is teaming with rain, yip bucketing it down…we soilder on. On arrival to the race we are advised that due to the thunder and lightening we will be starting at 9:00am instead of the scheduled 7:00am, there is a chance we may not start at all. I am feeling good….” well if we don’t get to swim atleast we had a great day yesterday and look at all the history we learnt”, even so deep down I really really want a crack at this swim, this will be my longest Open Water swim yet, the water is a warm 70’s , a comfortable temperature for me to navigate this first 15.5 mile swim.
We wait, soon 8:00am is upon us and the race directors make the call, the race will go on but instead of a 10 hour time limit the course will now close after 8 hours, swimmers who want to swim 25km can do it as long as they swim in under 8 hours, for those swimmers who want to swim 20km they can and will still be considered for placings in the National Championship Event but they will be placed after the 25km swimmers. I am determined that I am finishing the 25km course, that was my goal to swim the distance and I am going to do it today.
All the swimmers burst into a flurry of action to ready themselves and their kayak support person, Jeff is paddling for me, he is planning to paddle by me for the majority of the race, only taking a break for the bathroom if need be. We load all our supplies, I take another hit of sunlotion and Jeff applies Lanolin around my swim suit straps, it is still raining as we are loading the boat, finally Jeff is in the water paddling away from the start, ready to pick me up after the start of the race.
Me and all the other swimmers line up in numerical order, we are numbered 1 through 66 according to our seed time, both men and women together, number 1 is the fastest, number 66 the slowest of the pack….I am number 39, a sure fire underdog, bring it on!
The day still looks grim but there is not a breath of wind the water is like glass, we single file into the water and line up across the start line, we wait til everyone is in the water, ” it’s cold”, ” this is freezing”, I hear from either side of me, these swimmers are from Florida, the water is warmer where they have been swimming, I am LOVING IT, it feels balmy compared to my New England Spring Swimming. The whistle blows, one minute until the start, then the bull horn blows WE ARE OFF!
It is a frenzy of arms spinning and legs kicking, bodies all over, the water is turbulent and thick with bubbles, my stroke rate is fast, I want to swim hard to find a space so I can allow Jeff to nestle in beside me in the kayak, I am relying on him for not only feeding support but also pace control and navigation. After half a mile we connect, it is comforting to have him by my side, I feel safe and not alone, we are a team.
Our plan is to swim in 30 minutes segments, at 20 minutes Jeff counts my stroke and gives me a hand signal so I know how many strokes per minute I am taking, if it is low I pick up the pace, at 25 minutes he gives me the ” pickup the pace signal” this is for 3 minutes, these are hard but good, they help pick up my cruise pace, then at 30 minutes I get the signal to feed, with that Jeff throws the feed bottle at me, my job is to gulp down the feed in under 25 seconds, 20 if possible, then I toss it back and swim. I really really really look forward to my feeds!
The first feed goes great, there is so much I want to say to Jeff, ” thank you for being here”, ” I couldn’t do this without your support”, ” how crazy was that start”, ” how are you feeling”, ” I can’t believe you are going to paddle for 8 hours!”, ” I can’t see a thing out of my goggles”…….but all I have time for is Gulp, Gulp Gulp Gulp BURP, then a toss of the feed bottle, head down and I am swimming again. Oh dear I think how rude, poor Jeff, then I remind myself….this is what I have been training for fast feeds.
Feed number 2 comes and goes, we are swimming in Morse Lake and the course is a 5km lap that we are swimming 5 times, I ponder the thought, other times I have swum and when I swim in the Channel I will have no idea where I am and how long I have been swimming, today I feel grateful in knowing that I am aware of how many laps I have swum and what lap number I am on, I grasp onto that luxury.
I decided today that I wanted to swim my hard, ” if my shoulders aren’t burning I am not pushing hard enough”, that is what I said before I left Vermont, I vocalised it now time to deliver, I pull hard, I am aware of my shoulders talking to me ” what the heck are you playing at, what happened to an easy Open Water stretch?”. I am aware of new aches in my arms that I have not felt in training swims, then my focus shifts, right after my second feed I notice my right eye is stinging ” what is that? Sun lotion in the eye, is it the soap I was my goggles out with?” whatever it is it is burning and I am aware of more water leaking into the right goggle! ” OK, gotta stop and sort this out, I have a spare pair of goggles in the kayak, I’ll ask Jeff to get them for me”, meanwhile all feeling of discomfort has disappeared from my achy arms, all I notice is the right eye…..” well as bad as the right eye feels, the good news is it has made me forget all about the aches in my arms, excellent”!
I decide that there is no way I am stopping before my next feed, otherwise my mind will think it has the green light to manipulate me to stop for all sorts of ” super important reasons”, nope I am swimming on and I DO. 30 minutes go by, Jeff throws me the bottle, I lift it up to chug down my feed, at the same time I flick the right side of my goggles and empty out the water, and swim on. Miraculously it feels much better, crisis averted, I am pleased I kept calm and didn’t ” knee jerk react” into wasting valauable time and grabbing a fresh set of goggles.
Lap One is done, at the end of the lap there is a big pace clock, I am very naughty and rubber neck on the way by the pace clock to try and get my 5km split, I miss it but do manage to lift my head more than I should in an attempt to see my time, let go control Charlotte, let it go, I do and swim on.
Before I know it we have completed lap 2, 10 km, I now change my focus, lap 3, how darn exciting, after I finish lap 3 then it is lap 4 and I LOVE lap 4 because after lap 4 is lap 5 my final lap, I can’t wait until Lap 4. We swim on some more, sometimes my wrists have shooting pains, after 30 minutes the pain disappears and my elbow aches, then it shifts to my lower back, that aches and everything else feels great, I work on focusing on what feels good……my stomach feels top rate, all the feeds are sliding down fast and giving me great energy, after I feed I feel a surge of new strength, I imagine I am filling up with premium gas and putting my foot down on the gas pedal, it feels good.
Lap 3 is complete, the sun has come out and I am THRILLED to be starting lap 4, I love Lap 4, I love Lap 4, I attack, only 2 laps to go, I know I can do 2 laps, I have already swum 2 laps today, I know I can do it again, all thoughts turn to ” we’ve got this”, at our next feed I Gulp and shout to Jeff ” We’re doing it”, and again we are off. Now the wind has picked up the water is choppy and I have to fight harder, I feel very grateful as I swim, most of my training swims this spring have been on windy days, white caps to swim through, this feels very familiar to me today I LOVE the waves!
I am reflecting now…… every breath I take I turn and see Jeff guiding me, he is there for me and I feel grateful to have him with me, not only today but as my partner, I think of Deb, Paula, Cara and Robbin, who have all paddled beside me in training swims and during races, often in challenging conditions, they are all here with me on these 5 laps, there are so many others following my progress and offering encouragement and support through both the successes and the struggles I do not feel alone, it gives me strength and I drive forwards with all Iv’e got.
Lap 4 is done, I have no idea how many hours I’ve been swimming, I decided to let go of control early in the race and just swim stroke by stroke, 30 minute period by 30 minute period, I do know that at the end of lap 4 it is a feed and with one lap to go I am going to finish on the hour, I am not sure if it is 7 hours or 8 hours but I am determined it will be on an hour, I push on hard. Jeff and I begin to pass swimmers, one after the other, I don’t know it at the time but Jeff later tells me we are passing numbers much lower than my seed, number 11, some numbers in the 20s and a number under 10, as we go by some of the kayakers shout, ” where did she come from?”, ” she is swimming strong”, one women stops and shouts to her Kayaker ” what’s her number, what’s her number,who is she?”. I am oblivious to all of this, I just want to finish, finish strong and finish on the hour whether it be 8 hours or 7 hours….GO KIWI GO…and I do!
We are close, no more feeds says Jeff, I listen, put my head down and go, all I can muster, Pull, Breath, Pull, Pull, Pull breath. The finish is near, Jeff gives me the” go girl go” look, I spin my arms frantically, I look up for the finish, I pull, I look up for the finish I pull, then I look up again….” is it over,” Was that the finish?”, I’m not sure so I keep swimming, then I see Jeff relax in the boat, I pull up, he is grinning, ” 7 Hours and 1 second”, ” NO WAY” I blurt out, “NO WAY, NO WAY”, I am beside myself with excitement. I lift up my goggles, my right eye is throbbing, I look down at my hands they are swollen, they look like white baseball mitts, Jeff’s eye is sunburned on the right lid, we look a right state and I couldn’t be happier…..” I bet I look HOT”, we roar with laughter, in reality I look like I am about to win the best Halloween costume contest, SCAREY!
We peel Jeff out of the boat, except for a quick bathroom break he stayed by my side for 7 hours, I adore him! He is happy to stand up, it is 4pm, we have been swimming since 9:00am. We go about packing up our gear and hang about for the awards. I went into the swim seeded 39th and finished 15th overall out of all the men and women, I place 2nd in my age group, the women finishing ahead of me swam the course in 6 Hours and 55 minutes, I am most pleased.
We head back to the hotel, despite the thick layer of factor 70 sun lotion I have some suit marks on my back from the sun but little to no chaffing.
We creak out of the car to eat dinner at a restaurant close by, another 12 oz steak is down the hatch and then it is off to bed and early to catch a flight back to Vermont tomorrow.
Next up, the unknownof what my body will feel like over the next few days, how quickly I will recover ( you know I’ve got something else in store round the corner, right!) YES, it is the Eastern States Zones Championship Masters Swim meet on Friday at Middlebury College, Vermont and I am swimming in a pool!!! I am entered in the 1500 meters and 800 meters, how will that go, I’ll keep you posted.