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FindingMyInnerFish
June 22nd, 2012, 04:57 PM
Hey folk,

Came into the Stars and Stripes Aquathlon a little rusty in open water skills, I admit (don't live near open water, but down the street from a pool, so you do whatcha gotta do). Lots of fun, great organization, beautiful setting--no regrets, despite my VERY slow swim. (My run was a bit on the slow side too, but at least was not too far off my normal pace, if you don't include the transition time.)

My very slow swim, in fact, isn't even a bad thing: I just regard it as a reminder of a skill to improve on, namely swimming against a current.

By NYC river standards, the current wasn't even that intense (or I'd be in "endless pool mode" to this very day, lol). The web site mentioned that at its max the current in the Harlem River tended not to be more than 1 knot per hour at its max. I don't know what the speed was the day of the swim, but my speed... well, see above.

The course involved swimming parallel to the shore 600m, then swimming across the current to the next buoy (can't remember that distance), while the kayakers urged me to aim to the right as the current was pushing me to the left. Got to the much-sought-after buoy that marked the start of my return trip, and it seemed like NO time at all that it was time to once again cross the current enroute to reaching the shore.

Because I was planning to run, I thought it best not to start too fast, so my opening effort in the swim was about what I use to warm-up for swim workouts. My goal was to keep more or less within myself until further along. All very nice. Once past the start and heading along the course, I was having a lovely time--water temp was cool but reasonably so, sun was out, and I was swimming in a whole new setting and thinking how cool it was to be there.

But after a while, it occurred to me that it was taking quite a while to swim 600 m. and that even though that was longer than 600 yards, it wasn't THAT much longer. Eventually, I spotted the turn-around, but it seemed as if I was swimming in place, until I finally (as described above) made the turn and headed back.

Okay, one lesson: if heading out against the current, I can't really treat that part as a warm-up.

BUT I'm looking also for suggestions on handling opposing currents in races.

Not looking for Olympic glory (in my dreams!), but would like to be at least somewhat closer to my pool speed--okay, within waving distance of my pool speed (which, btw, isn't impressive).

The good aspect of this is that at NO time did I feel panicked or anxious. I don't swim fast, but I do feel comfortable enough in open water that I'm not spooked by stuff that might spook less experienced swimmers. (Only felt a bit nervous when power boats seemed a little closer than I'd have liked, but the guys in the kayaks assured me I didn't need to worry about the power boats, and, in any case, I figured the best response was just to keep swimming, since worrying wouldn't get me to shore.)

Altogether, would do this swim/run again--but become better at the "against-the-current" part: hence, this post.

Thanks for any suggestions (oh, and feel free to include brickbats and accolades!). :)

geog
June 22nd, 2012, 08:48 PM
you may have absolutely nothing to worry about. depends on your swim speed. the only speed you mentioned was the typical river current max.

what is your estimate of your 1 mile ow time in zero-current? do you know your actual splits for the race (e.g. a gps logger under your cap)? what was the official distance for the course and what was your finish time?

For constant swim effort, an up and down current swim is significantly slower than a still water swim of the same distance. This is obvious if you consider a 2mph swimmer tackling a 2 mile up and down current course. If the current is zero, then a 2mph swimmer will finish the two miles in one hour. If the current is 1mph, then the swimmer will complete the up-current leg in one hour, and the down current leg in 20 minutes, for a finish time of 1h20m. If the current is 2mph, then the swimmer is _never_ going to finish.

short story is, in currents, optimum finish times require budgeting energy so that you can swim really hard on the upstream legs.

evmo
June 22nd, 2012, 11:13 PM
For constant swim effort, an up and down current swim is significantly slower than a still water swim of the same distance.

One of the better posts in the USMS OW Forum... ever. Thank you geog.

FindingMyInnerFish
June 23rd, 2012, 12:49 AM
Thanks for the response!

The swim was 1500m., and the course was a trapezoid shape--600m to the first turn, then angling a bit, so as to go around the second turn and back to the start. (I'm not sure the distance from turn 2 to turn 3--have it on the web site, just can't remember off-hand.)

My normal speed in the mile is a rather lackluster 45-48 minutes (as mentioned, I'm pretty slow). Fastest ever swim mile for me was 38 mins., slowest was 50ish. (I'm talking about open water). For this 1500, beyond slow--70 mins. Truthfully, I'm not sure how long it took me to swim the upstream part, but it seemed like no time at all to swim the opposite direction.

My mistake was to underestimate the effect of the current during the first leg of the swim. Despite the time, I wasn't in any physical distress, felt fine, well, besides some embarrassment about the time. ;) Probably would have had the same speed run had I upped the effort--maybe even a faster run. The time spent in the water likely tired me at least as much as a more ambitious effort would have. Oh well. Live and learn.

I was at least relieved to know that I wasn't the last person out of the water and that others had found the current tough going.

Even so, improvement would be great!

FindingMyInnerFish
June 23rd, 2012, 12:52 AM
p.s. Recent pool 1650 yards was about 42 mins. Again, nothing impressive, but certainly not in :drown: territory.

geog
June 26th, 2012, 06:40 PM
given the data that you've posted, your finish time is reasonable. Currents vary widely even over small areas even in big water. So even though the 'max' is 1 mph, you could have been swimming upstream against something faster and downstream with something slower, especially since it was not a single buoy out-n-back. OW course distances are notoriously inaccurate, the shorter the course the more this is exacerbated, generally speaking. For example 20 meter accuracy for buoy placement is nothing in a four buoy 10k, but significant in a 1k. Sounds like you had a blast, and that's what i'd take to the bank if it were me.

FindingMyInnerFish
June 27th, 2012, 12:50 AM
given the data that you've posted, your finish time is reasonable. Currents vary widely even over small areas even in big water. So even though the 'max' is 1 mph, you could have been swimming upstream against something faster and downstream with something slower, especially since it was not a single buoy out-n-back. OW course distances are notoriously inaccurate, the shorter the course the more this is exacerbated, generally speaking. For example 20 meter accuracy for buoy placement is nothing in a four buoy 10k, but significant in a 1k. Sounds like you had a blast, and that's what i'd take to the bank if it were me.

Thanks for your thoughts! I absolutely had a blast--swimming in a Manhattan river? How cool is that! I've been to the Big Apple many, many times, including as a child--but swim in one of the rivers? Just incredible! I thought it was amazing when in 1991 I crossed the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on foot in the New York City Marathon--that too was a first. Cool thing about NY is that it's inexhaustible in its surprises.

Of course, the swimmer part of me is still looking to see how I can improve technically, which doesn't take away from the quality of the experience. It's just part of the experience--the learning process. Okay, this is wonderful--and I set myself a nice soft course PR. :)

So let's see how I can improve on that next time. Meanwhile, yes, it was awesome to be there! And really fun when people say "You swam in a New York City river? What, are you nuts?" Why, of course--but in a good way. :banana: