Day 2 in Iceland
by, June 3rd, 2012 at 08:21 PM (1324 Views)
My second day of competition at the IGLA championships in Iceland got off to a good start. I had skipped our Pink Flamingo rehearsal the previous evening in favor of an earlier bedtime, and I woke up feeling rested and energetic and excited about the day’s events. With the 800 FR being the first event of the day, I skipped pre-meet warm-ups and arrived at the pool a little later, just in time to warm up outdoors, count for one of my teammates in his race, change into my competition suit, and arrive in the ready room in time for the 100 BK.
Fun fact: My entire medley relay from the previous day was entered in this event, all in the same heat! (Yes, we were a medley relay of backstrokers, which explains why I swam the breaststroke leg). I felt like I had swum my previous day’s 4IM and 2BK a little timidly, and wanted to take out this race more aggressively. There was only one other competitor in my age group, and she had beaten me by 10 seconds in the 2BK on the previous day, so I knew I would need to go out fast and see how well I could hang on to have any shot at reversing our placement in this race—there would be no points downside to dying completely and losing by a lot rather than swimming conservatively and losing by less. So I went out strong, and felt good on the first lap, but that second one did get very long as I struggled to maintain my kick and turnover. I ended up swimming a 1:23.38 (39.7 / 43.6) and finishing second by a couple of seconds after being close at the 50, but I was happy with how I swam the race—it felt like I did a better job than the previous day of finding the best swim I had in me on this particular day.
There was a long stretch between this swim and my only other one of the day, the closing 400 FR relay, so I changed into a fun suit and warmed down thoroughly in the outdoor pool. Then it was waterslide time!
I tried out the technique suggested by James, and it was magic. The only downside was that the waterslide now seemed significantly shorter, but I made up for that by going down a dozen times or more. By this point in the meet a significant portion of our team had discovered the slide, so we had all kinds of fun going down together and judging slashes as people exited the flume. I had shared James’s pointers with several teammates, and by the end of the day I heard them being repeated endlessly and authoritatively by many IGLA swimmers, in a variety of accents—“four points of contact”—“shoulder blades and heels.” I think this advice worked its way back to me at least a half dozen times!
After sliding and hot tubbing it was time to get ready for my last event, my FR relay with Hannah, Mary, and Leila. I changed into a second competition suit (if you’re keeping track that’s 4 suits for the day, with more to come). I led off in a 1:14.01 (35.25, 38.76), and we won our age group (160+) in a 5:00.12. (Disclosure: there were only 2 women’s relays, both from TNYA, and in different age groups). I stuck around long enough to cheer on our 7 men’s and 1 mixed relay teams, then it was time for another suit change and another long warmdown/slide/hot tub/socializing session outside. The weather was brilliant and warm, and all the outdoor pools were being well used by locals as well as IGLA participants—lots of happy sunburnt faces to be seen.
After a nice long shower I boarded the IGLA bus back to town, went back to the apartment to drop off my swim stuff, then headed out for a little sightseeing. I spent a large part of the afternoon in the Iceland’s National Museum (aka the Þjóðminjasafn Íslands), where my favorite exhibitions were on early weaving technologies (I think I finally understand how looms work) and on Iceland’s geology. There was also a room dedicated to the Fischer-Spassky chess championship of 1972, complete with the used and refused chess boards and sets made by local craftsmen.
The museum has excellent views of downtown, plus excellent carrot cake in the cafe. (In fact, everywhere in Iceland seems to have excellent carrot cake, a fact independently confirmed by my teammate Amanda). After a break there I headed back to the apartment to get ready for the evening’s beach barbeque and open-water swim.
A scenic seaside walking path led to the open-water swim site at Nauthólsvík—it took us about 40 minutes to walk over. This manmade beach features several geothermal hot tubs, one of which spills over into a small rock-enclosed cove, where it mixes with seawater to make a warm(er)-water swimming area. This is not where the open-water swim was held. We swam in the regular North Atlantic seawater, which was predicted to be about 48 degrees, but which in fact was considerably warmer—I would guess mid- to upper-50s. Amanda and I got there early and watched locals enjoying the beach and hot tubs, the largest of which was soon emptied out and refilled for the IGLA party. At 8 pm there was a beachside barbeque, and I enjoyed some excellent grilled lamb, potato salad, and green salad. A deejay began playing music, the bar opened, and everyone one started getting ready for the open-water event, slated to start at 9pm.
The course was set up and run by the Sea Swimming Association of Reykjavík—the women in charge said that they swam there year-round, breaking up ice to get in during the winter if necessary. Two buoys with flags marked the course’s beginning/end and turn-around—we would be swimming 125 meters out and then back to shore. Yep, a 250m open-water swim!
We went in heats of 5 or 6 swimmers, with the women going first. Many of us waded out to get a feel for the water temp and the bottom before coming back to the beach for the start. Then we were off!
That's me second from right, followed by teammates Hannah (the race winner!) and Kathleen.
The water was fairly shallow, and we had to run for a bit before it was deep enough to swim. The bottom felt a little rough and rocky, and once I put my head in the water I discovered why—there were lots of huge white starfish down there! I hope I didn’t crush any too badly in my haste to get in. The water was very clear, and we swam over many plants—the bottom was so densely vegetated that I don’t think I ever saw any sand. My favorite plants looked like giant mushrooms with thin edges that waved around in the currents. I swam hard out towards a buoy, corrected course to swim around the correct buoy, then back into shore to the finish. It was definitely exhilarating and one of the most fun swims I’ve done—only a little on the short side!
In all about 60-70 swimmers did the race—for some this was the first open water swimming they had ever done! Amanda commented that everyone who swam came out with a huge smile on their face! The event was billed as “only for the toughest of athletes,” so of course we all felt like studs afterwards. We had a large and appreciative audience cheering us on—here’s a shot of them silhouetted by the non-setting sun.
Both OW race photos taken from the IGLA Championships 2012 fb page
Afterwards we sat in the hot tub—more like a trough—and enjoyed some drinks and the view.
Photo from the IGLA2012 website
After a bit I decided I wanted to go in again, and went back to the beach where the race was held. Some of the local swimmers had just taken out the buoys, and I joined them as they set off for their swim. By this time it was nearing 10pm!
At one point I looked out towards the boats anchored nearby and saw a head looking around, then disappearing beneath the surface. It didn’t look like a swimmer—it looked a whole lot like a seal! It was about 100m away, and I watched to see if it would surface again, but I didn’t see it. I asked the swimmers with me if they had seals there, and they seemed nonplussed: “Oh, seals—yeah, they’re here, but we only see them rarely.” We swam a little more, then we turned back and headed into shore. I didn’t see any more signs of my seal, but when I got on land Hannah asked me if I had seen the seal—she had been watching it swim from the walkway above, and said it was very large. I was glad to have independent confirmation of my first in-water seal sighting!
After a little more hot tubbing I got showered and changed. The setup at this beach is sweet—hot tubs, hot showers, and proper changing rooms! I’d love to live near a beach that had all this—what a luxury to enjoy a hot shower after swimming in cold seawater.
As the night got late, Amanda, Hannah, and I headed back home via the pedestrian path, admiring the views as the moon rose over the water. It had been a long and blissy day—a six swimsuit day!—and I looked forward to a good night’s rest before the last day of competition in Iceland.