07/07/12: Fourth Kingdom Swim (My First)
by, July 8th, 2012 at 08:58 PM (1206 Views)
Fair warning: long blog post to follow ...
The mighty [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Memphremagog"]Lake Memphremagog[/ame] lived up to expectations as I splashed in for the Kingdom Swim this weekend. I made it to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont on Friday after a four hour drive from my home and took advantage of the early check-in before meeting up with my yaker and our families to head over to Prouty's Beach, where the swim begins and ends. We then headed down to our log cabin rental, which was one exit south on I-91 near Lake Willoughby, to check in before heading back to Newport for the Frontier Animal Society’s Pet and Swimmers Parade through the center of town and the Pasta Dinner, where we fueled up with lasagna, spaghetti, salad, and some chocolate cake. I met up with the two other Bennington area swimmers, Bethany (who swam last year and just got back from Ned Dennison's Cork, Ireland, swim camp) and Brent (my FISH buddy in Williamstown, who was also taking part in his first 10 mile swim) during the evening.
The next morning saw overcast skies and some minor sprikles (as forecasted) as we hit the beach to unload our equipment. The area was well organized and the kayaks were placed according to the mileage on the east end of the beach with the starting chute on the the west. I met up with some other forumites, Kent from Arizona and Kevin from Maryland, before the race started. I was really bummed not to find Swimsuit Addict or Vivebene Safety is key for the event, and about five minutes before the 8am start numbers were called out for the swimmers that did not check in before entering the chute. Once everyone was accounted for, we lined up on the beach and waited for the mass start of 70+ swimmers into the 70 water to begin. I decided to be involved but not too engaged in the fray, so I splashed in towards the left of the pack as we headed out to the first buoy (S). I was able to weave towards the front and ended up sixth around the orange blob before settleing into an even stroke as we picked up yakers en route to Buoy 1. Let's introduce the course map at this point, as I'll be referring to it:
The clouds held back the sun for my whole swim, although it brightened up between Buoys 2+3. My most excellent kayaker Bobby was right on top of navigation as well as feeding me every 30 minutes, all the while providing encouragement. Once I hit Bouy 3, the first long stretch was before us and the next buoy was out of sight. I wanted to get across the lake quickly so I alternated 20 strong swim cycles with 50 smooth ones, and soon we came to Buoy 4 through some mild waves (I was thinking if this is the worst, I am in good shape). I still had some energy left and asked the folks in the sherrif's boat which direction Prouty's Point was - got some laughs just withing sight of . Buoys 5+6 came quickly, and we noticed two things as we headed towards 6 - the chop was picking up with the wind and lots of swimmers ahead of us were shooting more towards eastern edge of Derby Bay (towards the "C" on the map) than Buoy 6. Bob kept me on a tight line to 6 due to the swells, and it felt like I was swimming perpendicular to it and not making much progress.
The wind kept picking up and the skies darkened a bit on our way to 6b, to the extent that we both were thinking that the threat of a thunderstorm ending the swim might happen - thankfully it did not. On an encouraging note for me, we also started passing those ahead of us that didn't stay closer to the islands. Once near 6a, the support boat shouted that a lot of swimmers were being pushed hard into Derby Bay, so by staying tight to the islands we were avoiding the extra effort needed to get out to Buoy 7. Here is the part where I was really surprised - Bob for the first time mentioned the time, "It's quarter to 12." That means that I was ahead of the 4 hour mark with roughly 2.5 miles to go! That was huge motivation for me to refocus my stroke and mind on powering through the end of the race since it was miserable swimming conditions. It was great knowing that I was reeling in those ahead of me through the two foot waves that were pushing me down the course, instead of fighting through them.
Between 7+8 I was able to catch two of the 6-mile swimmers, and at buoy 8 the support boat encouraged us that only 3/10ths of mile remained. Well, I am under the impression that it was longer than 3/10ths of a mile and maybe they added extra buoys in this lower part of the course because it took fifteen minutes to come in. I was alternating ten "breasterfly" strokes (breaststroke arms with dolphin kicks) and fifty freestyle strokes as my arms were fatigued and it felt really good to stretch out. I also swam backstroke at different points to help keep loose. Heading past the start buoy into the beach was tough, as the waves were moving heavily perpendicular to shore. About 20 yards out I was hitting bottom, so I took a brief moment before standing up to make sure my legs still worked, then scampered to the beach where my wife and son were waiting, and Bob's wife and son were taking pictures. We made it, with an unbelievable time of 4 hours, 37.07 seconds!
I was offered a drink of water or gatorade, even warm chicken broth if needed, by the staff on the beach. They even passed sweatshirts out to help warm us up. It took about 20 minutes after finishing for me to be brave enough to sit down and the sun to make an appearance, so we headed over to the food tent were swimmer and yaker ate for free, and everyone else munched for only $5. I was thinking a cheeseburger would be great around Buoy 6a, and munched on one afterwards! Somewhere in this time I missed SA finish, and I checked out the time boards on the side of the building for the girls' numbers, but had no luck finding them. We did see the kid's swims (8/u-17 could choose 100yds, 1/4 and 1-mile) as well as the adult 1-mile. We stayed for the awards ceremony which was a great gathering for those getting awards, especially watching the little kids head up for their "Woodal" - a hand-carved wooden medallion.
So my time was totally unexpected given the horrible head cold I had the past two week, since I trained a lot more before the 10K last year and was exhausted at the end of that. Having only swam three times I would have been elated to get in around the 5 hour mark. Maybe the break was needed? I think two things were key for me: having great sighting from the best wingman in the business, my buddy Bobby, and also the nutrition aspect, which came together from a lot of research on the marathonswim forums and other blogs by marathon swimmers. I used a maltodextrin-based feed, flavored with juice, on the bottom of each hour, and an electrolyte-based feed on the top of the hour. No backfires like the fruit cups I ended up loosing after the 10k - only some minor gas for a few minutes. I followed a suggestion of using a retractable dog leash hooked to my bottles, so I only had to swim to the yak for the feed. We strapped a crate to the back of the kayak, but the weight of the drinks would have left Bob doing wheelies, so we moved the drinks into the kayak, which was more accessible for him to refill bottles. I only had an extra dose of water once, and did not get into the gel shots or chocolate bar that were on board. To keep my mind from drifting like my body, I again reviewed the New Testament books of the Bible in order, and also spent a great deal of the swim praying. For me, being surrounded by God's Creation and having a lot of time on my hands makes for a great boost in my prayer life.
I would highly recommend this swim to anyone that is looking to move above the marathon 10k swim distance, or even to come out for one of the lower distance courses as Memphremagog is a gorgeous lake, the swim is very well organized (they can arrange for a kayak and/or a kayaker for you if needed), and the activities surrounding the swim are great for adding to a family vacation. We had a blast walking down the main street during the parade and also watching the events unfold on the beach. We did not go out one of the two boat tours of the course, but was able to talk with folks who have swum the race in the past and use the maps to succesfully navigate the swim. Next year this will be the 9+ Mile USMS National Championship, a great draw to get more swimmers out to support that programs that are helped from this and other athletic events in the region. I am already looking to book the same cabin for a week next year, and my thoughts are also towards finding a longer swim to add to my list.
Oh, I will get an album of pics up soon, but here is a picture of team "Can't Stop the Leake" (only my daughter was unable to make the trip):