by, July 10th, 2012 at 06:24 PM (7418 Views)
I had a great weekend in Vermont. I went up for Saturday’s 10-mile Kingdom Swim. It was my first time in that area, and I found it stunningly beautiful. I ended up flying to Burlington and driving from there, and that drive over, near the Canadian border, was pretty amazing—lots of vivid green fields and red barns, under a cloud-dotted blue sky. It almost looked like a child’s drawing of farmland, and the hilly terrain afforded broad vistas as I drove along. Farm stands dotted the little road I was driving along—it took some discipline to limit myself stopping at just a couple during the 2-hour drive.
I got in a warmup swim in Lake Memphremagog on Friday, then went on a boat tour of the swim course, which had been buoyed that morning. I’m not sure how useful the boat tour was—the buoys seemed too far away to sight while swimming, and all swimmers had an escort kayaker, whom I planned to let worry about where we supposed to go. But it was definitely pleasant to be out on the water, and I liked seeing where I would be swimming, plus I picked up a few landmarks that would let me know when the end of the race was near. And ViveBene was on the same boat! I was glad to finally get to meet her in person, and it was fun chatting with her and the other swimmers and getting tips from those who had done the event in previous years.
The forecast for Saturday mentioned possible thunderstorms, and the morning was cloudy and humid. I listened carefully during the race briefing for the in-case-of-lightning instructions. (Three air-horn blasts meant pod up with other nearby swimmers so that motor boats could pick us up quickly). I had met my assigned kayaker, Bob, the previous evening, after exchanging emails with him earlier, and I was pleased that he would be guiding me through the course. I gave him my feeds and some extra goggles, then watched as he and the other kayakers paddled into position—they would pick us up after we rounded the course’s first buoy. I made careful note of what he was wearing and his kayak color so that I could find him—those were easier to spot in a crowd than the numbered race bibs.
There were 68 of us in the 10-mile race. We lined up on the beach, the air horn blasted, and off we went. I started off to the far left side, and waded in gingerly—there were some rocks on the bottom I didn’t want to bruise my feet on, and I figured 10 miles was long enough that I didn’t have to worry about racing people out to the turn buoy some 150 yards off shore. I settled into an easy rhythm, had no trouble finding my paddler, and we headed over to the first buoy on the other side of the lake.
Rxleakem has provided a nice account of the course in his wonderful write-up of the swim. I was happy not worrying about buoys and just stroking along beside my kayaker—I didn’t see most of the buoys until we were right beside them. The first leg of the race up the west side of the lake was easy going, and I enjoyed looking at the scenery and the sky, which seemed to be clearing and letting some sunbeams through. I was surprised when we stopped for a feed and Bob told me we were headed across the lake—the first part of the swim had passed by quickly.
I could see Canada! The northern part of the course goes very near the border (the lake is in both countries).
There was a bit of chop as we left the shoreline for less protected waters, and it grew steadily greater as we headed towards the two islands that the course wends round. It got fairly rough here, and as I watched the kayak getting bounced around I was grateful to be in the water rather than on it. Despite the wind, which had picked up considerably, we were able to keep a fairly tight line on the buoys, I think—my kayaker frequently sails on that lake, and so had some good experience in accounting for breezes when charting a course. The going here was hard, and I got a little tired of the chop before it got tired of being choppy, but eventually the wind died down a bit and my stroke again felt more organized and efficient.
Soon the big green sloping green lawn I had noticed on the boat ride came into view on the eastern shore. One of my fellow swimmers had pointed it out to me, saying that last year there were two kids rolling down it as she swam past, and that it looked like such fun she wanted to join them! It did look like an excellent rolling hill, but alas there were no kids out enjoying it this year. Still, I knew it meant I would soon round the final point and head in towards the finish, and so I enjoyed seeing it.
On the final swim into the beach I found a little extra energy to hold off another nearby swimmer, then finally waded ashore, where I got a big hug and congrats from Emma. A familiar face at NYC-area ow swims, she did this race just a few days after setting a record for the Ederle swim course, and then stayed at the finish line all through the afternoon congratulating everyone as they came in. Did I mention she’s just 17? Such a great kid—it’s always a delight to see her at these events!
Also awaiting me at the finish line was my friend Michael. I was surprised and delighted to see him—we’d last crossed paths in Iceland. He was staying with some friends in the area and decided to come over to the swim. I hung out in the shade with him for much of the afternoon watching swimmers triumphantly cross the finish line.
The threatened thunder showers not only held off during the swim, they disappeared altogether, and it turned into a lovely sunny afternoon. I got to visit with Kent and Candy from the Arizona swim series—he had a great swim, and his son won the 10-U mile race! There were lots of kids races, which I thought was great, with distances ranging from 100y to a mile, as well as some age groupers among the 3-, 6-, and 10-mile swimmers. Great to see so much excitement about OW from the next generation!
I ended up finishing 6th among 19 women, with a time of 5:00:24. After all the swimmers were in, I went back to the hotel for a well deserved rest, then out to a nice dinner with Suzanne, Ali, and Sandy. I slept well that night.
I was initially a little disappointed with my swim, but the more I talked to other swimmers and reflected, the more satisfied I became. I felt that the swim had gotten long and sloggy in the middle, and confess that at times I was feeling a little sorry for myself when swimming through the rough chop. But pretty much everyone found the swim difficult; many others also half-wished they would hear those three blasts when the going got tough, or remonstrated with themselves for not signing up for one of the shorter distances. I think my problem was more with my expectations than with my performance—I somehow got it into my head that these swims were failures unless I was enjoying every minute of the experience. I was fortunate to have some fine swims last season where that was the case, but I need to expect that there will be some ups and downs in longer swims, and find some satisfaction and pride in persevering through it all.
My last two days in Vermont were spent visiting other little lakes in the region. There are a glorious lot of them, and the drives between them are simply delightful. My favorite was Willoughby lake, which is the venue for a 4.75-mile swim in August. I swam there both Sunday and Monday mornings. It is surrounded by steep hills, and has clear water with great visibility—and some pretty big fish! They spooked me at first but I grew to enjoy seeing them swim around underneath me. I was very pleased to have brought my orange Swimmer Safety drybag along. It’s exactly the right tool for lake-hopping—I could drive to any beach, park, leave most of my stuff in the car, stash keys and a few essentials in the dry bag, and swim off to my heart’s content, knowing I was very visible to the minimal boat traffic on these lakes. I’d love to go back up and visit this area next summer and explore these lakes a little more!