2.4-mile... MOWS 2013
by, August 17th, 2013 at 05:15 PM (1174 Views)
YESTERDAY: Final preparations. Got into the Y at midday for a 1000 warm-up... very EZ, hoping to be completely recharged for the open water. I did need to do one last equipment check, too, because I decided to break into a new pair of goggles and use a crisp new jammer (the one I picked up for last season's meets and time trials was already starting to sag). I learned the hard way at last year's USMS 5K swim that an older pair of goggles might fog in unpredictable ways, so I've been saving a new pair I got in March for just this occasion... a pair of blue-tinted Keifer (I think the model is called Conqueror; similar to the Speedo Vanquishers I've been using). I normally like a clear goggle, but if the tint isn't too dark it would be nice in the sun. Trying it out indoors at the Y I found I was not distracted by the tint at all... a good choice! Bonus: I got this pair for free... it was my prize for winning my age group in the Winter Water Warriors fitness challenge sponsored by Wisconsin Masters. And the jammers were free, too... my 500-mile premium from last year's GTD. Mentally, this was just another reminder that I have been putting in the hard work; now it was time to relax and enjoy the experience... Wait! Not too relaxed... we'll see.
The diet, ahem, life-style change, has been going swimmingly of late too. I carbo loaded toward the end of the week with whole-grain spaghetti and veggie tomato sauce on Thursday night. Last night I had Vegan tacos (used the last zucchini from last weekend's excursion to the farmer's market) and vegan whole-wheat pancakes with cinnamon and berries for desert. Yum. Went to bed and woke up feeling pretty good.
PRE-RACE: This morning the alarm went off at 4:30. I got up and poured myself a cup of joe and put together my big bowl of grains and berries, almond milk... plenty of slow-burn complex carbs. I sliced an apple and took a banana and a little bit of peanut butter with me as a pre-race snack, just to make sure the batteries were completely charged. I pulled out of the driveway at 5:20 and headed into a pretty thick fog. Driving through Kenosha and Racine counties visibility was very low, the air was cool, but by the time I hit the bypass just south of Milwaukee it was already starting to thin. Sun was rising. Shortly after I turned onto the interstate headed west toward Madison the sun was glowing low on the horizon in my rearview mirror... everything in front of me was cast in a pink or golden glow. I love this time of morning.
An hour later I was pulling into Madison. I parked at Monona Terrace parking garage and walked over to check in. Back to Monona Terrace to change and use the bathroom. As I headed back out, this was the sight that greeted me... beautiful morning on the far end of the rectangular course...
I still had about thirty minutes, so I ate my apple slices and peanut butter. At 15 till I would eat the banana. It was still pretty chilly in that last hour before the race, so I decided to forgo the warm-up... I thought, honestly, it might make me more anxious and that the better course would be to remind myself to use the first couple of hundred meters as a warm-up, not get caught up in the fray, find a rhythm and then slowly build. This turned out to be a great strategy for me. Plus, I didn't have to exit the water after warm-up for the mandatory pre-race briefing and then hang around getting cold and stiff for 15 minutes before heading back into the water. Being in the non-wetsuit group (by far the minority at this race) I was happy with this choice... even some of the wetsuit crowd looked to be cooling off in that gap between warm-up and start. Here's the start area at the end of warm-up:
THE RACE... and really I'm only racing myself... well this is what I tried to tell myself. Alex, version 2013, is in a lot better swim condition than Alex, v. 2011. But how much of a time drop would I see?
We waded out and then swam to the start, lining up behind the buoy near the ski ramp in the picture. The non-wetsuit wave of the 2.4-mile went first, at 8:30. The wetsuit 2.4 was scheduled to go ten minutes later, and then the 1.2-mile swimmers ten minutes after that. The non-wetsuit wave was fun to chat with while we treaded water in anticipation of the start... I noticed a lot of us were jockeying for last place; nobody likes to get caught up in the scrum. No matter how we tried spreading ourselves out, though, it was crowded. That first 1/8th of a mile or so was all about finding a position and trying to get into a rhythm... but inevitably I would just get going, start feeling pretty good, and then swim up onto someone's legs. Positions seemed to sort themselves out by about the half-mile mark though, just in time for the first turn... I started seeing the same swimsuits over and over, so I knew I had settled into a group that was going at about my pace... this was reassuring... as I sighted the buoys ahead of me I could see a lot of yellow swim caps, and making the second turn (in which I somehow lost inside position and a little bit of momentum) I noticed a nice string of yellow caps still behind me... woohoo, I'm not bringing up the rear! I quickened my pace to catch up to the group that I had been swimming with in that first quarter of the race, even though I somehow fell off their pace at the second turn I worked to get back on track...
The middle portion of the race was a lot more fun than the last time I swam MOWS, I worked to stay even with swimmers around me, if not pull ahead. Around the third turn (at about a mile) the elite swimmers in the wetsuit wave were starting to catch us. As we made the fourth turn at the half-way mark (1.2 miles) two things happened... (1) a nasty chop starting pushing into shore from the middle of the lake, which had everyone rocking and rolling for the next half mile; and (2) more wetsuits appeared. This round of wetsuits was moving at a pretty good pace, not as good as the trickle of wetsuits that had passed us about 200 meters before, but this larger group seemed to be staying together pretty well and so I tried to jump on the back end of the train and keep up. The waves were merciless though and scattered us a bit. As we approached the fifth turn there was quite a crowd jostling for position around the buoy... and out of nowhere, a blue and white swimsuit that I had been keeping pace with for the first 3/4 of a mile, and which I thought I had left behind, appeared again. I sped up. I knew he was behind me at turn six and then I started to pour it on again. I passed some wetsuits, even a couple more pink caps (the 1.2-milers), then I started pulling even with and slowly passing non-wetsuit swimmers who I'd never seen before... this is where my endurance and conditioning was really paying off I think. I felt good going into the last turn and headed to shore.
The last time I swam MOWS I remember getting passed a lot, and hardly ever doing any passing myself. I still got passed, especially by the wetsuits, but from the time I really found a rhythm, about 2/3 of mile in, till the end I don't remember getting passed by many non-wetsuit swimmers... in fact, I was the one who seemed to be passing... I just felt so much stronger than in 2011. And, when I got back and checked my time, I was ecstatic: I beat my previous time on the same course by 12 minutes, finishing in 1 hour, 16 minutes!
Here's a pic of the finish I took after drying off...
Whereas in 2011 I don't even know if I cracked the top ten in my age group, today I placed 4th... only one place short of medalling; and I'm not that far off, so maybe next year!
Here's my self-satisfied self-portrait (notice the recent hair-cut!):
My lats were pretty stiff in the first few minutes after the race, but have started to loosen up... now I just feel pleasantly fatigued. Next up: Postal 5K toward the end of the week? We'll see how I feel tomorrow!