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Swimming (April 2013)

May 12, 2013

Being injured is never anything to be happy about, but in a way my knee injury came at a really convenient time.  Springtime in Arizona brings a nice selection of open water swimming races, so that has been my focus since being dealt my required break from running and triathlon.  Swimming has always come fairly naturally to me and doesn’t irritate my knee, so it was an easy choice to fill the exercise void.  Sure, there were other choices such as cycling, but swimming was a clear winner because it’s so easy on the body.  I didn’t want to replace my current injury with a new one, so I picked a sport with low odds for injury.  Getting my goggles knocked off during a mass swim start is much better than road rash from a cycling crash, so I’ve spent the past couple of months in tiny lycra swim suits getting my workout and racing satisfaction.

Open Water Swim #1 – Some of my first swimming lessons were in a stagnant river in Maine when I was young, so any complaints about the water quality of Tempe Town Lake are lost on me.  I find that when racing in Tempe Town Lake, the biggest challenge is not the water clarity but the sun, which is usually shining brightly on the horizon obscuring the view of the buoys.  Actually, sighting is one of the more important things in an open water swim.  If you can swim straight, you have a huge advantage.  It’s a significant challenge when there’s no pool bottom to follow.  So I must have been swimming fairly straight that day because I ended up with a decent result in the Open Male division (  Sure, a couple of people I beat had already done a race earlier in the day, but it’s still fun to get an occasional win.

Splash (& Dash) #1 – Being injured, this was only a Splash for me and not a Splash and Dash, but it was still a great opportunity to race in open water.  Despite my solid results from the week before, I knew I wasn’t swimming up to my potential, so I consulted some of the elite and pro triathletes that swim with me.  They told me to go harder at the start, which I thought was comical because I was already nearly hyperventilating at race starts as it was.  I figured the only way I could possibly get a better start was to do a really hard warm-up, so that’s what I did.  For about 15 minutes before the race I swam around trying to peg my heart rate.  That turned out to be magical for me.  When the race started, I was able to get into the front group and use them for pacing, drafting, and sighting.  I finished with my best ever time for 1500m open water of 21:48.  It was a really competitive field so that didn’t get me first place, but it did give me another distinct honor, getting “chicked” by Erin Densham (bronze medalist at London Olympics).  Despite my great warm-up, there was no way I was going to compete with her crushing time of 19:54.

Splash (& Dash) #2 – Part of my swimming improvement can be credited to a solid training schedule, which obviously is always key to going fast.  Unfortunately, my work travel schedule can get in the way of my training, and it looked like it was going to affect this race.  Travel had been light for me in April, so it made sense that the good results followed.  Now in May, I had a trip or two right before this race, so I was figuring my spotty training was going to affect my performance.  And it did as far as I can tell, but apparently in a good way.  Credit it to tapering I guess, but somehow things turned out far better than I expected.  I started with my huge warm-up that had me well prepared for the start, and was able to be more aware at the race start.  What once used to look like a mass of swinging arms and kicking legs was now much clearer to me.  Within the first 30 seconds, I figured out who the fastest guy was and got in his wake.  He eventually swam away from me but not before we got a good gap on the rest of the swimmers, and that’s all it took.  I placed second overall with a time of 21:07, beating my previous PR by a solid margin.  I’m probably getting close to my genetic ceiling, but I may still be able to go under 21 minutes for a 1500m.  Whether I make it or not, I’m just excited that I can have so much fun while dealing with an injury.


From → Sports

One Comment
  1. That’s weird — I was just reading Erin Densham’s blog. She was talking about how she set her own PR at that same race trying to stay clear of a hyperventilating guy in lycra. It was a day of records, I guess.

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